Westminster opened its first day of testimony on the controversial 235-acre development of Uplands, the first step that will see the multi-faceted development win – or lose – Westminster City Council’s approval.
Developer Oread Capital hopes the City Council will let them continue work on the project, designed to convert the large open space surrounding the church into Uplands, a massive mixed-use development, with housing options ranging from single-family homes to apartments and townhomes as well as parks and commercial areas. The project would take several years to complete, ultimately having room for 2,350 dwelling units in a mix of housing types.
Neighbors in the Shaw Heights neighborhood, many opposed to the plan, hope the city will say no and keep the lot, known by them as the Farm, undeveloped.
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” resident John Palmer told councilors. Palmer said he has lived in Westminster his entire life, most of it within sight of the farm.
The meeting began with a presentation from the Uplands’ team, followed by questions from councilors and finished after midnight with testimony from 15 residents.
The meeting is scheduled to continue at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15, to hear from another 40 speakers and 96 voicemails. Additionally, the city received 68 emails of testimony.
With more than half of in-person testimony yet to come, rebuttals from the developer Oread Capital and discussion among City Councilors still to come, the council may not reach a final decision this week.
Question topics from councilors included public land dedication, traffic, water, parks, view corridors, how the developers will stick to their promises and more.
Councilor Sarah Nurmela, who has an extensive background in planning and real estate, asked about the timing of the affordable housing and pointed to the development in Bradburn Heights where, she said, affordable housing has yet to be built.
“We intended to bring this (affordable housing) in the beginning of the project, and we have,” Jeff Handlin, president of Oread Capital said. “We are contractually obligated to allow that to happen.”
Dave Downing, the director of community development, said that there is no guarantee within the Official Development Plan now.
“Right now, the documents that are before you do not contain such a guarantee on affordable housing,” he said. “My recommendation would be that if you get to that point when you’re considering an action here, that you’ll want to make that condition of any action you take.”
Uplands’ pitch to residents and council aims at building the missing middle housing for Westminster. Jeff Handlin, a developer for Uplands, explained how most of the residences within the city are single-family homes and multi-family apartments and condominiums. What’s missing, Handlin says, is everything in between – including duplexes, single-family attached homes, townhomes and cottage homes. The plan also contains about 300 units of income-restricted and affordable housing.
Handlin says these types of housing are ‘built by design’ to be affordable.
Public Land Dedication
In Westminster City Code, each development requires either public land dedication of 12 acres for every 1,000 people or cash payments instead.
City officials said Uplands would meet that requirement with a combination of 40.65 acres of dedicated public land and $5-8 million cash in lieu, followed by $2 million in park development fees.
Uplands noted many previously completed developments still do not have parks completed. Their combination of cash in lieu and land dedication, they hope, will help create those parks faster.
Curt Alstadt, the current farmer of the land detailed the challenges of modern-day farming. He told the council that he is in favor of the development.
“I farm the farm and have since I was seven,” he said. “With the increased pieces of farm equipment, fuel, labor and more, it has become very difficult to finance small farms.”
Karen Ray, a leader of the Save the Farm group, thinks that since the development fails to meet all 12 acres per 1,000 people, that it does not meet city code.
She also thinks the combination of cash in lieu and land dedication will not serve the community, which favors open space.
“In just this last election, the only tax item on the ballot that was approved was continuing the open space tax,” she said.