After three long nights of debate and testimony, the Westminster City Council approved the Uplands proposal by a 5-2 vote.
Councilors voted at the end of the council’s Dec. 20 meeting, which ran until almost 1 a.m. the following morning and was met by boos from some of the residents and members of Save the Farm, the group opposed to the development.
Councilors did impose conditions on their approval, however. Those included requiring the developer to pay 100 percent of the costs of all required on-site and off-site water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and other public infrastructure, the inclusion of signs at the development’s parks making it clear they are meant for the general public use, a requirement that at least 300 low-income rental units will be built and the creation of a special fund dedicated to building parks within the development using money from the developer’s cash-in-lieu payments from the public land dedication.
Those voting in favor included Councilors David DeMott, Sarah Nurmela, Lindsey Smith, Rich Seymour and Mayor Nancy McNally.
Councilors Obi Ezeadi and Bruce Baker stood opposed.
Developer Oread Capital wanted the City Council to 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, wanted the city to say no and keep the lot, known by them as the Farm, undeveloped.
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” resident John Palmer said. Palmer said he has lived in Westminster his entire life, most of it within sight of the farm.
Long night, long debate
Before the vote took place, Councilor Baker asked for more debate on the topic, though councilors said three meetings of dialogue were enough.
“When you talk about debating these things, and that we somehow haven’t went through a thorough process, I’m scratching my head,” Councilor DeMott said. “If that has not been what we went through over three long nights that spanned five different dates, I don’t know what is.”
DeMott voted for the proposal citing property rights. Seymour echoed DeMott and said the property deserves to be sold. Still, Seymour said he empathizes with the project’s opponents.
“I have driven by this site since I had my driver’s license in 1974,” he said. “I understand the hurt that this brings.”
Councilor Nurmela said the proposal could be an investment in the community and discussed the lack of parks and neighborhood services. She also mentioned it would benefit the school district.
“With the development of a city and the evolution of a city, there is nothing more permanent than change,” she said. “Being able to obtain benefits to the surrounding community is a key element for me.”
Councilor Ezeadi, who voted no, noted the negative outlooks from public comment.
“Personally I would feel like I’m ignoring public comment if I were to vote yes on this,” he said.
“I walked a lot of doors in this area during the campaign, not one person ever told me `hey we really want Uplands,’” he said.
Councilor Smith said she digested all the views and facts on the proposal and came to a conclusion.
“I ran for council standing on the principle of a strategic approach for growth, and this project is that,” she said.
“I can’t vote on emotions,” Mayor McNally said. “It’s a private person that owns this land, it is not open space, it has been open, but it’s owned by someone and they have every right to do whatever they choose to do with it.”
The meeting concluded with “boos” coming from the crowd.