In the latest turn of events for the embattled development planned for 777 S. Yarrow St. — which would feature 412 units but has raised concerns over its location adjacent to Belmar Park — developer Kairoi Residential has halted the project for two months.
The pause will allow the developer to hear from community members objecting to the project, a letter from Kairoi to Lakewood’s city council said.
Over the last few weeks, tensions have mounted between neighbors of the park and stakeholders for the project, leading one resident to chain herself to a tree.
Concern from residents has chiefly centered around the development’s environmental impacts. The proposal’s current iteration would see the felling of 69 trees, and abuts Belmar Park, which is considered an unofficial bird sanctuary by many residents.
Some contention has arisen over the procedure of the development — Kairoi Residential owns 777 S. Yarrow St., which is located within an urban renewal area in Lakewood. Because of development rules pertaining to the urban renewal tract, the property falls within a use-by-right designation; meaning that city council cannot vote on it.
Tyler Sibley, the principal of development for Kairoi, said the developer had contacted city team members to schedule forums to field concerns and suggestions from residents.
“We want to be a good neighbor and understand that while a neighborhood meeting wasn’t required as part of the development process, we should have worked to have a community discussion because of the importance of the neighboring park,” Sibley said in an email to Lakewood’s city council.
Lakewood Mayor Pro Tem Wendi Strom said that she believes community member’s frustrations come from the lack of a public process for the development.
“The community’s frustration about this, honestly, is that they don’t have any control,” Strom said. “And they don’t; none of us do. We really are hoping that the developer will truly show up sincerely wanting to be a good neighbor and consider some of the proposals that might be made.”
However, community members voiced displeasure with the way things have been handled by city council. Lakewood resident Regina Hopkins said she didn’t feel listened to by most of council — Hopkins cited Councilmember Anita Springsteen as the lone exception — when voicing concerns about the project.
“The rest of these people on council, they’re basically useless,” Hopkins said. “They’re not listening to the public and that’s their job, to be respecting the majority’s will and they were absolutely not respecting the majority’s will. That whole council needs to be thrown out. It is more toxic than my last relationship.”
Strom said she hopes Kairoi listens to community members during the upcoming community input sessions, but added that without much legal wiggle room, there may not be much to be done.
“I am hopeful — although there is not a lot of teeth, legally — (Kairoi is) only doing it because the community showed up and said, ‘We want better,’ and I’m glad they did,” Strom said.
Strom continued to say that she hopes the developer addresses parking concerns for the area and think about affordable housing units.
“I would like to see them include affordable housing units,” Strom said. “We need to talk about parking; the conversation about parking includes the owner, the city can look at it. It’s a little tiny street when you think about the library, traffic and 412-unit traffic in there.”
Hopkins said that the community’s efforts to stop the development will note abate and sees this case as being symptomatic of a larger problem with diminishing green spaces in Lakewood.
“Our grassroots efforts are not going to stop,” Hopkins said. “We’re going to continue to fight for this because we know this is critical to save this in Lakewood. We keep losing open space and parkland every single day and that is not acceptable as a value we uphold in Colorado.”
Strom concluded by stating that she feels the victory in this situation is the developer listening to residents, and added that she hoped city council could pass a proclamation suggesting some of residents’ proposals to the developer — not an ordinance, as had been previously discussed, and is not within the legal framework available for this development.
“The win here is they showed up, asked for better, we got to work, and we got something out of it that wasn’t otherwise required,” Strom said.