Jim Underhill

Jim & Joanne Underhill

Jim & Joanne Underhill

Slick Advertising Materials Should Not Result In An Amazingly Bad Plan For The Future of Greenwood Village

This is a long essay. As a former Greenwood Village Council Representative I was part of the planning that included light rail, several parks and open spaces, and the current “city center” that is being built along both sides of I-25 now. I thought it important that I provide some perspective on this new comprehensive plan from an era when great strides were made to improve our quality of life in the city and also make our business district profitable and beautiful. The current plan makes our city center plan (the construction on both sides of I-25 north of Arapahoe Road) look like a park and open space area. Unfortunately, the District 2 Reps (especially Ms. Schulter) and the City Council appear have been less active than most prior representatives in worrying about quality of life in GV. The redevelopment proposed has several features, as does the area it is proposed to cover, which are inherently inconsistent with, and inimical to the quality of life in our City – the views and open feeling, the concentration on control of traffic, and the interest in having a beautiful place to live, in all its parts. As a former GV City Council member for 8 years I am appalled at what this council proposes to do to our city’s comprehensive plan. I am ashamed that Ms. Schluter who is a District 2 member is not only in favor, but actively pushing the plan where she may well be personally conflicted. The Comp Plan is not a “guideline”. It is the set of rules that the planning staff use to approve development. The current “city center” plan is the blueprint for the current construction on both sides of I-25 just north of Arapahoe Road. Every council since the first one in the 1950 has made control of density, open space and quality of life (beauty) their primary goals. This change is the opposite of those goals. It is being done solely to maximize the profits on the development and to heck with the citizens, traffic and our quality of life. 1) the current buildings are not “blighted” by any sensible standard. Drive down Quebec from Belleview to Orchard, the buildings are marble and granite, they have big setbacks and lots of green space around them. They are all several stories tall, and height was intentionally limited to make sure that the residents on the West side of Quebec didn’t spend half their day in shadow. Do you really want a new plan that provides the kind of streetscape we now have on the north side of Belleview west of Quebec? I think not. Many of the buildings that are “blighted” won design and beauty awards when built and they are timeless designs. Look at the difference between the closeness of the GV Athletic Club tennis building which is right on the street and blocks all views versus the buildings across the street with big green setbacks. We really want Quebec street to be in shadow most of the day? 2) The Happy Church (Marilyn Hickey ministries) building used to be a shopping mall. It failed. The ministries bought the building instead of erecting a new building 3 times the size of a king soopers. It has worked wonderfully. Ugly? Really? Have you seen what Denver approves (look west from Quebec and Belleview)? No setbacks from the street, no green space around the buildings, way overbuilt for parking capacity and side streets lined with resident’s cars. What happens when the next downturn hits Colorado (1981-3, 1990s, 2008-10) and much of this new constructions is vacant and not producing revenue? 3) The police department will need a very significant increase in its budget to handle the hundred thousand or so new folks that will either live in the City or come here on the workday. GV’s current resident population more than doubles workdays because of the Tech Center. The same cost increases to the City will happen to maintain roads, streetscapes and traffic control. Basically the City has no control over the Tech Center density, but the DTC has proven to be a very good neighbor — all that flower planting in street medians, fountains, lakes, amphitheater, the dressing along streetscapes, and the open spaces around buildings in the Tech Center? –That’s all because of DTC’s voluntary policies and its own funding. I see nothing in the current plans except hardscape (concrete) and super high rise buildings. No open space, no green, no setbacks, no real place for pedestrians. The Shops at South Glen did not cut traffic; traffic increased because people move their cars to other shops or restaurants. It’s a California design in a state that has cold weather. 4) Let me explain a few truths about density and its impact on citizens’ ability to object to this kind of wholesale reshaping of the city. District 2 is now most of the area between DTC Blvd, So Yosemite St east of I-25 to S Holly Street, west of I-25. When I was on Council District 2 was entirely on the West side of I-25. Higher density townhomes in DTC caused the shift to the East. Now half the area of the district is townhomes and office buildings. Building owners don’t vote. Renters in townhomes and apartments do not vote in city elections (that’s a fact, not an opinion). Building owners do however lobby hard. Building owners don’t worry about our traffic when they are sitting in Canada. Changes to District 3 were worse. That district is now mostly office buildings and townhomes. So the real result? Well the two districts most impacted by this change also have the fewest number of votes with which to challenge it. Districts 1 and 4 have the most true votes from actual owners, but are not impacted, yet. With this change, Districts 2 and 3 will essentially be the office buildings and Tech Center with no real voting ability to influence city policies. The land between Orchard and Belleview east of I-25 and west of DTC is very, very, very valuable. Is there any reason it wouldn’t continue to be eaten in small bites for more office buildings, apartments and townhomes in the future? Clearly it will be sought after because of those “highest and best possible uses” studies. We can easily become a City of office buildings and renters. This plan goes a long way in that direction. When the City was founded in the 1950 no one expected a “second downtown”. Do we want a city 50 years from now that is simply “another downtown” just as big or bigger than the one north of us? Look at the Wikipedia article on central business districts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_business_district As the article explains, only with strict density and height control can a city avoid becoming just another downtown business district. The proposed plan does away with the height and density rules. When the current council took office the outgoing council members gave this advice: “With major development projects on the horizon and the Village Comprehensive Plan rewrite still in progress—remember at all times that you are a representative and servant of the people who have entrusted you to protect their health and safety, maintain their quality of life, protect their property values, and reflect the values of the community through your service and decision making.” One outgoing member, Mr. Kramer said, “We left the Village in a better condition than we found it. Our new City Council is very talented and will take the Village to even greater heights.” The Council which I had the honor to serve on had the same views and took decisive action to make it so. That Council built Westlands and Silo parks (out of cash, not loans), we improved the trail system, bought the land between Monaco and the buildings to the East along Belleview as open space. We built the skate board park by City Hall, rebuilt City Hall, and bought and built a new Public Works building and yard (no loans, just cash). We secured the GV Athletic Club through bonds paid for by the Athletic Club as an amenity for GV residents. What has been done to improve Districts 2 or 3 or the City by the current council? This comp plan change is not a good result for their years on council. But it will make some people a lot of money–primarily a Canadian company. This fundamental change in the character of the City is not a good thing. A daylight shadow over homes on Quebec is not a good thing. Massively increasing traffic on Orchard, Belleview, Quebec and I-25 interchanges is not a good thing. Did you know that the current work on the Arapahoe Road interchange was actually designed when light rail went in? It is not to accommodate new traffic, it was to catch up with traffic existing a decade and more ago. The Council I was on led a movement to insist that new north and south lanes were added to the highway when the light rail was constructed. Service level F when started and service level F when finished. Do you want to wait a decade to improve the Belleview and Orchard interchanges which are both F service levels now? Holy Smokes! The Belleview interchange is currently a level F disaster to go from Quebec to I-25. And that’s after a rebuild and a single new car dealership. What happens when you have the traffic of 3 South Glenn Malls added to that road interchange? Traffic in both directions is already at a standstill during rush hours in the length that crosses the City. This plan will make that seem positively moving compared to what will happen next. Thank you for your interest. [If you would like to see this letter mailed to all voters in the City, please consider making a donation to pay for mailing and copying. PM me.]

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