Voices of opposition to a car dealership proposed for a property near Dinosaur Ridge did not go unheard by the Jefferson County commissioners.
After hearing 10 hours of public comment, at a Jan. 17 public hearing attended by more than 200 people, the three Jeffco commissioners eventually voted 2-1 against allowing a car dealership to be built in the area commonly referred to as Rooney Valley.
“It’s a victory for the people,” said Linnea Hauser, vice president of the Dinosaur Ridge Neighbors group. “It shows grassroots movements can be successful.”
Each commissioner took a different stance. Commissioner Casey Tighe wanted to deny the rezone application — a decision he admittedly said he may regret in future years. But Tighe said he believes the developer has integrity and would take into consideration any compatibility issues with future development.
Commissioner Donald Rosier wanted to approve the rezone application. Approving the rezone for a car dealership would leave no room for uncertain development of the property in the future, he said. There is an opportunity to address all the concerns right now, Rosier said, and a denial of the application might lead to a missed opportunity to do that.
Commissioner Libby Szabo proposed that a substitute motion be adopted, which would further modify the application. Tighe agreed, and the motion was approved by a 2-1 vote. The modified rezoning application will be back before the commissioners on Jan. 31.
The new language for Szabo’s motion will remove the auto dealership, but still allow other development included in the application such as hotels, motels, gas and service stations. These would be in addition to the uses the land is currently zoned for — a variety of commercial and light industrial uses such as office buildings, retail, banks, restaurants, medical supply/drugstores and laboratories.
However, the applicant — a local developer called Baseline Corp. representing property owners Three Dinos, LLC — stated the application may be withdrawn if Szabo’s motion passes because of all the additional restrictions that would be imposed.
The proposed rezone concerns the west side of the C-470 and Alameda interchange. Two properties are involved — one is a 40.5-acre parcel on the northwest corner, and the other is a 30-acre parcel on the southeast corner. Rezone proposals for the two properties are being handled by the county as separate cases.
The rezone proposal for the northwest quadrant was the site of the proposed dealership. On Dec. 8, the Jefferson County Planning Commission approved with conditions the rezone proposal application that included the car dealership. Conditions mainly concerned lighting and parking.
Opposition to the northeast parcel rezoning sparked months of opposition from some community members. On Jan. 11, dozens stood in the cold to rally at the Jefferson County courts and administration building.
“This visual of a car lot next to our world-renowned dinosaur viewing center will impact the natural geological view,” said Donna Carr, a Golden resident who is against the proposed rezone and attended the rally. “Once over-powered by lights, you will never know this famous landmark exists.”
The Jan. 17 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners began at 8 a.m., and lasted well into dusk. A variety of residents from across the metro area, including people who live in nearby neighborhoods, a boy scout, former and current teachers, geologists and Bandimere family members (of Bandimere Speedway fame) were among the attendees.
Although the Dinosaur Ridge Visitor’s Center is not part of the rezoning proposal, its proximity is what is most concerning to activists.
People come from all over the world to visit Dinosaur Ridge, said Heidi Quist of Centennial. It is a tremendous educational resource and is even recognized by the Smithsonian, she added.
“To take the chance of damaging any of that is foolish,” Quist said at the rally.
The Jan. 11 rally was organized by a local activist group called Dinosaur Ridge Neighbors that formed in late March to provide information about the rezoning, and to oppose it. Efforts include putting on community meetings with the slogan “Save Dinosaur Ridge,” a letter-writing campaign and an online petition at www.change.org which had nearly 3,000 signatures as of Jan. 16.
“We cannot, in good conscience, encroach upon this multiuse ecosystem. It is irreplaceable,” said Meg York, a homeowner on Green Mountain in Lakewood. “We need to safeguard this site. Not just for local pride, but out of global responsibility.”
In rebuttal, speaking on behalf of Three Dinos at the Jan. 17 meeting, a representative said the area has been zoned for development for nearly a decade.
“They want it to remain open space,” he said, but “that’s just not where we are right now,” he said.
County records show the properties were rezoned in 2007 from residential and agricultural to a corridor district which allows for commercial development.
Dinosaur Ridge Neighbors will be paying close attention to all the land use proposals that come up for the properties, Hauser said.
“Whatever comes along in the future will be well-inspected,” she said. “And opposition will be taken if need be. We’ll be right on top of it.”