Open your eyes and look out over the uninterrupted view from Longs Peak down to Pikes Peak and over the city skyline. Now breathe and listen for the owls and hawks as they fly over the rows of corn. …
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Open your eyes and look out over the uninterrupted view from Longs Peak down to Pikes Peak and over the city skyline. Now breathe and listen for the owls and hawks as they fly over the rows of corn. The Farm at the Westminster Castle — 235 acres of working farmland — is a respite from the continuous scene of rooftops and ceaseless traffic that has become the norm of Denver Metro-living.
Now Oread Capital, a developer, wants to buy this land and put 2350 housing units, shops and commercial spaces on the 84th-88th avenues and Federal farm land —calling it “new urbanism” — they want apartment buildings, townhouses and small-lot single units to fill the farm. About 7,000 people. They call it Uplands.
This development would more than double the neighboring communities. Quiet, established neighborhoods. This high-density development would completely change the character of the communities of Shaw Heights, Bishop Park and Observatory Hill. The entire face of Westminster would be changed forever, and not for the better.
Like other cities in the metro area, it is time to take a timeout from this drive to build on every open lot. Where is the water coming from as the Western U.S. continues to face droughts and rising populations? Where are the schools, fire stations and hospitals? Where is the infrastructure coming from to support this growth?
The current City of Westminster Comprehensive Plan and Growth Management Plan do not include the Westminster Castle/ Pillar of Fire Farm as one of the five Focus Areas or one of the seven Urban Renewal areas. The Comprehensive Plan calls for 5,556-dwellings to be built between 2015-2035. The Oread proposal is 43% of that total number for the entire city!
In the metro area as a whole, the percentage of paved, impervious surfaces — typically due to new roads, parking lots and roofs — increased 65% from 1974 to 2012.
Conservation Science Partners released a study that concluded the amount of natural land converted by human activities in Colorado increased by 676,827 acres between 2001 and 2017 — to about 10% of the state, an area larger than Rocky Mountain National Park.
Community Speaks Out
In response to the Oread development proposal, a number of residents have organized several public community-based meetings. Out of these meetings, a petition opposing the high-density development has been circulated and over 5,000 signatures have been collected to date.
Personal testimonials have been posted from over 260-signatories on why this development should not go forward.
Some of the comments are:
“This farm has always been a staple to Westy and a feeling of home to so many.”
“Let’s not show the children money means more than nature.”
“What a gift to have a piece of farmland and history in Westminster”
“High density housing will cause nothing but high-density traffic”,
“This is something iconic to our town”.
A public Facebook page has garnered attention from throughout the metro area as well. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/WestminsterSavetheFarm/).
There are very few undeveloped acres left in Westminster, approximately 1,066. The Farm is 235 acres. But there are under-utilized strip malls and office parks. Why not encourage re-using and re-purposing some of the current buildings in the city? Why not convert some unused-empty retail and business parks into apartment-retail-commercial zoning and utilize the already-existing infrastructure?
Keep a lasting legacy
The city council should think outside the box and look for ways to create a lasting legacy for the next generation and the one after that. Preserve don’t destroy. Be creative and see what possibilities there are for working with the POF-owners on a perpetual conservation easement or an urban farm foundation.
Without this farm there are very few open green areas in old-Westminster. What can the city do to help keep this as open fields and not another concrete hillside of apartments and subdivisions?
The City Council and Planning Commission should listen to the opinions and voices of those who live in this area. They should vote to reject this build-out and instead work on ways to preserve — not pave-over — this jewel that is part of the city and entire Front Range. Save the Farm.
Karen Ray is resident of Shaw Heights and Westminster and a member of the Westminster Save the Farm group
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