Upland opponents cite Arvada difficulties for no vote

Partner's involvement in Geos project concerns Shaw Heights resident

Luke Zarzecki
lzarzecki@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 12/9/21

Karen Ray feels apprehensive about Upland's promises.  Ray, one of the leaders of the Save The Farm group, feels the development's leaders will not follow through on their commitments to the …

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Upland opponents cite Arvada difficulties for no vote

Partner's involvement in Geos project concerns Shaw Heights resident

Posted
Karen Ray feels apprehensive about Upland's promises. 
 
Ray, one of the leaders of the Save The Farm group, feels the development's leaders will not follow through on their commitments to the community. 
 
“'We promise to put down 2,000 trees on the farm.' Well, that's a promise, that's not a requirement and there's nothing that guarantees any way that they would do that,” she said, as an example. 
 
Sustainable homes in Arvada
One reason she lacks confidence in the development, she said, is from recent decisions made by Chad Ellington, a partner of Peak Development Group and a leader on the Uplands Development. He recently bought the remainder of the Geos neighborhood in Arvada that had promised to use energy-efficient technologies. 
 
The original developer of the Geos homes, Norbert Klebl, sought to build net-zero homes — a house that is able to produce at least as much energy as it uses. Klebl completed part of his mission but sold the remainder of his plan to Ellington due to a divorce settlement, he said. 
 
The homes he did complete came with typical sustainable technology, like efficient toilets, solar photovoltaics and electric stoves. Other unfamiliar gadgets include a pump that transfers heat from the inside to incoming air, automatic window blinds to either block or to guide sunlight in accordance to indoor temperature and a system to set carbon dioxide levels within the house to a certain standard. 
 
Klebl and residents said they stand proud of their sustainable homes. Dar-Lon Chang and Rainer Gerbatsch, current homeowners in the community, moved to Geos specifically for the sustainable homes. Chang even quit his job in the fossil fuel industry in Texas to live net-zero.
 
Now, they say, Ellington plans to hook up the new planned homes to gas lines, going back on promises he made to the community. 
 
In a press release dated Nov. 13, 2020, Ellington said “...we plan to build upon the project's sustainability-driven vision by introducing a thoughtful mix of uses while at the same time bringing much-needed attainable housing to a desirable location in the Denver Market.” 
 
“...the community features net-zero energy-equipped homes that are efficiently ventilated, heated, cooled and powered by solar photovoltaics, effectively eliminating utility bills for homeowners,” the press release states. 
 
Ellington said he believes that Klebl and residents altered his words and the project will be as efficient as it was originally touted.
 
“I met exactly what I said, they've twisted that to say that I meant to say that there were never going to be gas lines in the ground and that's not what I said,” Ellington said. 
 
Klebl said that the gas lines would not work with how the homes are designed. Since the current homes do not leak much air, due to very thick insulation, the gas would build up to very high levels within the homes. Klebl says homes that burn gas inside are built with leaky insulation because of this, so the proposed lines put the other elements of sustainable designs at risk.
 
Ellington said the homes will provide ventilation and will exchange air. He mentions the efficiency of the gas furnaces improved over the past 15 years, when Geos started designing. 
 
“It's an absolute goal of the project to make sure you have a healthy living environment,” he said. 
 
Ellington says the homes will still be net-zero in regards to energy because they will be solar-powered, and they will be producing more energy than they use.
 
“There's no way to offset natural gas with solar, they are two different power sources,” he said. 
 
“That zero energy is still on the table and attainable and a goal of the project and our builder partner that's going to build the actual homes is signed up to follow all of the requirements of the project, as they were originally anticipated,” he said. 
 
Ellington also mentioned that measuring the carbon footprint of the future homes is difficult, as predicting residents' energy usage relies entirely on preferences. Ellington’s team discussed future measurements with the builders and the potential for future offsets, such as buying wind credits or carbon credits to offset gas use.
 
The decision to lay gas lines gained interest from 12 state representatives who urged Ellington to stay true to his promise, and Arvada City Council to take action. 
 
But, the issue no longer lies in the hands of the city. 
 
“Simply stated, the framework of our authority does not allow us to take any regulatory action in association with your concerns with the recent changes in the GEOS development,” said Mark Deven, Arvada City Manager, in a letter to Gerbatsch. 
 
Uplands plan progressing
As for the city of Westminster, future developments submit a Preliminary Development Plan and a Master Official Development Plan that outlines the project. The proposal moves through a process for review by the city and then it heads to the city council for approval. 
 
City officials said they are confident they can hold Uplands developers to their commitments.
 
“The (preliminary plan) sunsets at five years if a building permit is not issued, and the (master plan) sunsets after three years. However, any commitment made by the applicant during the public hearing required by City Council for approval shall be identified and included as an Additional Condition,” Andy Le, a spokesperson for the city said. 
 
Jeff Handlin, president of Oread Capital and Development, said he will fulfill the promises made to Westminster.
 
“The Master Official Development Plan has our commitments,” Handlin said.

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