Developers seek delay in Ladera sketch-plan review
TIMNATH – The developers of the proposed 240-acre Ladera development have asked that Timnath’s planning commission delay Tuesday’s scheduled public hearing on their sketch plan and proposed rezoning until July while they review objections raised by the attorney for a citizens’ group.
In a May 12 letter to Timnath Community Development Director Matt Blakely, attorney Carolynne C. White, an attorney with Denver-based Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP who is representing Ladera developer Connell LLC, asked for a continuance of the public hearing on the sketch plan and a planned development overlay amendment to evaluate questions raised by attorney James Silvestro of Denver-based law firm Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe, PC in a letter emailed the day before to Timnath Town Planner Kevin Koelbel.
Silvestro’s letter was written on behalf of “Guide Our Growth” a newly formed 501(c)(4) nonprofit that is a separate entity from Guide Our Growth Timnath, a special-interest committee that successfully launched a petition drive to force a municipal election over whether nets or fences more than 65 feet high will be allowed in Timnath. Guide Our Growth Timnath hopes to stop a Topgolf golf and entertainment complex, similar to the one along Interstate 25 in Thornton, from being built as part of the Ladera mixed-use development planned southeast of Interstate 25 and Harmony Road. That project’s site plan for conceptual review, provided to Timnath planners by applicant TB Group on behalf of property owner Sheri Welch and Connell LLC, seeks a height variance from the town’s 57.5-foot structure-height limits. The concept sketch shows plans for a roughly 38,000-square-foot facility on nearly 12 acres including a 40-foot-high building and netting poles 156 feet high.
Silvestro also referred to height-limit variances in his letter, in which he wrote that his law firm “represents Guide Our Growth, which is a Colorado nonprofit that was formed to advocate for smart, sustainable growth within Timnath. Guide Our Growth is a grassroots organization supported by many longtime Timnath residents and business owners who are committed to the belief that Timnath can continue to grow and flourish in ways that do not needlessly sacrifice the quality of life, aesthetics and open space that make Timnath such a special place to live and work. The purpose of this letter is to explain the many reasons for Guide Our Growth’s opposition to the two land-use applications” – the sketch plan and a proposed rezoning – “ that you are scheduled to consider at your upcoming meeting.”
One provision of Connell’s proposed rezoning seeks a height variance for a hotel up to 65 feet tall, which Silvestro wrote is well above the existing 40-foot height permitted in the Regional Commercial zone district. He also objected to a portion of the rezoning in which Connell requested that light posts be 30 feet high instead of the 20 feet that had been approved in October 2021.
“Any amendment of a zoning designation under the Timnath Land Use Code necessarily requires a formal rezoning,” Silvestro wrote. “Here, the proposed rezoning would allow for bigger, more unsightly development while also guaranteeing less open space and fewer landscape improvements. Accordingly, Guide Our Growth opposes the proposed rezoning because: (1) Connell failed to hold the required neighborhood meeting to solicit public input on its proposed changes; (2) the proposed rezoning will result in adverse impacts to the public health, safety and welfare in violation of Timnath’s Land Use Code; (3) Connell has not provided any reasonable justification for seeking significant changes to the PD overlay that Connell specifically requested and agreed to in October 2021; and (4) the proposed rezoning proposes lot-specific development standards for lots that have never been platted and do not exist.”
Silvestro acknowledged that Connell did hold a neighborhood meeting for the sketch plan on Feb. 9, but alleges that it didn’t include the proposed rezoning or any specific uses including a plan for a four-story, 126-room hotel, which reportedly would be a dual-branded La Quinta Inn & Suites and Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham.
“Beyond the proposed height limit change, the majority of the requested changes under the proposed rezoning appear calculated to make it easier (and cheaper) for the site to be developed into lifeless big box retail, including Connell’s proposed storage facility,” Silvestro wrote. “The proposed changes seek to excuse Connell from the commitments that it previously made to use architecturally interesting materials and features, to break up large facades, to provide for glass storefronts, and to completely screen truck parking and loading docks. The proposed changes also seek to weaken landscaping and open- space requirements, provide for less landscaping variation, allow for more parking, and to generally increase the area of hardscapes while reducing greenspace requirements.
“All of these changes will worsen the visual impact of the proposed development, make the development less walkable, and place greater stress on wildlife and the natural environment surrounding the site.”
In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Connell LLC said it “is aware that Guide our Growth’s attorney has sent Timnath a letter opposing our current sketch plan and planned development overlay amendment applications. We have reviewed the letter, which includes multiple false statements and other mischaracterizations of the applications. The letter is an attempt to derail lawful development of private property that will create a dynamic, mixed-use development with a mixture of large- and small-scale retail, restaurants, entertainment, fitness, hospitality, office, and residential uses in Timnath. We will be responding to the letter in writing, to correct the numerous misstatements and mischaracterizations it includes.”
The developers describe their vision for Ladera — the name comes from the Spanish word for the slope of a hill or lakeside bank — as “an economically invigorating commercial, residential and recreational development at Timnath’s front door” with homes, office space, retail stores and entertainment venues as well as 107 acres of lakes, trails, open space and rights-of-way in the 240-acre development.
“It is very exciting to convert our property to a dynamic, mixed-use development that will offer many benefits to the people who live in, work in and visit Timnath,” said Connell LLC in a statement prepared in January. “The family wanted to take the property from its current use and create an exciting, vibrant and a multi-purpose use. We chose to be directly involved in this as Northern Colorado is our home too.”
The town approved a pair of Business Improvement Districts for Ladera, allowing the districts to issue up to a combined total of $95 million in debt, which could be repaid through a mill levy of up to 50 mills. The district is expected to issue bonds that would pay for $22.5 million in capital improvements.
On the site today is a working gravel pit and asphalt plant, operated by Connell Resources.