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Loveland city staff withdraws west-end rezoning plan

LOVELAND – Facing persistent and vocal neighborhood opposition, the city of Loveland’s Development Services withdrew its contentious proposal to rezone four properties on the historic west end of the city’s downtown area from low- to high-density residential, deciding to go back to the drawing board.

“We felt it was best to pull the application due to all the feedback we’ve received from the neighborhood,” said Brett Limbaugh, Loveland’s development-services director. “They’re very well organized, and we finally had to say, look, this is just not popular. We’ve got to find a different solution.”

The City Council had been poised to decide on the proposal at Tuesday night’s meeting after its members had voted on June 20 to cut off lengthy debate on the issue that night and “pick up where we left off” at this week’s regular session. However, Limbaugh’s department sent out two memos on two successive days. On Monday it announced it would “pause” its proposal, but then on Tuesday it said it would withdraw it.

“We were going to continue it and look at some options” under the city’s Unified Development Code, Limbaugh said Wednesday, “but then we said we’d have a due process issue with that because we may have a change in council members. So we’re better off just pulling it rather than delaying it. We pivoted and said ‘let’s find a different solution.’”

At issue is an area of about 1.5 acres along Sixth Street between Douglas and California avenues that includes three “nonconforming uses:” the Courtyard Assisted Living center, a four-unit townhouse and a medical office building. Because that office building at 914 W. Sixth St. has been vacant for at least 10 years, it lost its “nonconforming use” designation and its owner, Barry Floyd, who bought the building in 2015, said he couldn’t renovate or sell it unless it were rezoned from “R1E” low-density residential to “R3E” high-density residential. That category allows several uses including multifamily housing as well as medical office buildings and assisted-living centers, although those plans would have to be presented at a neighborhood meeting.

The Planning Commission on April 25 voted 5-2 to reject the rezoning idea, swayed by testimony from a roomful of the area’s neighbors, including members of a group calling itself the West Endies, which complained that the zoning change could damage the character of their peaceful neighborhood by opening the door to potential development that could bring more traffic, noise and safety issues. However, the Development Services team chose to take their argument to the full City Council.

As a result of withdrawing its rezoning plan, Limbaugh wrote Tuesday in a memo to the City Council, “city staff will focus on identifying options that are receptive to the reasonable concerns of participants in this process, while meeting the needs of the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Unified Development Code. To do that, city staff, as the applicant, has withdrawn the rezoning application instead of pausing this process” as stated in the previous day’s memo.

“We recognize that a delay wouldn’t be in the best interest of any party nor in furtherance of maintaining effectiveness and equity of the process,” he wrote. “Now that the city’s application has been withdrawn, the Sixth and Douglas rezoning effort will not be pursued at this time. City staff’s future work will focus on collaborating with community and business stakeholders, our Planning Commission, and our City Council to develop alternatives to the rezoning that may include revisions to the city Unified Development Code. Any code revisions or options will be receptive to the feedback received.”

Limbaugh noted Wednesday that “the neighbors’ biggest concern was uncertainty about what they would see” if the zoning were changed.

He noted that during the public-comment period at the June 20 meeting, council member Steve Olson had asked each opponent of the plan, “What would you like to see” in Floyd’s building and many had responded with ideas. However, Limbaugh added, “there were no assurances that would happen.”

One part of the future consideration, he said, will be “to put together representatives from R1E zones and ask them what they think is acceptable. What would be quality uses with no negative impacts?

“Certain things could be done as a ‘use by right’ but other things would have to go through the review process,” he said.

Meanwhile, Floyd, whose 2006 purchase of the historic Feed and Grain building eventually led to its redevelopment as the Artspace project, has a vacant building to contend with.

“There are certain things he can do” under R1E zoning, “but he’s chosen not to go down that path,” Limbaugh said. “Assisted living or congregate care would not be allowed, but a group home is. A shelter for domestic-violence victims is a ‘limited use’ – it would be a ‘use by right’ but it has additional standards. A boarding house would be a ‘conditional use.’”

“We can help Barry with other uses,” Limbaugh said. “If he did a planned unit development, you can do that darn near anywhere.”

In a statement emailed after Tuesday’s meeting, Gail Randall, representing the West Endies group, said they would continue to push for a solution that preserved the character of their historic neighborhood.

“After nine months, thousands of dollars and many hundreds of hours working on this, the preferable result would have been a clear yes or no vote now on this quasi-judicial rezone proposal,” she wrote. “The Planning Commission heard the evidence and sided with the neighborhood.

“Acting City Manager Rod Wensing said tonight that the city plans to come back next year with another plan. He did not indicate what they have in mind, but we hope that they will do what the neighborhood has urged since October 2022, and that is to work out a solution without rezoning to high-density — a solution that honors settled state law and the rights of all of the property owners in the West End.”

Coming up with a solution will “take several months just to get drafts done, then it would have to go through two readings of the City Council,” Limbaugh said. “So the closest would be nine months and more like 12.”

Source: BizWest