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Loveland planners OK Sugar Creek development

LOVELAND — After hours of developers’ presentations followed by opposition from more than a dozen neighbors and skepticism from its members, the Loveland Planning and Zoning Commission endorsed annexing 171 acres on the city’s north side for a development that could bring 1,100 or more housing units within seven to 10 years.

Fort Collins-based Black Timber Builders sought an amendment to the city’s Comprehensive Plan to designate the site of its proposed Sugar Creek development as Medium Density Residential and Regional Activity Center. The proposed amendment will allow for a development of the site east of U.S. Highway 287 and south of 71st Street that, given final approval from the Loveland City Council, would include a mix of housing types and a broad range in density, as well as open space, trails and park areas.

That amendment rankled commission member Sarah McKeen.

“We’ve had too many changes to the comprehensive plan,” she said. “This doesn’t feel good” — especially for neighboring homeowners in light of “decisions you made based on what you knew when you bought your property.”

After hearing members of the public express fears about traffic that a medium-density subdivision of that size would generate and plead that it should “keep density out toward McWhinneyville” — referring to developer McWhinney’s projects in the Centerra area on the city’s eastern edge — the panel did approve a cap of 6.5 units per acre for Sugar Creek, although commission chair Lori Goebel wanted to have it set at five units per acre as a “compromise.”

However, commission member Geoff Frahm responded that “6.5 units is a compromise,” and commissioner Jeni Shaw warned that the panel should not “eliminate the ability of builders to address our housing shortage.”

Russell Baker, principal at Black Timber Builders, told the commission that he hoped to add “another builder or two” as the project progressed, and that “I expect, in today’s climate, it would be about a seven- to 10-year buildout.”

The property is within the city’s Growth Management Area and currently has a split Comprehensive Plan designation: Public/Quasi Public and Low Density Residential. The northern portion of the site was planned for future school use by the Thompson School District, which has since abandoned its plans and is under contract to sell the property to developer Black Timber. Much of the surrounding area remains under Larimer County jurisdiction, a portion of which has developed with residential uses. The existing Comprehensive Plan calls for Regional Activity Center, a quasi-public site, and Estate Residential for this property.

According to Loveland staff planner Troy Bliss, the area also falls within the “Plan for the Region Between Fort Collins and Loveland,” which specifies residential uses with a rural appearance along the street edges.

Black Timber’s planned unit development plan proposed “a variety of residential housing types including single family, duplex, townhome and multifamily, along with commercial nodes at the intersection of North Garfield Avenue and the future extension of East 65th Street.” According to its presentation, the amendment was needed because “the proposed density of 6.5 units per acre does not align with the Estate Residential land-use designation of the Comprehensive Plan.”

Among the objections expressed Monday night by residents of the nearby Vista View Estates neighborhood was that the developers’ planned extension of Monroe Street would create more traffic which, beyond safety issues, would add to the overall cost of maintaining that street, for which Vista View Estates is responsible. City staff thus recommended that a condition be imposed to annex the right-of-way the city would maintain. Additionally, the developer would contribute to a mill and overlay cost that the city would complete when the time comes to resurface the street.

Source: BizWest