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Timnath OKs Ladera amendments and roadbuilding bid, but tables sketch plan

TIMNATH – The Timnath Town Council on Tuesday approved planned-development overlay amendments proposed by backers of the Ladera mixed-use development and a contract with that developer’s sister company to build a road in the town, but tabled an already-delayed consideration of a Ladera sketch plan for two more weeks.

PD overlay amendments approved

Connell LLC won unanimous council approval for several changes to town codes for an already-annexed portion of the development, the most contentious of which was a request to grant an exception to the town’s 40-foot building-height restrictions in Regional Commercial zoning for a proposed hotel. Developers of a co-branded four-story 126-room building that reportedly would be a dual-branded La Quinta Inn & Suites and Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham requested an exception to town codes to make that structure 65 feet tall.

Some Timnath residents, including some who spoke during Tuesday’s public-comment period, protested giving the hotel a height variance, but Carolynne White, an attorney with Denver-based Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP who is representing Connell LLC, insisted that “this is really not a variance. This is custom zoning.”

White had made that point last week in an email sent to BizWest from a Ladera spokesperson, stating that “our application does not request any ‘variances.’ That is a very specific type of approval and it’s not what we are asking for. Rather, we’re setting customized standards for this development that happen to be different than what is in the code.”

Even so, in comments preceding the vote, Councilor Robert Axmacher said he supported the hotel and that “the height variance is reasonable.”

Another such amendment would accommodate a proposed care center in the Ladera development that could be operated by facilities such as Fort Collins-based nonprofit Respite Care. It would remove the restriction that care facilities can only keep patients for fewer than 24 hours, instead allowing care for up to 14 consecutive days.

Other amendments raised the allowed floor-area ratio for the hotel and a proposed self-storage facility, established a 10-foot landscape buffer on the north side of that facility, and addressed the size of trees to be installed.

The “changes are very necessary,” said Grant Nelson with Republic Investment Group, the applicant for the Ladera development that is working with Connell LLC. He noted that the Ladera plans are “ever-evolving” as businesses seeking to be a part of the development come forward, and White indicated that more overlay amendments could be requested as interested groups come forward.

“Connell LLC is pleased to move forward with plans to bring new businesses, shopping and restaurants to Ladera, providing Timnath residents with additional choices to lots annexed 20 months ago,” said the developer in an email received by BizWest late Tuesday. “With this vote in support of zoning changes, the council agrees with the Timnath Planning and Zoning Commission, affirming that amendments to the regional commercial code were needed.

“We greatly appreciate the Planning and Zoning Commission’s and Town Council’s unanimous support for these modifications. Thank you for helping us to fit together the many pieces of this puzzle to help us meet important community needs, such as making it possible for Respite Care to seriously evaluate Ladera.

“At completion, Ladera – a 240-acre residential, commercial, and mixed-use project planned for the southeast of Harmony Road and I-25 – will be larger and have more diverse uses than any potential commercial development in Timnath.”

Sketch-plan review tabled

After the unanimous vote for approval, the council was poised to consider the Ladera sketch plan, but William Jenkins, representing nonprofit Guide Our Growth, noted that “the sketch plan was not in the consent agenda for last meeting and it’s not listed for public comment tonight. I don’t know how it can be voted on in final form” without the public hearing required under the town’s land-use code.

The council then voted unanimously to table the sketch-plan consideration until the panel’s next regular meeting on Aug. 22.

“It is important that the town follow town code on items when public comment is a requirement prior to passing ordinances or critical development resolutions,” Jenkins wrote in an email to BizWest on Wednesday. “Failure to follow the requirements for public comment could leave the town open to legal challenges and associated legal costs.”

Such a legal challenge had delayed consideration of the sketch plan in May. In a May 12 letter to Timnath Community Development Director Matt Blakely, White asked for a continuance of the public hearing on both the sketch plan and the planned development overlay amendments 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, which is a separate entity from Guide Our Growth Timnath, a special-interest committee that successfully launched a petition drive to force a municipal election in June in which Timnath voters by a 2-1 margin derailed a proposed Topgolf golf and entertainment complex.

Connell Resources wins parkway bid

Also on Tuesday, the council approved a bid by Connell LLC’s affiliated company, Connell Resources, to build the first phase of construction of Timnath Parkway, which will provide a 1-mile bypass from Harmony Road for through traffic to go around Timnath’s existing Old Town area.

Connell Resources submitted a bid of $6,068.029.70 for the work, lower than the four other companies – GLH Constructors, Timber Wolf, Duran Excavating and Mountain Constructors – that responded to the request for proposals sent out by the town in May.

Eric Fuhrman, a consulting engineer contracted to the town who is employed by Fort Collins-based TST Inc. Consulting Engineers, told the Town Council members that the bidders had been evaluated not only by their bid amounts but also by their unit price and scope of work, their proposed project schedule, experience, innovative approaches, cost-saving measures, and to what extent each company would perform the work itself as opposed to handing some of it off to subcontractors. Fuhrman said Connell committed to doing 80% of the work itself.

A citizen commenter expressed discomfort with connections between the town, Connell and TST, and charged that Connell had been offered a tax exemption for the project. However, Mayor Mark Soukup responded that “five bids were sent out and came back. Connell was the lowest bid by a significant sum. There wasn’t any favoritism or good-ol’-boy going on with that,” and Fuhrman said all the contractors’ materials would have been tax-exempt no matter whose bid was accepted.

Citing a “very volatile” construction market, Fuhrman said the total cost of the project would likely be $9.214 million.

The first phase of the project, which the town is obliged to build under the terms of the Timnath Landings Subdivision improvement agreement, calls for two travel lanes and bike lanes to be built from Harmony Road to Buss Grove, with turn lanes included at Second and Fourth avenues. A landscaped median is to be built from Cornhusk Avenue to Buss Grove, and sidewalks on both sides of the street from Cornhusk to Fourth. The section from Harmony Road to Cornhusk will be a temporary alignment and will not include sidewalks or a median. After completion, the south end of Main Street will be converted to a cul-de-sac.

The new road is expected to be open by the end of 2024.

Source: BizWest