Housing project falls again

40-unit plan at old Boker Lumber site lacks city support

A controversial plan for an apartment complex near Fort Lewis College was recommended for denial a second time by the Durango Planning Commission Monday because of unsatisfied concerns about traffic safety and neighborhood incompatibility.

The commission previously rejected it in a 3-2 vote in December after six hours of presentations and public comment. On Monday, the commission voted 3-1 to recommend denial again with Commissioner Ron Meier in opposition.

Airview Holdings-Cadwallader Limited Liability represented by attorney, Denny Ehlers tried a different approach for getting approval for redeveloping the old Boker Lumber and Hardware, 960 E. College Drive.

The project was downsized from an original proposal of 86 apartment units to about 40 units built on 1.8 acres. Ehlers suggested that another 4 acres of the property could be given to the city for conservation. Developers also denied charges that the development was intended for student housing.

Instead of asking the Planning Commission to approve a conceptual plan, the developers asked for a “straight rezone” of the property, which would have had the effect of ending more public hearings on the project.

Ehlers said his clients were looking for some “certainty.”

“The applicant feels exhausted emotionally and financially on trying to do this,” Ehlers said.

But neighbors were unsympathetic, arguing the developer had “shot for the moon” as a bargaining technique.

“This was an overtop thing from the beginning,” said Andy Schwarz.

Commissioner Peter Tregillus said neighbors were not having a “not in my backyard” reaction.

“I think they’re saying ‘Meet us halfway,’” he said.

Commissioners also did not feel comfortable with approving a zoning change because they were unsure of how the project would be developed, but Meier thought the proposal met the conditions of a zoning change.

One of the reasons why it was originally recommended for rejection was concerns about creating a traffic hazard. Previously, the primary access point was along East Ninth Avenue by the College Avenue intersection, which did not meet the minimum safety standard of 350 feet.

The access point has now been moved to Goeglein Gulch Road. Because it’s a curved road, safety concerns were renewed.

City staff object that a high-density project is incompatible with a neighborhood of single-family homes and duplexes. The zoning change would allow for 45-foot high structures in a neighborhood where the structures are limited to a maximum of 26 to 28 feet.

The developer has the option of appealing to the City Council.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story