Eastcreek Farm zoning amendment tests Thornton’s newer goal to diversify housing

Thornton City Council and the public discusses zoning amendment allowing for townhomes and apartments past midnight

Liam Adams
ladams@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/29/21

After a three hour long public hearing at a March 23 meeting, Thornton City Council passed a controversial zoning amendment for the Eastcreek Farm subdivision in north Thornton with a 5-3 vote. Mayor …

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Eastcreek Farm zoning amendment tests Thornton’s newer goal to diversify housing

Thornton City Council and the public discusses zoning amendment allowing for townhomes and apartments past midnight

Posted

After a three hour long public hearing at a March 23 meeting, Thornton City Council passed a controversial zoning amendment on first reading for the Eastcreek Farm subdivision in north Thornton with a 5-3 vote.

Mayor Jan Kulmann, Mayor Pro Tem Jessica Sandgren, and Councilors Julia Marvin, Angie Bedolla and Jacque Phillips voted for the amendment. Councilors Adam Matkowsky, David Acunto and Sam Nizam dissented.

The amendment allows the homebuilders to develop townhomes and apartment complexes, instead of just single-family detached homes, as was originally planned. Concerns about traffic, water demand and crime in the prospective 83-acre development drew opposition from 150-plus neighbors — which was met by many other supportive voices — through email submissions and public comments expressed at the public hearing.   

The amendment was for an official development plan (ODP) that council approved in 2016 for 233 single-family detached homes. Then, last year, the city adopted a new comprehensive plan calling for greater diversity in housing, prompting the main developer, Carlson Land, to draft the new amendment to add townhomes and apartments.

Located directly south of E-470 and east of York Street, Eastcreek Farm will now consist of 96 single-family detached homes, 128 townhomes and duplexes and 284 apartment units. Altogether, the additions are expected to house 1,400 new residents, according to the police department's impact study. There is an additional area nearby zoned separately for 43 single-family detached homes that wasn't part of this amendment.

All the residential units will be market rate. One-bedroom studio apartments would be about $1,150 per month and three-bedroom apartments will cost up to $2,200 a month, according to Eric Gumm, a representative of the sub-contractor building the apartments. The duplexes and townhomes could start at $400,000 and the single-family detached cost could start at $500,000, said Jonathan Beckwitt, a representative of the Lennar Corporation, who Carlson Land has contracted to build the homes. Though, Beckwitt added, “Lennar hasn’t finalized pricing for public disclosure.”

The housing types, and their cost, was a point of lengthy debate at the March 23 meeting. There were opponents of the apartments, such as Matkowsky, who said, “after the initial lease agreement signed, there’s a lot of sub-leasing going on and that’s where the problems come in.” The  apartment builder has taken proactive steps to ensure that doesn't happen, though, noted  Rob O'Dea, a representative of the developer. 

Others argued a step further, saying that because multi-family units provide housing for various income levels, there could be more crime. Phillips, who represents Ward 1 where there is a lot of multi-family housing, pushed back hard, saying, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to make these comments about crime because of the people that are living in multi-family housing.” The police department doesn’t anticipate an increase in crime, according to the department’s impact study.

There were others, though, who said Eastcreek Farm won’t provide housing opportunities for people of various income levels because the costs are too high. “Simply diversifying the housing type does not create human diversity,” said resident Brian McWilliams at the public hearing. Still, some councilors cited the potential diversity of residents as a reason for approving the amendment. Representatives of the homebuilders said they plan to market the properties to young couples and retirees.

Several residents also expressed concern about traffic. The developers will modify roads immediately surrounding the subdivision, but neighbors worry about the impact additional residents and their cars will have throughout the region, specifically at York Street and 144th Avenue.

Be it housing types, traffic or impacts to schools, former Mayor Heidi Williams said during the public hearing, “Being the mayor for eight years, I have heard all the reasons not to approve a development … We have heard this for years and these are unsubstantiated claims and I have never heard of a situation where any of these concerns materialized.”

Kulmann, who lives near the prospective development and who was originally skeptical, agreed. “I was torn on this as well,” she said. However, after hearing the presentations, she said she felt, “Overall, the diversity of the housing, the product, is intriguing and it is unique.”

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