Jefferson County commissioners took only about an hour on Jan. 31 to discuss the most recent modifications to a rezone application for a property near Dinosaur Ridge before passing it with a 2-1 vote.
Commissioner Libby Szabo made the motion to approve the rezone application with all its modifications. Commissioner Casey Tighe voted yes with Szabo, and Commissioner Donald Rosier provided the no vote.
The Jan. 31 meeting followed a highly anticipated Jan. 17 meeting during which the three Jeffco commissioners voted 2-1 against allowing a car dealership as part of the rezone. More than 200 people attended the meeting and commissioners heard nearly 10 hours of public comment — the vast majority of it being in opposition to the car dealership.
The rezone concerns the west side of the C-470 and Alameda interchange — an area commonly referred to as Rooney Valley. Two properties are involved. One is a 40.5-acre parcel on the northwest corner, and the other is a 30-acre parcel on the southeast corner. Rezone proposals for the two properties are being handled by the county as separate cases.
Although the Dinosaur Ridge Visitor's Center is not part of the rezoning proposal, its proximity is what was most concerning to activists.
“If approved, the rezoning and subsequent development would cause irreparable damage to this area of tremendous geological, historical and paleontological importance,” said Linnea Hauser in a statement provided via email on Jan. 7. Hauser is the vice president of a local activist group called Dinosaur Ridge Neighbors. “Long-term impacts would be far-reaching as well as local.”
A local developer called Baseline Corp., which represented property owners Three Dinos, LLC in the application process, originally applied for a rezone of the northwest quadrant to build a car dealership.
This sparked months of opposition to the rezone application. Dinosaur Ridge Neighbors formed in late March to provide information about the proposed rezoning, and to oppose it. Efforts included putting on community meetings with the slogan “Save Dinosaur Ridge,” a letter-writing campaign and an online petition at www.change.org which had nearly 3,000 signatures as of Jan. 16.
The Jefferson County Planning Commission approved with conditions the car dealership rezone application on Dec. 8. Conditions mainly concerned lighting standards and parking.
The planning commission approval prompted the Dinosaur Ridge Neighbors to organize a Jan. 11 rally at the Jefferson County courts and administration building, which was attended by dozens.
The Jan. 31 decision to approve the rezone application without the car dealership came with additional modifications, including a maximum building height of 50 feet for hotels or motels on the west side of the property. All provisions specific to auto dealerships have been removed, including some plot size restrictions.
In 2007, the properties were rezoned from residential and agricultural to a corridor district, allowing for commercial development, according to county records. Without the car dealership, the approved rezone application still allows for development including hotels, motels, gas and service stations. These are in addition to the uses the land is currently zoned for, per the 2007 rezoning — a variety of commercial and light industrial uses such as office buildings, retail, banks, restaurants, medical supply/drugstores and laboratories.
Although the Dinosaur Ridge Neighbors are pleased — and somewhat surprised — with the commissioners' decision to deny the car dealership, there is more desire to leave the properties as open land, said Randy Stafford, a member of the Dinosaur Ridge Neighbors Advisory Committee, on Jan. 31.
“The primary issue is development versus conservation,” Stafford said.
But at the Jan. 17 meeting, speaking on behalf of Three Dinos, a representative said the area has been zoned for development for nearly a decade, and leaving it open space is “not where we are right now.”
Stafford understands the property is already zoned for development, he said, but questions why Three Dinos, LLC has failed to develop it for nearly a decade.
“There's a history, and when you look at the history, it's not favorable to conservation-minded people,” Stafford said. “The 2007 decision happened too quickly and quietly for people to oppose it in strength.”