Ardalan and Kim Hardi, Wheat Ridge residents since the 1980s, purchased a vacant lot near the corner of 38th Avenue and Kipling Street after the previous owner was denied a rezoning request by the …
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Ardalan and Kim Hardi, Wheat Ridge residents since the 1980s, purchased a vacant lot near the corner of 38th Avenue and Kipling Street after the previous owner was denied a rezoning request by the Wheat Ridge city council. At that time, the property owner wanted to build 16 units on the lot. He lost his change of zoning request by one vote. Looking for a good investment, and wanting to build something just a few blocks from their current home, the Hardis took a leap of faith on the parcel of land they say has long been considered a nuisance by neighbors. They planned to redesign, scale back and hopefully receive a zoning change from R1 (low-density residential) to PRD (planned residential development) for their proposed development. The Hardis planned to move into one of the new homes, allowing them to stay in Wheat Ridge, close to the restaurant they own on West Colfax Avenue.
“We thought, if he (the previous developer) went with 16 units, we’re gonna propose 12. Listening to the city council meetings and the neighbors, I thought that was a pretty good compromise,” Ardalan Hardi said. “So we went to the neighborhood meeting and they were even against that.”
So, the Hardi’s reduced the size of their development plan to 10 units and re-submitted. The council voted 7-1 in favor of the rezoning. The Hardis said they thought the issue was over. They didn’t realize that a petition drive had been launched to prevent the development from moving forward.
Ihor Figlus is a member of Save Our Neighborhoods, a group opposing the Hardi project. He’s been active in trying to curb development in Wheat Ridge stemming from zoning changes that increase density. Figlus lives just a few blocks from the Hardi lot and was recently involved with a petition drive that resulted in voters rejecting a change of zoning for a proposed development in the 4100 block of Upham Street. Figlus thinks the Upham vote was a signal that residents in the area don’t want high-density development.
“Wheat Ridge has character that people like and they want to keep that,” Figlus said.
Judy Capra was also involved in the Upham petition drive. She admits she’s not very familiar with the Hardi project, but believes it to be poorly conceived. Capra said she doesn’t oppose all development in Wheat Ridge, but wants to see smarter development in the city.
Looking out from the center of the Hardi lot you can see duplexes to the east, and north, across 38th Avenue. To the northwest you see two gas stations, and due west, a restaurant. Further west, across Kipling Street, you’ll find a Sprouts Market, Starbucks and a large assisted living facility. To the northwest, there’s a busy skatepark. The location is decidedly more urban, than quiet neighborhood enclave.
Figlus says that shouldn’t matter.
“It’s a matter of precedent,” he said. “If you start encroaching on neighborhoods here, there and everywhere, the next thing you know it’s (new development) in your back yard.”
Along with Save Our Neighborhoods, he forged ahead with a petition against the Hardi project. His group collected 2,500 signatures, 900 more than were needed to put the matter before voters, he said.
The Hardis see the petition drive differently, saying pamphlets distributed by Save Our Neighborhoods were filled with lies.
“They called it high-density, which the city council and the planners will tell you it’s low-to-mid, at best,” Kim Hardi said.
Her husband added that the pamphlet’s description of the distance between units and whether or not they would have backyards, the amount of available parking and drainage issues also skirted the truth.
The petition did its job and put the matter of a zoning change on track to go before voters. But delays made it impossible to get the issue on the ballot for Nov. 3. Instead, it would require a special election that according to City Clerk Stephen Kirkpatrick would cost the taxpayers between $50,000-$75,000.
The Hardis said that they took the special election cost to the city into consideration when they requested City Council repeal their property’s zoning change, sending it back to R1 for now. The Hardis said they also realized opposition voters would be more likely to show up to a special election than a wider group of the electorate that would come out for a general election, making the re-zoning less likely to be approved. They plan to once again reduce the scale of the project, limiting it to eight units, and hope to avoid opposition that would gin up another petition drive.
Once they re-submit their plan, the process will start all over again. In a City Council meeting on Oct. 26, several Council members spoke out on behalf of the 10-unit plan the Hardis previously submitted, commending their willingness to work with the city. Council member Korey Stites expanded on his comments from the council meeting in a written statement. “While there has been some public backlash regarding density, the Hardis are long term residents of Wheat Ridge and District 3, wanting to reinvest in their community,” he wrote. “They represent the kind of thoughtful developers that we would like to attract to our community and their willingness to retract the project and come back in the future with a less dense plan, reflects their character and consideration of their neighbors.” It will likely take up to six months for a reevaluation of the project to make it to the City Council again.
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