Woodland Park DDA Kicks off 2017 with Hefty List of Issues – By Beth Dodd

The Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority kicked off the new year with a discussion on signage, earthwork and rule-changing, along with updates on their finances and legal battles.

On January 3, the DDA held its first monthly meeting of 2017, a forum that lacked much of the theatrics of previous meetings. However, the group faces a busy agenda this year.

Kelly Rodarmel, the owner of Woodland Hardware, is preparing a sign application for the city. His original sign proposals, when he opened his new building at Woodland Station three years ago, were rejected by the DDA as not fitting the requirements for Woodland Station.

Rodarmel brought a sample of his proposed new signage to last week’s meeting a re-purposed panel framed in cedar wood. The signs would be placed on the west side of the building and lit by the existing street lights at night. Once Rodarmel submits his application, the DDA’s design review committee and the city government will need to approve it before the signs can be installed.

The controvesial subject of DDA finances also was discussed last week.

The DDA’s final financial report for 2016 will come out in February. Their last revenue from December will not be collected until January. However, in general, it is expected that the organization will be under budget for payroll and over budget for legal expenses compared with their projections for the year. This is most likely due to the DDA not refilling the executive director’s job after the departure of Brian Fleer. But the DDA has encountered higher legal fees, capped by a recent lawsuit.

On the development front, the first phase of grading and earthwork being performed by Mallett Excavation at Woodland Station is almost finished in spite of weather and holiday delays. The site is being prepared for use as a community events space. The second phase of the work will require the DDA to obtain a new permit from Woodland Park as required by state regulations. The scope of work allowed by the initial permit is done. The project is proceeding within budget.

The meeting also briefly touched on the DDA’s current legal battles with Arden Weatherford, the owner of BierWerks, who proposed a previous development plan for a main section of Woodland Station.

The DDA has filed a counter suit in Teller County Court in response to the breach of contract suit filed by Weatherford last month. Documents related to the case are not being made public and limited dialogue about the case has been recommended for DDA board members. However, DDA chairwoman Merry Jo Larsen said, “We have a good case. The facts are there.”

The outcome of this battle will play a big role in determining the future of Woodland Station.

In an unrelated matter, a rule change has been approved by the DDA for the old Amerigas site next to Woodland Station. The DDA has agreed to allow the site to be removed from the Woodland Station overlay district. The overlay district is a set of specific planning rules governing Woodland Station, as defined by a city ordinance.

A couple of years ago, the owners of the Amerigas property asked the DDA to expand the overlay district to include their property so they could participate in the zoning flexibility and high design standards for Woodland Station. However, they have now asked to withdraw the property from the district. Now that the DDA has agreed, the question will go to Woodland Park’s planning commission and then the city council for a final yes or no.

In other action, Elijah Murphy, owner of The Historic Ute Inn, was selected to represent the DDA on the Woodland Park Main Street board. Main Street will hold a public meeting on January 17 at 7:30 a.m. to discuss a new proposed walkability plan for downtown. At this point the plan is conceptual only, and Main Street would like local business owners to share their input. The focus of the plan is improved safety and access for pedestrians to downtown shops and restaurants.

Main Street is also competing for $500,000 in grants through the Small Business Revolution program, sponsored by the Deluxe Corporation, and has made it to the top eight finalists. You can support the city’s bid by voting online between February 9-16.

For more information, visit www.wpmainstreet.org or call the Main Street office at 719-687-5231.