With little hesitation, Woodland Park elected leaders last week enthusiastically approved plans for a new two-building assisted living center, an affordable housing apartment development and a microbiology lab.
Two of these ventures will be located in an upscale neighborhood commercial area near the Sunny Glen subdivision. These proposals got the okay, with some neighborhood opposition. Despite hearing a few concerns, the council was supportive of the new jobs these businesses would create, and the needed services.
But a few nearby residents raised hefty red flags and maintained that their quality of life would be impaired.
The proposed assisted living center previously encountered much debate. But at last week’s hearing before the city council, plans for the 50-unit, two-building center, didn’t face any surmountable hurdles. The only public concerns were raised by a local couple who live near the proposed development.
The project proponents, including property owner and former councilman Eric Smith, maintained that the center, the Village Terrace, is a much needed amenity in Woodland Park. Smith stressed that the center isn’t just a nursing home and offers a different facility from what is being proposed next to the Pikes Peak Regional Hospital. “We are very excited about the project. This is truly an assisted living facility,” said Smith.
Project proponents cited the project as a win/win for the community, the city and for older residents.
However, a local couple didn’t share this enthusiasm and wanted the developers to amend their plans.
“My objection is to the destruction of the trees,” blasted Phyllis Cahill, who noted that the plans clashed with Woodland Park’s intent to preserve as many trees as possible along its scenic corridor. With this project, she stated that this area would lose a key swath of 50-foot trees that could not be replaced.
She asked that the developers consider other alternatives and plant larger trees in their place. Her husband, Jeff Cahill, meanwhile, questioned the types of kitchen equipment that would be used in the facility. He stated that he has respiratory problems.
The couple, though, didn’t receive much support by the city council. As for the tree destruction, Councilman Bob Carlsen, noted, “I am personally a tree hugger.” But with many development ventures, he argued that big trees often must come down. And if there is a strong effort to replace the trees, he didn’t see a problem. “It does fit in with the character of the neighborhood,” said Carlsen, in regards to the assisted living facility. The project would be done in two phases, according to the plans submitted.
The council agreed and gave the planned nursing home the green light.
Affordable housing effort sparks debate
The council also put their final stamp of approval regarding an affordable housing development off Hwy. 67, proposed by a non-profit group, America West Housing Solutions, represented by architect Keith Meier and Economic Development Director Brian Fleer. This project calls for a 25-unit apartment building. This site has been examined as a possible spot for an affordable housing project for years.
But once again, several adjacent neighbors were less than enthusiastic about the development, and argued that it would change the character of the neighborhood. “I have some great concerns,” said resident Frances Sinel, who lives in the nearby Columbine Village area. “This ship (the proposed project) may have already sailed. We are becoming a suburb of Colorado Springs. Everybody is going to be running west.”
Sinel stated than neighbors in the area strongly object to the project. Another resident, Chris Rush, questioned potential drainage problems with the development. “What safeguards do you have for flooding?” asked Rush.
She reminded the council that this section of Woodland Park has some significant flooding issues. “I am trying to speak before the damage is done,” added Rush.
The council, though, didn’t hesitate in approving the development, citing the need for more affordable housing.
The other business project approved by the council last week dealt with a yeast microbiology lab, to be re-located in the old Tweeds building, off Hwy. 24. This project would set the stage for an additional 30 employees and would use state-of-the-art technology. The product produced by the BSI Yeast Lab would be used by craft breweries across the world.
However, business operators David Bryant and Bryan Pearson say their operation is fairly discreet and resembles the impacts of a bakery more than a brewery. For several years, the company has existed in the Gold Hill Square Shopping Center in a space formerly occupied by the Ben Franklin store. But they are planning a much larger operation at their new location.
“It is a great business,” said Councilman Noel Sawyer. “You are bringing employees to the area.”
The business owners received a warm greeting by the city council. WP elected leaders basically gave all three projects a hearty thumbs-up. No council members voted against any of these business plans.