After a several week break, the Woodland Park dirt feud may return to the political stage this week.
On Oct 4, the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority Board was scheduled to meet, and attempt to hash out a possible agreement over dirt at the key anchor site for a future downtown events hub. And if current trends prevail, the fight will probably end up before the city council this Thursday (Oct. 6) in what could turn into another lively exchange.
DDA debates have highlighted the last four consecutive council sessions, with board members making public presentations, and elected leaders asking plenty of questions. Several city council members have cited the importance of keeping these discussions as transparent as possible, and say they want to know more financial details about the DDA, a group that no longer operates with the assistance of city officials. Some critics, though, say these discussions have gotten out-of-hand and are turning into the “DDA soap opera show.”
The majority DDA board members, though, say they don’t want to do business in secret and object to the way things operated in the past.
This week, the DDA wants to consider the fate of the Lot 2 area of Woodland Station. More specifically, they want to resolve the issue of more than 2,000 yards of topsoil controlled by developers Arden Weather, the owner of BierWerks, and his partner, Steve Randolph, the former mayor of Woodland Park. During a recent council meeting, board member and DDA Secretary Al Born proposed a compromise pact, calling for the removal of all topsoil by the dirt owners by July 31, 2017.
But this plan didn’t get a good response by several DDA members, who are requesting that the city rescind the original permit given to the applicants, who originally wanted to use the dirt for future development projects. The majority DDA members compare the situation to a property owner, who is unhappy with contractors, and wants them off their land. “There is a lot of foot dragging going on,” said DDA board member Elijah Murphy.
However, if the original permit is rescinded, some officials have questioned if this will really solve the problem, or if the squabble will head back to square one, or if it will just result in more dirt talk.
Downtown Housing Effort Still Alive
In an interview last week, Weatherford reiterated that he still strongly endorses his original project vision, calling for a European-style beer garden, a public space area and a multi-use housing development patterned somewhat after a venture in Buena Vista.
“I believe that retail follows rooftops,” said Weatherford, who cited the lack of housing in the downtown area as a hurdle for the city’s attempt to revitalize this core section of town “Nobody lives in the downtown district (of Woodland Park).”
And even if the DDA board pursues a different direction with its plans for an events area at Woodland Station, Weatherford says he has no intentions of throwing in the towel with his downtown development bid.
He says he may initially pursue his housing venture on property adjacent to the proposed events hub on Lot 2 that he controls.
And like some local developers and former members of the DDA board, he contends that the DDA district has achieved much success. “It really has been pretty good, when you consider all the different projects and expansions done downtown,” said Weatherford. “The real problem area has been Woodland Station.”
In regards to Woodland Station, he cited a problem with having a development area controlled by a committee and believes the current DDA board is dysfunctional. “It is all about control,” said the BierWerks owner. “They (the majority members of the DDA) want to be in charge.”
Moreover, he doesn’t see why the DDA can’t have events occur in the Woodland Station area, while the topsoil material gets taken away on a graduated basis. “It’s just topsoil,” said Weatherford.
The developer also says he objects to having the city council rehash these debates every two weeks at their public forum discussions, which he believes are aimed for business items not listed on the posted agenda.
The majority DDA members, though, have been highly critical of Weatherford, and question if he has gotten special privileges from the city. They say they plan to investigate possible conflict of interest ties. At virtually every council meeting, the developer has found himself under verbal attack by members of the DDA board.