Battle Lines Drawn Over Woodland Station

Public Meetings Set To Determine Future of Contentious Development Area

Photo by CR Chambers

~ by Bob Volpe ~

The future of Woodland Station took center stage at last week’s regular monthly meeting of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), with no shortage of comments.

An issue is the immediate and long-term fate of a 10-acre area downtown that once was viewed as a possible downtown commercial anchor for the city’s future development pursuits. It previously reigned as the rodeo and cowboy hub for Woodland Park for decades. A number of meetings have been set to generate public input regarding how this land should be used.   

DDA Board Chairperson Merry Jo Larsen began the discussion at last weeks DDA meeting, recalling a recent meeting with developer Walt Harder, (Harder Real Estate and Development), who expressed interest in possibly developing the Woodland Station property. After consulting with Larsen about the encumbrances on the property, Harder concluded that the property would best be used as an event outdoor recreation space at this time.

Harder’s original interest in the property was to construct multi-family units there.

DDA Treasurer Tanner Coy, read a letter from Harder that outlined his assessment of why he came to his conclusions. In his letter, Harder said he considered Woodland Station to be too expensive a project to

Woodland Park Planning Director Sally Riley stated that Harder’s firm was the developers of O’Reillys Auto Parts and the Family Tree stores in Woodland Park and that he is very familiar with the city.

Larsen asked for comments from the audience. Real estate agent Kerri Kilgore rose to speak and expressed concerns with the DDA’s stand. Kilgore said she was disturbed by the presentation, but agreed with some of the ideas. She said, “My concern is that I think an open space in this area has a lot of validity. I question whether it should be the entire 6 acres. I also question whether or not an acre of condos is appropriate; is one acre, or two, is it townhomes or condos? Is there light retail attached to it?”

Kilgore complained that the board is basing its decision on “one group of two developers” in a single meeting who may decide the fate of Woodland Station. Kilgore believes more input is needed from other developers in the area before the property is designated as an event center or multi-use area. She pointed out that developer Carl Andersen, and President of Park State Bank, Tony Perry, who were in attendance, and herself are experts on development in the city.  As a result, they should be involved
in the decision-making process.

She suggested the DDA conduct some workshops to include voices from opposing camps to have input.

Councilperson/Council Liaison to the DDA, Kellie Case, asked City Manager Darrin Tangeman to speak about the city’s ongoing strategic plan. Tangeman explained the city is working on a strategic plan that should be completed in the next few months. Tangeman said, “The planning process will include input from the community and I think that is important in this process. I will say it is always important to get input from local developers and the obstacles that they have.”

He did say that a purely residential development of the property is not a good return on investment, but commercial, mixed-use is on the table for discussion.

Once again, the prospect of a vision for Woodland Station came to the forefront of discussion.

The Lack of a Clear Vision

Unfortunately, a vision for Woodland Station has been kicked around for over 10 years and no one has ever clearly defined what that vision should be. This has been a complicated issue due in part to failed projects that were proposed for the land, including the aquatic center and the Arden Weatherford project that ended up in a lengthy court battle. Prior to that, plans were unveiled for a $60 million mixed-use development that almost resembled a ski village.

Coy then stated, “If a valuable enough proposal for development comes our way, great. Someone willing to buy the land, someone willing to put millions and millions into developing it, we could sell it, we
could convey it, but that’s not been the case so far.”

Larsen chimed in, “That’s where we’re at now. No one has stepped forward, ready to take on that errand.”

Coy then questioned how much of the costs the DDA and the city are willing to incur to have the land developed. He argued maintaining a public space is much less an expense than bending over backwards
financially to appease a commercial investor. He did, however, make it clear that should a developer be willing to spend the money, a project would be welcome. But until that time, the land should be made into a public area, noted Coy.

Carl Andersen rose to speak, stating that the public’s emotional attachment to a park would make it impossible for commercial development of the property to get through, should the DDA chose to go
that route.

Ultimately, no decisions were made, but the public input process has begun. The DDA has scheduled four workshops to be held every other week, on Tuesday evening, starting February 12 at 6:30 p.m. in city council chambers. The public is encouraged to attend to speak pro or con on the future of Woodland Station.