Colorado Springs Planning Commission Approves Apartment Complex After Hours of Impassioned Opposition Testimony | Content reserved for subscribers
The Colorado Springs Planning Commission voted to approve plans for up to 251 market-priced apartments in Briargate after hearing about four hours of neighborhood opposition highlighting numerous concerns, including increasing pressure from the traffic on a nearby college.
The commission voted unanimously to rezone the property near the intersection of Dynamic and Chapel Hills drives to allow for planned apartment development on existing overflow parking and vacant land. The commission also approved high-level plans for the complex which could be constructed as two large three-storey buildings. The city council must also vote on the project for it to go ahead.
Commissioner James McMurray said the project would help meet housing demand in the community.
“I think the improved choice of housing in the Briargate area is a good thing,” he said.
Andrea Barlow, a consultant for apartment builder Titan Development, noted that El Paso County is short by 12,000 homes. The shortage has caused house and rental prices to soar across the city.
Other commissioners have noted that, should the property remain under the current industrial zoning, more intensive uses of the property may be possible. Commissioner Martin Rickett said it was also clear in Briargate’s original master plan that the property could be developed as multi-family housing.
Residents of the Summerfield neighborhood, directly east of the planned complex, made impassioned calls to block the project, saying traffic would worsen along Dynamic Drive, a street that serves Mountain Ridge Middle School and has Already seen two crashes resulting in the addition of a stop sign, resident Joseph Woyte said.
The project would also block mountain views, reduce privacy by allowing apartment residents to overlook homes, and increase pressure on infrastructure, such as parks, residents said.
“The developer isn’t building a community or a neighborhood. They’re just building high-density housing,” resident Bob Sallee said.
Developers have pushed back, saying their tenants will see themselves as part of the community and the building will have 24/7 building management to resolve any issues, said Ian Robertson of Titan Development.
The company also made adjustments to the project to help address neighbor concerns, such as reducing the number of planned apartments from 300 units to 251 and reducing the maximum building height allowed from 45 feet to 38 feet.
Apartments will also sit at least 160 feet away at the closest point to homes, Barlow said.
Traffic was a major concern for neighbors who were skeptical of the developers’ study.
Resident Maria Keller noted that she was concerned that the design of the entrances to the apartment complex would be poor and encourage more people to take Dynamic Drive via Summerfield, as it is the shortest route to some nearby shops. Entering right and right on Research Parkway could also lead to more dangerous U-turns at Research and Chapel Hills Drive, she said.
Keller suggested the developer consider an entrance to the apartment complex that would use an existing private road through nearby offices.
City traffic engineer Todd Frisbie said roads in the area were designed to handle much higher capacity traffic than they currently are and can carry the extra traffic from apartments. However, he said his office is always interested in working with schools, such as Mountain Ridge, to improve safety.
The lack of additional park space under the complex plan was also a sticking point. The developers plan to pay park fees instead.
“Beautiful landscaping is no substitute for parks,” said resident Carlos Perez.
City planner Katelynn Wintz said the fee in this case meets the city’s ordinance for the designation of parks.
Resident and organizer Christine Callender said she was not surprised by the Planning Commission’s vote and that residents plan to oppose the project again when city council votes on rezoning. She noted that the neighborhood would be much more open to lower-density housing, such as townhouses, which would allow more first-time home buyers to enter the market. She noted that the area is seeing a flood of apartments and the city doesn’t seem to be evaluating them holistically.
“We understand there’s a housing shortage. … It doesn’t have to be a bunch of rentals,” she said.