Government & Politics  January 28, 2011

Revised plans for The Grove in the works

FORT COLLINS – The Grove, a 600-unit student housing project proposed for Centre Avenue south of the Gardens at Spring Creek in Fort Collins, has been met with fierce opposition from homeowners adjacent to the property owned by the Colorado State University Research Foundation. A new plan has been submitted to city planners, but the fight is far from over.

In November, the city’s Planning and Zoning Board approved amendments to the Overall Development Plan for the site that would accommodate the project, but denied the more specific Project Development Plan for The Grove. Neighbors appealed the approved amendments to the Fort Collins City Council. On Dec. 21, the council voted to overturn the board’s decision, thus denying the project plans.

The Grove’s developer, Campus Crest Communities based in Charlotte, N.C., must now begin the review process anew, resubmitting both its PDP and ODP.

The company’s founders and co-chairmen, CEO Ted Rollins and Chief Investment Officer Mike Hartnett, say they’re taking local concerns seriously and are working with adjacent neighborhoods and city officials to adjust their plans accordingly. In fact, they traveled to Fort Collins Jan. 19 to participate in a workshop with CSU’s Institute for the Built Environment to take a closer look at green building practices for The Grove and projects across the country.

“Mike and I personally took an interest when we saw issues needed to be addressed,” Rollins said. “We’re very fortunate the community pointed out resources and we established new relationships to improve our procedures nationally. Although it’s been somewhat confrontational, our intent is to listen. We’re responding to (neighbors’) issues, making sure we hear them all. We’re still in the issue-finding, issue-gathering mode.”

New project plan submitted

“There were several issues as to why (the PDP) was not approved (by the P&Z board),´ said Steve Olt, city planner. “The block structure requirement in the city’s land use code was not met with the proposal. There were several other modifications of standards, one dealing with pedestrian connectivity that was ultimately denied. Those are the reasons why the previously submitted plan is not moving forward.”

As a result, Campus Crest submitted a new PDP on Dec. 8 that is under review by city planning staff, though it can’t move forward until the developer submits a new ODP as well. Olt said the latest plans meet the required block structure requirements and address connectivity issues. The city was shown a conceptual amended ODP on Jan. 10, he added.

On Jan. 18, the city held a neighborhood meeting to discuss the proposed amended ODP.

“What we’re being told by the applicant and consultant is they are planning on resubmitting the ODP and revisions to the PDP on Jan. 25 (after the Business Report went to press),” Olt said. If the developer sticks to that timeline, plans could then go to a public hearing before the P&Z board as early as March 17.

If Campus Crest is serious about adjusting to neighbors’ concerns, that timeline may be short.

Kevin Barrier, HOA president for 32 homeowners in the Windtrail on Spring Creek subdivision, said the project is essentially an island of 13 large-hotel-sized buildings that strip connectivity between Centre Avenue and Shields Street and does not fit with the surrounding neighborhood. He has serious concerns about the project’s drainage plans putting his neighbors’ basements and safety at risk.

“We are by no means being NIMBYs,” he said. “We’ve known that (site) is going to be developed. We just want it developed right.”

Bending the rules

Barrier said Campus Crest has been trying to bend the zoning rules to fit their project rather than design something that fits the area’s development plan. The homeowners’ appeals are based on extensive reading of the city’s land use code, he added.

“I believe that cooler heads will prevail,” Barrier said. “This is a jewel of a property for CSU. They’re the center for research and building things better. We want to make sure that if somebody’s going to develop, they’re following code, not given a free pass because they’re bringing money in. I’m a CSU alumnus. Professors live on the street, we support CSU. It’s a little frightening that CSURF is this hungry for money that they’re not following the things we believe CSU believes in.”

Hartnett said Campus Crest is serious about re-evaluating its plans and green building practices with IBE’s help. The company is also committed to meeting the city’s new green building code, he said.

“It’s been a great learning experience,” Hartnett added. “We’re confident we’re going to engage with the community and emerge better. We look forward to working with Fort Collins.”

Rollins said that Campus Crest is committed to managing The Grove for a very long time and has never sold a property.

“We work hard to ensure security and safety,” he said. “Our company is solid and stable with considerable resources on the human and financial side that allow us to own and operate all of our communities. Our focus is to make sure we manage things effectively.”

FORT COLLINS – The Grove, a 600-unit student housing project proposed for Centre Avenue south of the Gardens at Spring Creek in Fort Collins, has been met with fierce opposition from homeowners adjacent to the property owned by the Colorado State University Research Foundation. A new plan has been submitted to city planners, but the fight is far from over.

In November, the city’s Planning and Zoning Board approved amendments to the Overall Development Plan for the site that would accommodate the project, but denied the more specific Project Development Plan for The Grove. Neighbors appealed the approved…

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