Original story: Having formally closed public comment on the matter, Lakewood's City Council is poised to vote Monday night on whether to adopt a revised master plan for the Rooney Valley — one that encourages a dramatic influx of housing, retail services and other development impacts in an area where dinosaur tracks, open space and the stunning backdrop of Red Rocks Park have long provided a buffer zone between suburban sprawl and the foothills.
Coming on the heels of one developer's effort to install car dealerships next to Dinosaur Ridge, the most significant dinosaur track site in the country — a rezoning request that was partly rebuffed last month by Jefferson County's commissioners, who okayed gas stations and motels but not the dealerships — the proposed "update" of the Rooney Valley master plan has generated passionate opposition from folks who live and recreate in the area.
Plan Rooney Valley is essentially a joint master plan developed by the cities of Lakewood and Morrison to encourage mixed-use development on 2,000 acres south of the Alameda/C-470 interchange, next door to the existing Solterra development. The development of the area has been under discussion for years and has been approved by Lakewood's planning commission. But at a public hearing two weeks ago, a long procession of residents voiced concerns about the proposed densities of new housing projects — an anticipated total of 4,000 homes and 12,600 new residents — and the effect that such a surge in population in a relatively undeveloped area would have on traffic, stormwater runoff and other infrastructure issues.
City officials have maintained that the revised plan has been through an extensive community outreach process. However, several speakers at the January 23 meeting complained that the community meetings were more about form than substance; some said they had not been allowed to ask questions or provide meaningful input.
Many of the opponents urged the council to delay adoption of the plan until they could clarify questions about environmental and financial impacts — or pull out of the intergovernmental agreement with Morrison altogether. After the meeting stretched into the wee hours, councilmembers agreed to postpone the vote until tonight, February 6 — in a meeting at which no further public input would be allowed.
The "gag order" is particularly galling to Lakewood resident Rhonda Peters, who had her own comments to the council interrupted repeatedly by staff because she was raising questions about specific development plans that would be addressed at future zoning hearings. "I suggested to some folks that since we cannot talk tonight, we should come with duct tape over our mouths and paper with large print saying, 'I am not permitted to speak, please VOTE NO,'" she says.
The special meeting is scheduled to get under way Monday, February 6, at 7 p.m., at 480 South Allison Parkway. The draft Plan Rooney Valley is available on the city's website.