A light rail train pulls into Orchard Station in Greenwood Village.
When Mayor Ron Rakowsky vowed in January to veto the controversial land-use measure if the City Council adopted it, it was all but certain the Orchard Station Subarea Plan cwould live or die at the hands of Greenwood Village voters.
On Tuesday, those voters finally had their say. The would-be amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan was defeated handily, losing by a ratio of more than 3-to-1, 4,613 no votes to 1,479 yes votes.
“It’s a clear mandate. There is no doubt about that,” Jerry Presley, a former City Councilman and one of the leaders of the opposition campaign, said Tuesday night. “I think we won this election for several reasons, and one of which is we have passion. People who were against this, they weren’t doing this for any financial reasons. It’s because we love our city and we don’t want it to be urbanized.”
Presley celebrated at an election party at the Sundance Hills Swim and Tennis Club. He said about 100 people attended.
The controversial plan sought to amend the city’s comp plan to make it clear mix-used development, including housing, retail and restaurant projects, of various densities should be sought for a 44-acre area centered on the Orchard Station light rail stop west of Interstate 25. Today, that tract is home to several office buildings. The City Council first reviewed redevelopment possibilities in 2015. The planning and zoning commission voted to recommend approval of a draft of the Orchard Station plan in October, and the City Council ultimately voted 5-3 in favor of an amended version of the plan March 20. By then vocal opponents had risen up, and the mayor had made his veto pledge. The council voted unanimously to refer the issue to a special election.
Councilwoman Freda Miklin voted for the plan in March and defended it as a means to help alleviate the city’s traffic woes by making better use of light rail.
“Tomorrow is a new day,” Miklin said of the results. “We all go back to work, and we consider any development proposal that we receive for the area based on the current comprehensive plan.”
Current zoning for the area allows for residential development with a special-use permit.
Greenwood Village-based Alberta Development Partners last summer submitted — and quickly withdrew — a master development plan calling for 3.3 million square feet of new development in the Orchard Station area. Founding principal Don Provost applaud the level of civic engagement on both sides of the Orchard Station debate and made it clear his firm will continue to look at opportunities in the area.
“We have always been leaders and will continue to encourage constructive conversations about creating community conversations that look forward and aren’t satisfied with the existing condition,” he said. “We look forward to developing a plan to redevelop these properties.”