Idaho Springs continues public hearing for Habitat townhomes

Community raises concerns about shade, road conditions

Corinne Westeman
cwesteman@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/18/21

The Idaho Springs City Council has unanimously continued the public hearing for an eight-townhome project to investigate residents’ claims that the project would worsen road conditions. Blue Spruce …

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Idaho Springs continues public hearing for Habitat townhomes

Community raises concerns about shade, road conditions

Posted

The Idaho Springs City Council has unanimously continued the public hearing for an eight-townhome project to investigate residents’ claims that the project would worsen road conditions.

Blue Spruce Habitat for Humanity has applied to build eight income-restricted townhomes for workforce housing at 1628 Virginia St. behind the St. Paul Catholic Church parking lot.

The four duplexes with 20 total parking spaces would be along Virginia Street. The exteriors would be mostly pre-fabricated, so much of the volunteer work would be on the interior, Blue Spruce representatives said.

During the May 10 City Council meeting, city staff members said this final development plan meets all the criteria for approval, including the Residential-3 multi-family zoning.

However, community members raised concerns that the 31-foot-tall buildings would make an already dangerous intersection even worse, describing 16th Avenue and Virginia Street as “a blind corner.”

The City Council continued the hearing to June 14, with the councilmen saying they wanted more information about possible impacts. Mayor Mike Hillman suggested the council could visit the site to see the intersection firsthand.

“Once these townhomes are built, there will be no opportunity to straighten out 16th (Avenue),” resident Rick Scott said. “I don’t think the steepness of 16th (Avenue) was accounted for in this project. … You need to come up with a solution to this intersection first before going through with this project.”

Resident Christina Wienke said the buildings’ shadows will impact Wall Street traffic.

“It will keep that slope slippery all winter,” she said.

Molly Wheelock, a representative for Blue Spruce, confirmed that the buildings will cast a shadow onto Wall Street, saying, “I don’t think we can prevent that even if we have a one-story building.”

City staff clarified that a shade study can be required for some projects but is not required for duplexes. If the City Council wants to require that for any future duplex project, it must change city code.

Blue Spruce’s application has been in the works for at least two years as it first had to receive variances to fit the homes on the very shallow site.

Wheelock said Blue Spruce has worked to address the community’s concerns, such as moving parking from the back of the property to the front and decreasing the density from three buildings of three units to four buildings of two.

“I think (this project) will be an asset for working families in Clear Creek County,” she continued. “… I understand that there’s sliding (on Wall Street), and it is a dangerous road. But, I don’t think the dangers of managing that road should fall solely on the applicant.”

Councilman Chuck Harmon said that the application technically met all the requirements in city code for approval, but he and his colleagues were uncomfortable with approving it after hearing residents’ concerns.

The councilmen clarified they weren’t opposed to affordable housing projects or Habitat for Humanity, with Hillman saying the organization “does good work.” However, they felt obligated to investigate the impacts both for the residents already there and for the prospective townhomes’ residents.

Councilman Jim Clark stated that former Police Chief Chris Malanka described the 16th Avenue and Virginia Street intersection as the most dangerous one in town, adding, “If we allow (this project) just because it says so, it seems like we’re putting ourselves into a bad position if something happens.”

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