The establishment’s efforts to grow Lakewood by annexing over 300 acres of southern Rooney Valley from neighboring Morrison has taken a radical turn. After the initial proposal met with a hailstorm of opposition it appeared the developer and his politician allies would wait out the November election in hopes their chances would improve in 2018.
The latest word is the developer now figures he better get the best deal possible while the establishment still has a 6-5 majority on City Council. The establishment is worried they might lose their razor thin majority in November. To make the development proposal more politically palpable they are now offering some crumbs to the opponents.
The original deal was for Morrison to get the lion’s share of any potential revenue from a grocery store-anchored shopping center at Morrison Road and C-470. Since this revenue split (75-25) required Lakewood to bear the financial burden of serving the thousands of new residents while Morrison got most of the revenue, it was clearly disadvantageous to Lakewood.
Recognizing this fundamental shortcoming, the new plan is for the shopping center to be in Lakewood instead of Morrison. This would mean Lakewood would now get much of any revenues generated. The existing inter-governmental agreement between Lakewood and Morrison requires Morrison receive a minimum share of the revenue regardless of whether it contributes anything to the operating costs. Therefore, if Lakewood now gets the shopping center as well as the houses then the Lakewood share of the revenue goes up to 75%. Morrison is still guaranteed 25% of the revenues even though it contributes nothing to the costs of servicing both the shopping center and the residences.
Another major stumbling block was the additional tax burden this development would place on the existing taxpayers of Lakewood. It is estimated thousands of new students would be dumped into Jeffco schools located in southwest Lakewood. Since these schools are already at capacity the new students would either create massive overcrowding in the existing schools or require new schools to be constructed. Originally the developer was planning on paying a relatively small (million or more?) fee to the school district. The district (read its taxpayers) would then have to come with the additional money to buy a site and construct a new school. Generally, the school district prefers about 20 acres and $28 million dollars to construct a new school.
The new plan would be for the developer to keep his required fee money and instead donate 13 acres of land for the new school. The remaining 7 acres needed would have to come from other developers. While this proposal may address the land requirements for a new school it still does not pay for the actual building construction. The existing taxpayers would still have to come up (bond issue, property taxes, etc.?) with the $28 million needed to build the school structure. Annual operation of the new school would then have to be funded by general school district revenues.
To address the loss of over 300 acres of open land, the developer states he will donate 73 acres of land to the City for park and open space purposes. While this appears generous on its face the question is whether this “open space” land is actually drainage spillways, etc. already required to handle storm water runoff. Counting the storm water drainage as “open space” would allow the developer to get double value from this land. Of course, the operation of any actual park land would have to be funded by the City.
The new plan does not address the additional traffic problems. The plan would still increase the number of permitted residential units 20% from the current 1000 (as authorized by Morrison) to a proposed 1200 units. Current planning standards estimate each dwelling unit will generate an additional eight road trips per day. Multiplying the eight trips per unit times the 1200 units projected would mean nearly 10,000 additional cars per day on Lakewood’s roads. Handling this additional traffic would require funding from the current Lakewood taxpayers.