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Stroh Ranch residents voice opposition to 'affordable' apartments

Planning commission will hear public comment Dec. 14


Residents of the Stroh Ranch community are not backing down in their attempt to get the Parker Planning Commission to deny the proposed development of a 204-unit, affordable-housing apartment complex in their neighborhood. Stroh Ranch lies between Hess Road, Stroh Road, South Parker Road and Motsenbocker Road.

Homeowners have opposed the building of the apartment complex for the last year, and more than 300 residents attended a Nov. 9 planning commission meeting, pleading with commissioners to deny the project.

"Over many years, Stroh Ranch residents who have done their best possible due diligence prior to purchasing their homes could take confidence in their expectation that the demographics of their neighborhood consisting of similar income, education, age and the retention of property values would persist," said Parker resident Smith Young, who does not live in Stroh Ranch but has become involved because of friends in the neighborhood and his passion for protecting homeowner's rights. "Until now, there was no apparent reason not to have these expectations. The question is, if not protected by the planning commission, how can anyone buy a home anywhere with confidence that their property rights are protected."

The debate, according to John Fussa, community development director for Parker, is that the site has been approved for building apartments for decades, and barring any fatal flaws or major issue that the applicant cannot address through the public hearing, the proposal will likely be passed.

"This development site has been planned and zoned for multi-family housing for many years," Fussa said.

In 1997, a site plan was approved to construct 576 multi-family units, to be completed in three phases. Two of the three phases have been completed, which are now Ironstone Condominiums. The third phase, which includes the remaining 204 units, is the source of contention between homeowners and the developer, Dominium Development.

Dominium plans to build the complex as "affordable," or "work-force," housing, which has many in the community questioning the quality of neighbors that will bring. Ron Mehl, senior developer for Dominium, said there is an increasing need for affordable housing in the area, and residents have pre-conceived ideas of what affordable housing entails.

"These will be section 42 housing, and people need to income qualify to live here," said Mehl. "These are not section 8 apartments."

Section 8 housing often includes full subisidy for the renter, including elderly or disabled renters, according to the Denver Housing Authority website. According to Mehl, section 42 housing offers "varying degrees of affordability," and the new apartments would mandate renters qualify by earning at least 60 percent of the area median income.

That translates into a one-person household having to make at least $35,000 annually to qualify, and a two-person household would need to make about $40,290 annually to qualify, according to Mehl.

Mehl also stated that Ironstone Condominiums were once themselves apartments, later converted to condominiums.

Young, and several others who spoke during the public comment period at the Nov. 9 meeting, said they are not opposed to apartments, or multi-family dwellings, but feel the income guidelines quoted by Dominium are too low to attract renters of high quality. They also expressed concern for increased traffic in the area because of the development.

"The best thing that can happen is the commissioners vote no," Young said. "Going forward with a multi-family development is OK, we all expect that will be the case. But we would like something that is consistent with the neighborhood."

R.J. O'Connor, president of the Stroh Ranch HOA, said citizens were not afforded the same courtesy as the Dominium developers when it came to presenting their case at the Nov. 9 meeting.

"The developer was able to give a presentation using equipment supplied by the town. We were not allowed or given the resources to give our presentation," O'Connor said. "Do the town planners and attorney work for developers in Parker or do they work for the people in this town?"

O'Connor said he and fellow residents have felt town officials have not listened to their concerns, and they believe the town will go forward with the project regardless of public comment.

Concerned citizens could have an answer at the Dec. 14 meeting, whether it's one they like or not. The town has closed public comment, according to Elise Penington, communications director for Parker. "At the Dec. 14 meeting, the Planning Commission will have the opportunity to ask project-related questions of staff and the applicant."

According to O'Connor, property owners in Stroh Ranch are prepared to continue their fight in a court of law if necessary.

"Folks at Ironstone and their legal team have already stated that lawsuits will immediately be filed with Ironstone exercising their rights to their own private property," he said. "And Stroh Ranch HOA continues to look at all of its legal options in this fight."


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