Large crowd opposes potential hotel development

Willow Creek neighbors voice loud concerns about extended-stay facility

Posted 2/27/18

More than 150 residents packed a community meeting just outside the Willow Creek neighborhood in Centennial that discussed a proposed hotel near South Yosemite Street and East Dry Creek Road, …

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Large crowd opposes potential hotel development

Willow Creek neighbors voice loud concerns about extended-stay facility

Posted

More than 150 residents packed a community meeting just outside the Willow Creek neighborhood in Centennial that discussed a proposed hotel near South Yosemite Street and East Dry Creek Road, clamoring at city officials and the developer to stop what they say would be a dangerous hub for potential crime.

"We simply don't want out-of-town people walking through because it's like asking for an accident to happen," said Charles Whitley, a 71-year-old Willow Creek resident, to applause from the room.

The gathering Feb. 22 at the South Metro Fire Rescue headquarters board room, where some community meetings are hosted, saw an anxious crowd frequently cry out in frustration at the responses from the developer and those representing the project. The potential extended-stay hotel would be a Studio 6 with three stories and 115 rooms at 9105 E. Mineral Circle.

"I just don't believe that the demographics of this community are aligned with ... the clientele," said Jim Upton, a Willow Creek resident, during the event. The crowd from the neighborhood voiced their fears that drug dealing and violent crime could permeate their residential area if the plan goes forward.

The developer has not submitted a formal application for its plan to be considered by the city, and it has about six months to decide if it will.

But attendees, fearing that it would, prodded city officials for any way to legally stop the hotel.

"The city can do that, but it would take an action of city council to put a moratorium of any type" on a hotel use like this, said Derek Holcomb, deputy director of the city's community development department, who went on to explain the complex ins and outs of land-use policy.

Even if the project's plan meets city criteria, if a large number of people oppose it, council might be pressed to deny it, he said.

But issuing a moratorium, or temporary ban, on any new hotels would be a rare step for a city council to take, and it remains to be seen if Centennial City Council would be moved to ban all new hotel uses because of opposition to one project.

Some attendees asked questions about changing the business-park zoning of the area - zoning is a city's designation of what kinds of properties can be built on a given space of land - to a type that doesn't allow for hotels, but such a move generally can't be proposed during the process of reviewing the site plan, a term for the physical design of a property.

"It is important that all property owners be given a fair and predictable process when it concerns the rights and regulations for development and use of private property," Holcomb wrote to the Centennial Citizen in a prior email.

Once the city sets its rules for what can be built where in a land-development code, which sets zoning districts, the city generally cannot deny development that meets those standards, even if citizens object to it. The city can take resident concerns into account where a development doesn't meet the design criteria, but it legally can't say no to a specific building just because a neighborhood would rather not have it there, for example.

But citizens are encouraged to submit comments to the city so developers and the planning and zoning commission can take them into account regarding the city's land-use standards. A developer has to revise plans based on comments pertinent to potential conflicts with the land-use criteria, but comments that express grievances outside of those criteria won't affect the process, according to Holcomb.

In the one-square-mile grouping of neighborhoods, residents fear crime spilling into the trailway-laced area, which is centered around the Willow Creek, a large park and an elementary school.

"I don't think these are a bunch of people profiling (extended-stay hotels) or are elitist in nature," Whitley said, adding that many homes have split-rail fences and that he's concerned about children who play outside.

Glenn Thompson, public-safety bureau chief for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, told the crowd that for comparable properties to the proposed hotel, the sheriff's office gets the same type of calls as it does at a multi-family residential area.

But an attendee took issue that the analysis doesn't include calls for law-enforcement service to the neighborhoods surrounding such properties.

"If (it) has so much crime and sex trafficking up there, it's bound to come down here," the attendee said. Comments in support of that idea rang out in the audience.

Cyndi Gelston, mother of a young man who was killed in the area in 2009, voiced fear of an influx of crime if the hotel were to be built. Upton and most commenters expressed concern about human trafficking, the practice of transporting people for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation, citing concerns about nearby hotels and motels.

Many attendees expressed a goal of organizing together and giving the developer and the city input in opposition to the proposal.

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