Residents give input to steer direction of Centennial

City gives out survey at brewery, bowling alley for input on development planning

Posted 2/20/18

Centennial is only 17 years old, but the city is looking far into the future, and it wants residents' help in mapping it out. So city staff took to Resolute Brewing Company in central Centennial — …

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Residents give input to steer direction of Centennial

City gives out survey at brewery, bowling alley for input on development planning

Posted

Centennial is only 17 years old, but the city is looking far into the future, and it wants residents' help in mapping it out.

So city staff took to Resolute Brewing Company in central Centennial — and Celebrity Lanes bowling alley — to give out surveys to residents Feb. 13.

“We appreciate having a voice at the table,” said Wendy Eckstein, a 64-year-old resident of the Willow Creek neighborhood.

The city is gathering input for its upcoming comprehensive plan, called Centennial NEXT. Comprehensive plans set priorities and standards for development — pushing for creative architecture, better building materials, enhancing parks and historic areas, beautifying neighborhoods or creating public spaces, according to a city document.

New standards could apply to certain types of development, like only commercial and mixed-use buildings, or industrial projects, for example, or it could apply in certain areas like along major roadways, the document said.

In general, a comprehensive plan can affect priorities for economic development, housing, parks and open space, and transportation.

“As the city's and region's population grows more diverse, so do its needs and preferences for housing, shopping, recreation and entertainment, transportation and public services,” another informational document said. “Neighborhoods, shopping centers and infrastructure age and need investment and revitalization.”

The process plans how to respond to and prepare for a growing and changing population. Centennial adopted its last comprehensive plan in 2004. It's been collecting feedback since May 2016 — by Centennial's count, the city has interacted with more than 2,500 people on the topic through surveys, open-house events or an email received about the project — and halfway through the evening at Resolute Brewing Company, 23 more people had put their word in through surveys.

“Often, it feels more like (the city) cares more about business and commercial (input), and our voices aren't heard as much,” Heidi Pearlman-Swartz, 57, said at the event. “And it's frustrating.”

Rhonda Lipson, 59, echoed that concern.

“We'd like for the city to be responsive to the concerns of residential neighbors,” Lipson said at the event.

Centennial residents have shown engagement and fervor in land-use matters, recently exemplified in the pushback against the city for its Nov. 13 decision to approve a medical emergency-room center at the corner of East Dry Creek Road and South Colorado Boulevard.

At that meeting, the city attorney explained a caveat few residents may be aware of — once the city sets its rules for what can be built where in a land-development code, which sets zoning districts, the city cannot deny development that meets those standards, even if citizens object to it. It can take resident concerns into account where a development doesn't meet the code, but it legally can't say no to a building just because a neighborhood would rather not have it there, for example. The city must approve a plan if it doesn't find conflict with design requirements — things like how tall a building is, its parking structure and so on.

Public feedback to the city on the design of a new development may have influence on a developer, but what is permitted in a certain area based on zoning rules is not contested unless the zoning needs to be changed altogether for the proposed type of development.

But having citizen input on the comprehensive plan and, by extension, future land-development code revisions may bridge conflicts between residents and city policy. The plan can promote a vision for the city that influences future zoning changes. Proposed amendments to the land-development code are expected in 2019 to carry out the goals put forth in the comprehensive plan, according to Derek Holcomb, deputy director of the city's Community Development Department.

For a still-young city looking to adjust to the population growth cities are seeing throughout the Denver metro area, it's a crucial time to refocus. In feedback released in 2016, mitigating traffic, improving roads, increasing ability to walk and bike, and increasing transit access were the top five areas citizens wanted the city to address.

Jenny Houlne, a senior planner for Centennial, helped residents fill out questions at the microbrewery.

For the city, it's about what “we want to be when we grow up,” Houlne said.

You can look for more opportunities to give input, and offer input through an online survey, at centennialco.gov/centennialnext.

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