Yea or nay in Frisco?
April 24, 2009
FRISCO ” Win or lose, Don Cacace thinks the Friends of Frisco Open Spaces has done its part to raise awareness about density and traffic issues associated with a proposed affordable housing development on the town’s 12.8-acre Peak One Parcel.
“We engaged the public … There was a lot more dialogue and more letters to the editor than during the public process,” Cacace said, referring to the showdown over a mail-in ballot measure that would require an additional vote before the town moves ahead with a Peak One plan.
The ballot question asks whether citizens should vote before the town sells, leases, subdivides or donates any parcel larger than 5 acres. Existing laws already ensure public participation in key land decisions in Frisco, but Cacace’s group claims the new measure would seal a loophole.
On the other side, advocates for affordable housing claim the initiative is aimed specifically at stopping the the Peak One plan based on the interests of nearby residents.
Advocates for the Peak One housing plan have said the process so far has addressed many of the concerns surrounding density, traffic, parks, open space and trails.
As in previous showdowns over Home Depot, Colorado Mountain College and the Frisco Peninsula, the Peak One land-use battle has proven divisive for the town, in some cases pitting neighbor against neighbor. But many citizens stand somewhere in the middle, acknowledging the need for affordable housing, but expressing concern about quality of life issues for existing residents.
Recommended Stories For You
When the ballots are counted Tuesday evening, the big question will be: What’s next?
Rob Murphy, one of the leaders of the pro-Peak One Families for Frisco group, anticipates that, no matter what happens with the vote, there will be subsequent efforts to block or delay the Peak One plan.
“There will be people on the vote-yes side that are opposed to any development,” he said.
He discounted Cacace’s argument that there are still significant outstanding community impacts that need to be addressed.
Trail access, open space, density and parking have all been studied during the extensive public process, “with people who attended the public meetings,” Murphy said. More importantly, the development guidelines used in the request for qualifications (for a developer) specified how those questions should be addressed, he added.
If the measure fails, the town may well be able to proceed unobstructed with its plans. Cacace said he’s not aware of a potential legal bid to halt the process. If citizens vote “no,” the group won’t keep fighting, he said.
“Our objective was to make sure that people had their shot at deciding whether they should have the right to vote on large parcels,” Cacace said.
If the measure passes, Cacace said it would be up to the town to decide exactly how to proceed, As he envisions it, the town would develop a Peak One plan, put it up for public discussion and then solicit a vote when and if the plan got solid backing from the public.
“It would be up to them to decide when to vote and exactly what kind of question to ask,” Cacace said.
Seventeen developers, some of them local, some from the Front Range and even from out of state, responded to a “request for qualifications” from the town, expressing a preliminary interest in working with the town on a plan to build an as-yet undetermined number of deed-restricted and market-rate homes on the forested parcel.
Town manager Michael Penny said the outcome of the vote won’t affect the next steps for the Peak One process. That includes developing a “short list” out of the formal request for development proposals in early May, with a three-month response time. During August and September, a committee will look at the bids and work on contract details during the fall.
If voters pass the ballot measure, it will be up to the town council to decide on the timing of a subsequent vote specifically on the Peak One plan. Those discussions have not been held yet, he said.
“If it’s a ‘yes’ vote, another vote will be required before construction,” Penny said. “It will be up to the council to decide whether they want to press ‘pause,'” he said. It will be at council’s discretion whether the vote is held before contracts are finalized, he added.
Similarly, it will up to the council to formulate the exact language of a new ballot measure.
The Peak One land is owned by the town, and exactly how the development deal would be structured remains to be determined by the contract with the developer.
Penny said it could be an outright sale of the land to a developer, or it could be a lease agreement. The deal could be similar to the South End Village housing development, only with “more strings attached” to ensure greater accountability as far as timing and completion of the project, he said.
The town has budgeted some money to have a neutral third party look at the financial details of the deal.
“That could be useful in this economy, with tough financing for developers and buyers,” he concluded.
Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org