Arvada City Council members voted 5-2 early Tuesday to reject an annexation and rezoning proposal that would have paved the way for Amazon to build a 112,000 square-foot distribution center next to Maple Valley Park.
The vote came after a marathon 8-hour meeting that lasted until 2 a.m. Tuesday. The meeting saw green-shirted “Protect Maple Valley Park” residents fill the Arvada City Council chambers Monday night and an overflow courtroom nearby. They filed a petition with close to 10,000 signatures and argued vehemently against developer Scannell Properties' plans.
“This is a very difficult case, one of the most difficult I’ve faced,” said Councilman John Marriott, District 3, as he made a motion to reject the annexation.
Mayor Marc Williams offered one of the dissenting votes, saying the matter should be referred to Arvada residents for a vote.
“As evidenced by the number of people who signed the petition, this is a real hot button issue and deserves a citizens’ vote,” Williams said.
Mayor pro-tem and at-large Councilmember Dot Miller was the other “no” vote, saying the applicant had met the required burden of proof.
Scannell officials, headed by well-known land use attorney Carolynne White from Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck, had proposed a plan where 10 parcels covering about 36 acres off Indiana Street and 66th Place would house the “last mile delivery station” and a parking lot big enough to accommodate more than 1,000 parking spaces. The land, currently zoned agricultural, would have been redesignated as "light industrial.”
“The last mile delivery station is the smallest, and least impactful of the warehouses we build,” said Matt Boone of Scannell.
White presented evidence to address residents concerns about the increased traffic from semi-tractor trucks, and an estimated 500 delivery vans; light pollution, noise pollution, possible runoff to nearby Ralston Creek and why the project should fit the light industrial zone.
“This development’s impact is minimal compared to the other uses allowed in that zone" like a big-box retailer or recreation center, White said. “Our traffic study demonstrates that additional traffic will be within the capacity of the existing road network.”
The developer made a last minute shift to eliminate 190 van parking spaces and build a bigger berm and wall in an 8-acre buffer zone between the development and the park.
Opposition was led by the Ralston Valley Coalition, an non-profit advocacy group of residents and businesses formed out of the “Protect Maple Valley Park” group.
“The Ralston Valley Coalition is not a NIMBY (not in my backyard) group,” said James Silvestro, an attorney representing the coalition. “We are not anti-development and respect rights of property owners. With the right retail/office uses here, we could have the crown jewel of Arvada west. But this is not the right site for a heavy industrial use.”
He keyed on the “23-acre parking lot,” the 500 vans that could have been kept there, and said it would be “a massive heat island next to the park.”
More than 40 residents spoke, with many more submitting emails, against the rezoning, with only two speaking in support of the project — one from the Arvada Chamber of Commerce. Opponents repeatedly used the phrase “heavy industrial” to describe the plan.
“A heavy logistics center that operates 24/7 will forever change the character of our community,” said Gina Hallisey of the Protect Maple Valley Park group.
Residents not only attacked the plan, they attacked Amazon for alleged poor labor practices.
“You’ve got planners from Indiana trying to convince you we need this facility and that it would be amazing in the neighborhood so we can get our packages a couple hours earlier,” said resident Chuck St. John. “It just seems crazy to do this.”
Marriott said his opposition was “not based on environmental concerns – the applicant addressed those.”
“Any development will have some, if not all, of those concerns … but this particular application is an anomaly in so many different ways,” Marriott said. “We’re being asked to measure truck trips for light versus heavy industrial and we’re being asked to completely ignore those hundreds of vans … that’s not in accordance with the comprehensive plan and not in the best interests of the city.”
At-large Councilmember Bob Fifer said he wasn’t as concerned with the impact to area residences, but that it wasn’t compatible with the other businesses operating in that light industrial zone.
There’s a chance Scannell Properties might turn to legal action. A developer White helped represent recently sued the City of Littleton after it failed to rezone property for a proposed residential development.