Sentinel phases would upgrade area south of Fillmore, developer says

       Meeting with representatives of 14 nearby neighborhood associations Feb. 10, Sunrise Company President Dirk Gosda outlined a development vision for its undeveloped “Sentinel Ridge” property south of Fillmore Street and east of Mesa Road.

A view from the Sentinel Ridge property, looking northwest toward Coronado High and the Springs Utilities water tower, with the units off Grand Vista Circle at right (where the main access would be).
Westside Pioneer photo

       The Sunrise Company owns 134 acres in that area. Plans presented at the meeting call for 286 houses on 60 of those acres in four phases - the first being the controversial Sentinel Ridge-West proposal that's been approved by Planning Commission but is on appeal before City Council - and leaving the remainder of the rugged, rolling terrain as private open space. Gosda expressed a desire to help upgrade that area as a whole, including laying in better trail connections, building a “significant, active park” and, if possible, facilitating the completion of the partially finished Centennial Boulevard extension between Fillmore Street and the Fontanero Street/I-25 interchange. Sunrise does not own up to Centennial, but has looked into land opportunities there, and the company stance is that putting the road through would benefit properties it owns as well as the city in general, he said.
       The Sentinel Ridge vision was part of a 2 ½-hour discussion on the Sunrise Company's overall development plans for the Mesa. Within a roughly 2-by-3-mile area that was first masterplanned 27 years ago, Sunrise has built or foresees building a total of 682 homes on 21 development sites, Gosda said. Of these, all but Sentinel Ridge's four phases and the proposed Cathedral Ridge (east of Mesa Road, just south of the Garden of the Gods Club) are inside the gates of the existing Kissing Camels gated community.
       Gosda emphasized that the 682 homes compares with the 1,612 that Sunrise could have built on the same sites, based on the master plan. Sentinel's four phases are particularly reduced in density, from the allowable 948 homes (15.8 units per acre) to the currently proposed 286 (4.77 per acre). The only development site which would have density higher than what's in the master plan is Cathedral Ridge (previously 77 units). It is now set at 119, but could drop to 110, Gosda said.
       The Sunrise Company bought the master-planned area two years ago from the Hill family, which had already developed about half of it, including Kissing Camels, its golf course and the Garden of the Gods Club. The multi-state company builds its own houses, but focuses on higher-end designs and is not a “production builder” like some in town, Gosda asserted. He gave the price range as between about $390,000 and $1 million.
       In answer to a question. Gosda could not say whether he would seek to remove the hillside or streamside overlay from future Sentinel phases, as he did for Phase 1. This has been the main impetus for two Mesa neighborhood associations appealing the Planning Commission approval to City Council. Though disputed by neighbors, Gosda believes he needs the removal to make room for homes (as much as 25 feet of fill in places); and, with city demands for project-impact mitigation costing $800,000 (including new Fillmore and Mesa sidewalks, Mesa Road turn lanes, trail upgrades and a new access configuration for neighboring Holmes Middle School), it will still be a struggle to come out ahead financially. “The last thing I want to do is get approval for something I can't build,” he said.
       George Maentz heads up one of the Mesa Road-area associations that appealed Sentinel to City Council. He said afterward, “At least Dirk was candid last night when he said that removing [hillside and streamside overlay zones] in this phase of the plan was about profit. I don't begrudge him that but will find it disheartening if the city craters on principles/ordinances because he baits them with a million dollars worth of improvements.” He added that he hopes to meet with Gosda about a site reconfiguration he has drawn up that he believes would allow Sunrise its desired density without having to remove the hillside overlay.
       Another Sentinel-related topic at the meeting was the proposed new Holmes access. Gosda and his consultants have met with the city, school and neighborhood representatives to develop a plan that could alleviate the twice-daily traffic gridlock when school starts and ends. In the new plan, which appeared to be generally acceptable to most of the roughly 75 people in attendance, cars could enter and leave from the current in-only access at the north end of the school and could drop students off at the rear (northeast side) of the school.
       Other issues that came up at the meeting included slope stability in Sentinel-West (a geologic study indicates no past slippage but some neighbors were dubious because of such problems on nearby properties) and traffic in general on Mesa Road (Gosda said studies show his developments would add just seven vehicles per hour).
       The meeting had been requested by the Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO). CONO President Dave Munger said afterward the group plans to take no official stance. “Our role was basically to facilitate a meeting that allowed all affected neighborhoods to obtain a comprehensive view of Sunrise Co.'s plans, in order that the neighborhoods could determine if and where they have common concerns,” he said. “In my view, the meeting was successful from that standpoint.”

Westside Pioneer article