Temporary halt to rock-scraping at W. Kiowa

       City officials have ordered a temporary stop to a developer's below-grade cutting into red rock formations in the 3325 W. Kiowa St. infill project, it was revealed at a neighborhood meeting Feb. 21.
       Their reasoning - that the project's grading plan did not allow such work yet on Lot 9 (which has the formations) - resulted in brief tension at the meeting when developer Jeff Shada argued that the city was misinterpreting the plan.
       A ruling is expected from the City Attorney's Office on that point, as well as the issue of whether the survey being used for the project is correct.
       These were two among several contentious points at the meeting, although the 2 1/2-hour gathering also offered rays of hope that some resolution possibilities may exist for the partially built 11-unit subdivision in an older neighborhood.
       One of these involves the alley between the project and two neighbors to the south. Until the meeting, plans had called for raising the alley for drainage purposes, and they have not liked the resulting prospect of high retaining walls on the backs of their properties. Shada offered instead Feb. 21 to change the garage location for his Lot 9 house - even though this would force him to apply for a height variance that would likely require approval from the City Planning Commission - so as to keep the alley close to its current level.
       Also, City Engineer Cam McNair offered ideas and a willingness to work with the neighborhood on other issues concerning drainage control, saying he was searching for “win-win” solutions.
       By the meeting's end, the harsher rhetoric from early on had mostly toned down, from the 30-some residents on hand as well as the developer. Some of the neighborhood wrath was also directed at city officials, which several accused of being unresponsive and/or unhelpful.
       A possible turning point might have occurred when Shada, who mentioned several times that he believed the neighborhood was “accusing” him of improper work, commented that “no one said thanks” after his crews had removed some unsightly old cabins from the property prior to the grading effort. At this comment, the room filled with applause, and shortly after Shada apologized for any unintended problems his project has caused the neighborhood.
       Brett Veltman, the city's lead planner on the project, said the work stoppage was because the developer had graded Lot 9, not just Lots 7 and 8, as the grading plan showed. Denise Tortorice, also of Planning, elaborated that Shada should have applied for a separate permit for 9. The city ruling followed neighborhood complaints.
       Shada, saying that his concern for the rocks is so great that he has run the equipment himself at times to be sure the scraping was done with the proper precision, argued that a note elsewhere on the plan indicated that Lots 7-9 were part of “Phase 1.” Veltman conceded that “the wording could have been better, certainly.”
       Property owners Rick and Pat Shannon of Monument were at the meeting, and told the throng that they are strongly considering moving into the Lot 9 house (assuming it is built), because they like the rock formations so much.
       The meeting had been directed by City Council after nearby resident Jenna Saunders appealed for help at a council session Feb. 13. It was the first such meeting, despite the potentially controversial aspects of the project - including rock-cutting, the age of the plat (118 years), drainage, survey conflicts, the hillside ordinance, project density, narrow streets, design compatibility, the condition of the sewer line to be tapped into, and a possible conflict with a privately owned drainage ditch.
       City Planning officials have said they did not call a meeting before the project started because the plat was previously approved. Asked if he thought that such a meeting should have been held anyway, city planner Brett Veltman said after the Feb. 21 meeting that hindsight is always easiest.
       Jenna Saunders, who has become the neighborhood's point of contact, said afterward that while she is keeping an open mind, she is concerned that the City Attorney's Office will not take any action of consequence. She said she expects that the neighbors will continue to try to work with the city to look out for their interests.

Westside Pioneer article