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EDITOR'S DESK: Proposed brewpub recalls spectre of Kum & Go

       Note: This column was written before the City Planning Commission meeting Aug. 20, which considered the Cerberus Brewing Company matter. For the results of that public hearing, see the Westside Pioneer news article here.)

By Kenyon Jordan

       Two years ago, a great number of Westside people and entities (this newspaper included) spoke against the Kum & Go that was proposed next to Old Colorado City.
       Before abandoning the idea, the convenience store chain's representatives claimed that the project would revitalize an older property, creating jobs and boosting economic development.
       Those were/are compelling arguments. But a big downside - in addition to the lack of compatibility with historic Old Colorado City - was the spectre of a busy store, open into the night, bringing unwelcome noise, light and potentially other problems to an established residential neighborhood.
       The reason I bring this issue up now is to compare it with a current land-use proposal. It would renovate an older

building (formerly a veterinary clinic) and surrounding property at 702 W. Colorado Ave. and establish a brewpub there. Similar to Kum & Go, the Cerberus Brewing Company owners have emphasized the favorable business aspects. But there is another similarity - less sanguine - regarding the desire to fit a high-activity enterprise into a challenging bit of space next to a residential neighborhood. (See the Westside Pioneer news article here.)
       I wish I could support this plan. I've met the principal owner, Jerry Morris, and I've been impressed with the work of the architect, Ryan Lloyd. I think their intentions are honorable. But I think they are trying to shoehorn an oversized project into a property that's too small for it.
       There's a reason the city code calls for a 200-foot distance between bars and homes. That's because bars tend to be noisy and sometimes have other problems that can result from people ingesting liquor. Yet the Cerberus plan seeks a zero setback. And with what kind of buffer? Nothing but a chain-link fence, slatted to reduce the light coming through, and some trees that will be planted.
       That's close to outrageous. Just imagine your own house, and suddenly your new neighbors are a brewpub, beer garden and parking lot. Right outside your bedroom window. And it's not a lot better for the people living on the other side of McKinley Place, who would still be within the 200-foot range.
       Then there's the parking. The city planning analysis states that 35 spaces are needed. But there's only room for 20 on the premises. Typically, that would be a deal-killer, because the city discourages projects where it's known going in that large numbers of business customers (or employees) will be parking on neighborhood streets.
       But as it happens, West Colorado between 7th and 23rd streets has had for years the C-5P zoning overlay option that cuts parking requirements in half. It was established in the '80s, according to local historian Dave Hughes, to help small businesses that were starting to open shop in the old houses along the avenue. But those are more like onesie-twosie parking breaks. To apply the C-5P overlay to a commercial building - eliminating the need for 15 parking spaces - seems like a stretch to me.
       As might be expected, the residents of the neighborhood have complained. But so far they have found no allies. Michael Turisk, the planner assigned to the project, has framed his favorable recommendation entirely around the “infill” theme that city leaders have supported of late. The concept is that by breathing development life into unused properties here and there, we strengthen the community as a whole. But in adhering unquestioningly to that argument, I believe that the planning analysis winds up losing objectivity and rationalizing away the neighborhood's aggravation.
       One of Turisk's statements is that the brewpub parking lot can serve as a “buffer” to the homes nearby. How could that be? Picture a typical tavern lot: people walking out to their cars late at night, feeling good, maybe talking loudly, maybe not. But they're definitely going to be starting their engines, turning on their headlights. And meanwhile, just on the other side of the fence and trees, imagine neighboring residents trying to sleep.
       City planners can recommend special conditions to control projects and protect neighborhoods. For instance, when the Pinery at the Hill event center was approved in 2012, the conditions - eventually approved by Planning Commission and City Council - included disallowing any outdoor sound system and ensuring that outside lights were directed away from adjacent properties. Also required were specific times when the business could open and close, lights could be on and trash could be picked up.
       For Cerberus, the only condition matching any of those is the direction of the lighting, and as for outdoor music, it can occur until 9 p.m. There is this planning statement, however: “The establishment should strive to reduce the amount of adverse impact by minimizing noise and transient outdoor light generation.” Should strive? That's not a condition. That's a prayer.
       I also take issue with Turisk's statement that parking on the streets is not really a problem because “parking requirements can hinder infill projects, particularly when the site is not large enough to accommodate the required minimum number of spaces, such as the case here.” His own words, “the site is not large enough,” ought to have led him to a different conclusion about what's being “hindered.”
       On another recent, major infill proposal, in the area of King and Uintah streets, the Calvary Worship Center was required to meet the actual requirement for off-street parking spaces (no C-5P there), although the neighborhood was still not pleased.
       For Cerberus, one suggestion a few months ago had been to ask for the after- hours use of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) parking lot, just a half-block away. But PPACG rejected the request, without even offering a compromise offer.
       On infill projects in the past, residents could usually rely on the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) to get involved. For many years, the de facto policy of the long-time volunteer group, when land-use plans came in, was to find out what neighborhoods wanted and then support them - at least try to work out a win-win type of solution.
       But other than proposing the PPACG parking idea, OWN has not done that in the Cerberus proposal. To the contrary, a poll of board members this week revealed that they're unanimously in favor of the brewpub.
       To his credit, OWN board member Jim Thompson spent time studying the matter. In an e-mail, he recognizes that “parking will be troublesome and having a bar/restaurant close to a residential street concerns parents with children,” but he prefers the aspects “that it was purchased by a local area resident, will provide jobs, will repair and modernize an empty building on West Colorado and will provide a service that is favorable to many Westside residences.”
       He makes some good points, but that sounds more like what I'd expect from a chamber of commerce than from a neighborhood advocacy group that for many years even received money from the city for that purpose. On top of which, how is it “favorable” to the residents who are opposing it?
       Another OWN board member, as a reason for support, mentioned that the building's had “vagrant problems." OK, but when that kind of thing happened with the Pinery, before the old commercial building was torn down, the owners were expected to board it up and police it themselves. No one suggested that because of the vagrancy almost anything should be built there… and fast.
       In the pursuit of infill's rewards, it's tempting to say that residents who complain about the side effects are being “NIMBY” (Not In My Backyard). And I have seen times when neighborhood complainers seemed to be grasping at straws. But in a case like this - as with Kum & Go - where the residents have a clear grievance, it seems that precious little is being done to mitigate their issues. Hopefully, that will start changing at the hearing before the appointed members of the Planning Commission Aug. 20, and, if not there, at a later date before the elected City Council members.

(Posted 8/17/15; Opinion: Editor's Desk)

       Kenyon Jordan is the editor of the Westside Pioneer.

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