EDITORíS DESK: Tough climb with hillside overlay

       Looking at yet another future, sizable Westside development proposal that's getting rid of its hillside overlay zone - the 47-acre MVS parcel near Mesa Springs (and before that, 28-acre Sentinel Ridge and 29-acre Indian Hills Village) - I began pondering what the city was thinking 20-some years ago when that zone was applied to so many areas. At previous meetings on the subject, I've heard it said that the original zone was slapped down in a broad-brush way, but then there was a lady who had been part of the effort and insisted that careful consideration had been given in each case.
       I think it has a lot to do with point of view. If you're like most of us who have gotten used to the look of certain hills or a ridge line, it can be a shock when one day bulldozers are tearing it down. But if you're a developer, just one look at the intricate mandates in the roughly 50-page Hillside Development Design Manual is probably enough to start thinking about ways not to have to use it. And, if you're in City Land Use Review, it can be tough to precisely defend the seemingly subjective stance that a property's hilliness lends it the kind of "significant natural features" that justify such regulations. In the case of the MVS request (now set to go to City Council in December), the developer could also plead a hardship, because it just happens that one of the property's most convenient places to sling the extra dirt involved in restoring the site's old landfill is the 3 acres that Land Use sought to retain from what used to be a 100-percent hillside zone.
       Even having a hillside overlay doesn't guarantee pristine protection. We've written about the townhome development in the 3300 block of West Kiowa, the one where the Garden of the Gods-style rock was chipped at by a builder with a backhoe blade. Guess what? That's in a hillside zone. His penalty? He had to stop doing it.

- K.J.