A housing development proposal off Florida Road was withdrawn this week, marking a victory for concerned residents and a setback for Durango’s housing goals.
If approved, the development would have added up to 37 mixed housing units to the city’s housing stock, furthering the city’s effort to create more attainable housing. The developers withdrew the proposal because of pushback from residents who were concerned about safety, traffic and other impacts to their neighborhood.
“They were proposing a mix of housing types ... and we saw that as a good fit for the area,” said Scott Shine, Durango planning manager. “One of our biggest priorities is trying to encourage the development of new housing options, so we thought it was a good proposal.”
Housing affordability is an issue in Durango. In 2017, the average housing unit was 6.9 times the average income, according to a 2018 city of Durango housing plan.
The proposal included single-family houses, patio homes and townhouses on a 4.18 acre land parcel owned by Cummins ML Real Estate in Durango.
“I’m feeling kind of positive in the sense that this will show the city they can’t just get something going, push it through and not expect people to poke their noses in it further down the line,” said Julie Stone, a Ryler Park resident, in response to the project’s withdrawal.
Community concernsIn June, the city received about 35 responses about the project during a public hearing with the Durango Planning Commission – all of which opposed the development.
Increased traffic was a prominent point of contention. The Ryler Park neighborhood already sees higher school-year traffic because of Riverview Elementary School and traffic congestion in the winter season, residents said.
They were concerned about safety near the school and the Riverhouse Children’s Center and feared the quiet character of the neighborhood would be disrupted.
Residents also said the development might affect their views, was too dense and could exacerbate existing sewage backup issues, according to city records.
“We are a quiet neighborhood and want to keep it that way,” said Christine and Nathan Trout, two Ryler Park residents.
Setback and a step forwardResidents asked for different access points to minimize the traffic impacts on their neighborhood by routing vehicles to the already busy Florida Road.
City staff members understood neighbors’ concerns, Shine said. But it is a public street network, and right now, the main traffic on those streets consists of Ryler Park residents. The city is trying to provide road connections to disperse traffic.
The proposal, still in the conceptual phase, gained support from the planning commission without changing the traffic access points and continued on to City Council.
In September, City Council continued the project but postponed a final decision to address community concerns. City Council approved the developer’s withdrawal during a public meeting Tuesday.
“Ultimately, the developer decided they didn’t want to upset the neighbors too much,” Shine said.
The developers, Stu Wright and John Stevens from the Front Range, are considering an alternative proposal that would address community concerns, like a cul-de-sac model, said Tracy Reynolds, project architect with Reynolds Ash and Associates.
“This is a success story to (sic) a developer working with a neighborhood for a mutual resolution that benefits both,” said Christine Trout in a message to The Durango Herald.
If they choose to go forward with another design, they will have to start at the beginning of the city’s project approval process, Shine said.
“The neighbors were effective in expressing their concerns about the development, and the developers are now taking that into consideration,” he said. “We, as city staff, will keep working with both parties to try and find a reasonable solution.”