Townhomes could be built on the old Boker Lumber & Hardware site on College Drive after the Planning Commission on Monday approved a conceptional plan and new zoning for the site.
The commissioners unanimously approved the project, after hearing the developer is working with the neighbors on compromises.
“I think this is a really good example of community development at work,” said Commissioner Elsa Jagniecki.
Obtaining conceptual approval is the first step for Reynolds Ash and Associates, the developer proposing 20 high-end townhomes for the site.
Several development requests for the property have come before city boards since 2011, but all have been voted down after neighbors voiced concerns about high-density housing and traffic. After the last rejection, Durango city councilors asked for the next proposal to be a planned development so a public process would be required, said planner Craig Roser.
This time, the planning department recommended approval of the project with 23 conditions. The commission approved all but one of the conditions.
“The fact that they are duplex structures makes it more compatible than anything we’ve seen,” Roser said.
While some neighbors embraced the project as the best option so far, they still found fault with traffic, parking, drainage and vacation rentals.
The commission settled the vacation rental discussion by prohibiting them as a condition of the project.
“It didn’t bother me to say ‘no.’ We’ve already got a bunch of them,” said Commissioner Peter Tregillus.
If the Durango City Council allows the rule to stand it could not be superseded by a homeowners association, said Greg Hoch the director of community development.
At least some of the commissioners did not want the developer to decide vacation rentals would be allowed without consulting people who will live there.
“We also want to pay intention to future residents and what their experience is going to be like,” Tregillus said.
While the developer has presented a solution to traffic flow, the commission left the issue open until more engineering work can be completed.
To manage traffic, the developer is proposing allowing only right turns at the access road’s intersection with College Drive. Medians would be built to direct traffic, said Tracy Reynolds, the developer. In addition, the road serving the development would lead to the intersection of East Ninth Avenue and East Fifth Street.
To manage the traffic on Ninth Avenue, it may need to be a one-way street, said City Engineer Gregg Boysen.
It is an option some neighbors staunchly oppose.
“If ninth street was made one way, we would be trapped in there,” said Diane West, a neighbor.
But the city faces restraints – if parking remains it would leave two 8-foot wide lanes in either direction, which wouldn’t meet any standards, Boysen said.
It would also be tough to widen the street because of existing infrastructure, he said.
City staff members and some residents were opposed to setting aside a flat upper portion of the property for development.
The issue could be resolved if it is dedicated as open space, an option the property owner could pursue, Reynolds said.
This must be done before the site comes before city boards for preliminary plan approval, the next level of review.