Westminster comprehensive plan moves away from ‘next urban center’

City says comprehensive plan draft is responsive to public's call for less density

Liam Adams
ladams@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/26/21

The city of Westminster is giving the public time to offer input on the draft of its comprehensive plan, though it says the document already reflects the public sentiment in major ways. The new …

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Westminster comprehensive plan moves away from ‘next urban center’

City says comprehensive plan draft is responsive to public's call for less density

Posted

The city of Westminster is giving the public time to offer input on the draft of its comprehensive plan, though it says the document already reflects the public sentiment in major ways.

The new document designed to guide Westminster over the next 20 years endorses less dense new development and also focuses on enhancements for existing neighborhoods. That includes revitalizing and repurposing existing neighborhoods, expanding open space, transit improvements and implementing more programs focused on health and wellness.

“It’s about livability and quality of life. It’s this broader context,” said Aric Otzelberger, the city’s operations and community preservation manager. “The shift in vision is no longer `next urban center of the Front Range.’”

Otzelberger referred to the city’s old vision statement that it adopted in 2016 and that City Council decided to drop last year. With that old vision statement came a tolerance for higher density new developments.

The new comprehensive plan, however, changes the land use designation for at least 173 acres to make it less dense than what is forecasted in the current comprehensive plan, last amended in 2013. An example is the land north of 136th Avenue and west of I-25 currently designated for retail and office space, but the new plan designates as vacant.

On the other hand, at least 140 acres will receive a slightly higher density designation. An example is the land north of 84th Avenue and west of Lowell Boulevard that was previously vacant and is now listed as low-density residential. Only 2% of land designations in the new plan differs from the 2013 version.

However, seeing the comprehensive plan solely through the lens of new housing development isn’t fair, long-range planner Andrew Spurgin explained.

“You really have to look at it in its totality and how it relates to all the other things going on with the plan,” he said.

The comprehensive plan has seven main sections: community places, land use, economic resilience, housing and neighborhoods, utilities and resources, transportation, mobility and connections, and health, wellness and community services.

The economic resilience chapter, for example, talks about repurposing old, vacant commercial space to create new retail and office space to be attractive to growing industries in the region. The section on health, wellness and community services discusses buying and maintaining more open space.

Specific projects Spurgin said he will track once the comprehensive plan is implemented include Westminster Station and the revitalization of Historic Westminster.

The comprehensive plan is one plan out of six in total that are part of “Westminster Forward,” Westminster’s strategic planning initiative. The other plans include the water supply plan, sustainability plan, transportation and mobility plan, parks, recreation and mobility plan and the companion, “Code Forward” plan.

Each plan, and especially the comprehensive plan, are both visionary and regulatory in nature.

“This comp plan is a hugely critical, guiding policy document. But I think it’s important for folks to keep it in context, this isn’t the King James Bible,” Otzelberger said.

Notable achievements from the 2013 plan include completing plans for Downtown Westminster and Westminster Station, RTD transit improvements and activation of Church Ranch and Orchard Town Center. The city has similar ambitions for the new comprehensive plan but emphasized that public input is a critical part of it.

The public has until May 31 to review the plan and offer any comments.  

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