Stapleton United Neighbors (SUN) has been actively researching what is allowable on the land owned by Forest City in the Eastbridge Towncenter. The land on which Forest City’s concept plan has space for a gas station is zoned Commercial and adjacent is residential property In Denver, no protection exists for such situations to protect homeowners from pollution released at gas stations. Language in the zoning code for the land on which the gas stations will be built reads “Although residential uses are permitted in the “C-MU” districts, it is expected that residential uses shall be responsible for buffering themselves from nonresidential uses that may locate on adjacent property”. As no explicit protection is provided by zoning, we are faced with gas stations building pumps directly across from residential housing in Stapleton.
Although federal organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency highlight risks from Benzene exposure near gas stations, there are no federal regulations that prohibit the juxtaposition of gas stations near residential property, it is a local zoning issue. Our City Council Member Chris Herndon has stated that he would not be willing to put forward a motion to change zoning code to prevent gas stations from being built near residential housing across the city without the advisement from the head of a city agency such as the Department of Environmental Health. The Head of Denver Environmental Health, Doug Linkhart has stated that a gas station “would result in concentrations of pollutants at nearby homes only slightly higher than regional background levels”, and has declined a meeting to further discuss the topic. SUN is currently working with at-large representative Councilwoman Robin Kniech to further research options. Other cities across the country where urban growth is being encouraged have zoning language that is more restrictive on what land use can be adjacent to residential land, specifically, Raleigh North Carolina has a 400 foot buffer between residential property and gas stations.
On Friday, June 13, SUN Board Members met with representatives King Soopers and Forest City, along with Councilman Chris Herndon, to discuss concerns raised about the proposed Eastbridge Town Center plans. King Soopers representatives stated they want to find a way to work with the community where possible to accommodate our requests, including when it comes to product selection and layout of the store. The new concept plan brought to this meeting by King Soopers differed from the original concept plan by 23 parking spaces, and had a better north-south vehicular access along the area currently referred to as Geneva Court.
King Soopers highlighted the following during this meeting:
Layout: This is not going to be like the Quebec store. They suggested residents visit their store in Glendale (on Leetsdale). They plan a more modern store “with Fresh Fair features,” including open ceilings and sky lights and more table and chairs seating, among other details. They also said they heard clearly the desire for more organic and natural items, and they pledged to offer that, and that their newer stores are built with a larger emphasis on produce, deli, and meat. King Soopers further noted that their target market for stores generally comes from the immediate area – 90% of their customers come from within a 2-mile radius.
Gas: Soopers representatives indicated that the majority of feedback received thus far from their customers has been in favor of the store and a gas station. Only two locations are under consideration for a gas station and both are on the same block – bounded by MLK on the north, 29th Dr on the south, Havana on the west, and Iola and on the east. A gas station would go either in the current planned spot on the SW corner of this block, or possibly on the NW corner.
Parking/Layout: Forest City brought revised plans to the meeting. They reduced the number of spots, down to 243 spots. King Soopers says that is as low as they are willing to go. King Soopers said their first priority in designing these stores is keeping the loading dock area away from pedestrians and shoppers’ cars for safety. They also emphasized that they prefer several lanes for parking to avoid people denting other cars when cutting between parking lanes. To make the parking lot more pedestrian friendly and to better connect it with the other retail, King Soopers and Forest City are considering a walk way/sidewalk through the middle of the parking lot, and along the part of the parking lot that is Geneva Court. Cars would not be able to pull through parking spaces and cross this walkway from the store to the other retail.
King Soopers also indicated that most of the comments they had received indicated that residents want to keep Geneva Ct a through street.
Forest City noted that the retail near Fulton St has a plaza separated from the parking lot that is designed to provide a gathering space.
Next steps: King Soopers should submit new plans to the Zoning and Planning Committee and the Design Review Committee. SUN will work to get those meeting details out to the community, to maximize opportunities for community input.
New SUN Survey on Eastbridge, Mosquito Managements, and More
SUN has started collecting feedback through a new community survey, to help quantify the community’s views of the latest concept for the Eastbridge Town Center, as well plans for managing mosquitoes, and other topics.
Please continue sending comments to StapletonUnitedNeighbors@gmail.com, ask your neighbors to sign up for our email list at www.StapletonUnitedNeighbors.com, and be on the look out for our next SUN Survey. A more complete version of this meeting summary, as well as links to information about Benzene exposure can also be found on the SUN web site.