How much and how fast should Commerce grow in residential housing?
That was the gist of comments from city planning commission chairman Joe Leffew made on July 6 to the Commerce City Council.
In a rare appearance before the council, Leffew said the town already has over 2,000 approved building lots that could be used for residential housing. There’s another 1,000 potential lots that could also be available, he said.
None of that includes current proposals for large developments, including a proposed 400+ residential community south of town along Hwy. 441 and White Hill School Rd.
Leffew questioned the amount of available resources in the city, including water and sewerage capacity. He said some of that had to be reserved for commercial and industrial growth in some areas of town.
City manager James Wascher echoed Leffew’s comments, saying that just because property is zone for housing doesn’t mean the city has the capacity to accommodate such development.
Leffew said he wished some developers would focus more on building out existing lots before acting to bring more lots online in the city. He suggested the city build out slowly to allow the town’s tax digest time to catch up with increased service demands and for the school system to be able to handle the growth of students.
He told the council there were some tools that could be used to regulate the pace of housing, such as lot sizes (increasing would lower density), house sizes (larger would bring in more money to the city), building materials used, limiting building permits and issuing rezoning moratoriums. Leffew said he wasn’t suggesting the city do any of those things, but that they were available if needed to slow the pace of residential development.
Although Leffew didn’t call for any specific council action, his comments come at a moment when the city is seeing unprecedented speculation for growth, much of it stemming from the development of the SK Battery plant that has gotten the city international attention. A lot of land in and around Commerce is currently on the market for development.
Related to Leffew’s comments, the council is slated to vote July 19 on the controversial Cook Communities proposal to locate 418 homes on 187 acres south of town. The project would require a number of density and setback variances.
A number of citizens recently spoke against the project at a recent planning commission hearing. The planning board recommended denial of the project, as have the city planning staff and other city officials.
City planner Jordan Shoemaker presented the proposal to the council July 6, but no council member commented about the project.
In other business July 6, the council reviewed:
• a request from Waste Pro for a hike in city residential garbage fees of around $8 per month. The council instructed Wascher to get more information on the current market rates for garbage disposal before it makes a decision.
• a proposal to increase connection fees for water and sewerage hookups in the city. Residential water tap fees would go from $2,200 to $4,382 and sewer tap fees from $3,500 to $6,000.
• a plan to transfer ownership of the town’s former landfill from the city to the town’s IDA for a potential lease arrangement for a business development.
• plans for a more flexible home occupation ordinance.
• an alcohol beverage license for Dos Bros Kitchen at 2195 North Elm St.
• a plan to close some city streets for the Tigers on the Town pep rally on Aug. 19.