Save the Farm group prepares for decisive year

Local activist group said its strategy to oppose proposed development is by using facts


It wasn’t long after residents learned about the proposed Uplands development when they gathered at the Irving Street Library in July 2019 to form a local activist group, Save the Farm.

Twenty months later, they held their third protest and are already planning future ones.

“My preference would be that they do not build on it,” said Karen Ray, a Save the Farm organizer and neighbor of the proposed development in south Westminster near Shaw Heights. She said other neighbors feel similarly.

To express their concerns the group convened March 25 and held signs along 84th Avenue and Federal Boulevard. The intent was to raise widespread awareness about issues they see with the proposed 233-acre development before a year of major decision-making.

In a January meeting between developer representatives and the community, the developers said their plan was to bring major annexation, rezoning and preliminary development plan (PDP) applications before the planning commission and city council this year.

Thus, before council will cast major votes about the development, Save the Farm hopes to steer the ship some. To accomplish that, their strategy is to conduct, compile and present as much research about the development’s potential consequences. “I believe the more facts that we can present to them (city council), the harder it will be for them to argue,” said Ray.

Previously, Ray said she tried to make arguments on moral grounds. However, she said that wasn’t very effective and, “You have to make your case because the presumption is that they’re going to vote for the developer.”

Preceding the March 25 protest, Ray completed a seven-page report about Uplands and its public land dedication (PLD) for parks and open space. It’s one of several thorough research projects Ray has created about various concerns she has with Uplands.

Jeff Handlin, president of Oread Capital & Development and Uplands’ primary developer, contends Ray’s portrayal of the arguments that Save the Farm is making. He said that on several occasions, the group has promoted, “a narrative that is not based in fact.”

Ray’s particular concern about parks and open space PLD is that the developers are proposing to donate fewer acres of dedicated public lands than what a city code sets the standard for. The developer is proposing 34 acres when it should be upwards of 60 to 70 acres, based on the range of projected residents in Uplands. However, a different city code allows an applicant to pay cash-in-lieu of PLD, thus the 34-acre proposal.

Ray understands the cash-in-lieu option, but said about 60 to 70 acres, “That’s the minimum bar and we’re not even making that … The city should be obligated to uphold the minimum requirements.”

The city of Westminster, “May be supportive of requiring more PLD than proposed, but the acceptance would be dependent on factors including, but not limited to, the location of the land, function of the land, and size of the land,” said spokesman Ryan Hegreness.

Handlin said that the cash-in-lieu option isn’t just an attempt to skirt certain city requirements. He argues it helps finance the city’s construction and maintenance of parks throughout the city.

Others, though, agree with Ray’s arguments. Protesters at the March 25 event held up signs about preserving open space. Eric Wycoff said that’s one of his major concerns and why he participated in the protest.

Karl Merida, another protestor, expressed a similar sentiment.

“For the last 19 years, my family has benefited immensely from the world-class views when walking or driving in the neighborhood … The loss of this unique place will do irreparable damage,” Merida said.

Ray said that while she and others prefer that Uplands isn’t built at all, they know it likely will. And at the very least, they want there to be more parks and open space than what the application currently contains.

Nothing is currently locked in place. Westminster city staff hasn’t taken any official position about the applications and that quasi-judicial reviews by the planning commission and city council need to occur before formal hearings.

Though the applications could change throughout this year, Ray is certain about one thing: Save the Farm is here to stay. She said about her vision for the future, “One of the things we have shown is that you can make a difference if you make your voice heard … I can’t guarantee anybody that we’ll win. I can guarantee that we will lose if we don’t speak up.”


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