Castle Rock neighbors fight church plans

Calvary ready to settle in new home, but some fear effect on area

Posted 6/25/18

The Castle Rock Town Council approved a site development plan for Calvary Chapel on June 19, which plans to construct a nearly 23,000-square-foot church that has neighboring residents lawyering up to …

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Castle Rock neighbors fight church plans

Calvary ready to settle in new home, but some fear effect on area

Posted

The Castle Rock Town Council approved a site development plan for Calvary Chapel on June 19, which plans to construct a nearly 23,000-square-foot church that has neighboring residents lawyering up to fight the decision.

The church says it's grown beyond the space it currently leases and needs a new home. It purchased its 5.4-acre property near Fifth Street and Woodlands Boulevard for the purpose of building a bigger, 758-seat facility. The property is zoned so that it only allows church uses, also prohibiting church-run schools.

Plans approved June 19 show the church building situated in the center of the property surrounded by parking lots with two street entrances, a detention pond and retaining walls around most the site perimeter. A 24-foot buffer of natural scrub oak separates the retaining walls from neighboring residents.

Council considered the application through a resolution, which — unlike an ordinance — does not undergo a first and second reading, meaning the application got final approval through council's June 19 decision. The vote was 6-0. Mayor Jennifer Green was absent.

However, concerned neighbors already say they plan to appeal, and they've hired an attorney to help them. Property owners abutting the project site maintained they do not oppose a church on the property but were surprised to learn Calvary's plans included the retaining walls.

The walls vary in height but at their tallest points are roughly 19 feet and 15 feet high. The church's plan includes planting trees in the natural buffer to help screen the wall, but residents say it's not enough.

Alyssa Grant, who lives in one of the abutting homes with her husband and four children, said their living room windows face directly toward the walls and parking lot.

“We won't even see sky,” she said.

Neighbors also allege town staff bent municipal code and produced misleading traffic studies to approve the application, something town staff refuted during the meeting. Bill Detweiler, Castle Rock's director of development services, called the dispute over town code a difference of opinion.

Jeri Brown, also a neighboring property owner and retired attorney, said she disagrees with staff's use of municipal code and said they were at times unresponsive to residents' inquires.

Residents also identified congestion created by nearby schools along residential streets as a concern with the project, along with a potential decrease in property values and water flow issues on the site. Councilmember James Townsend said he didn't believe the church's Sunday hours would conflict with a school's weekday hours.

Throughout the roughly three-hour discussion, more than 30 people spoke on the issue. Numerous church members attended to vouch for Calvary's service to the community, calling it an asset for the neighborhood.

Republican state Rep. Patrick Neville of Douglas County attended on Calvary's behalf, calling the issue a property rights debate, arguing the church went “above and beyond” to accommodate neighbors.

Calvary changed its site design multiple times following feedback at community meetings, town staff said.

Former Mayor Randy Reed, however, spoke up for the neighboring residents.

“You can meet all the code, you can meet all the requirements, but are you really doing the right thing?” he said. “How can we make this more compatible to the people we're infringing on?”

Neighbors asked council to stay focused on the application's land use implications, not the church's community service.

Council repeatedly noted the private property is bound for development, with some saying they believed a church was an ideal use with that in mind.

Detweiler said before shovels hit the ground, Calvary must return with construction and building plans for town approval. The first could take another six weeks to prepare and the second 30 to 45 days, although Detweiler said the church's plans are already “very close” to ready.

“It's such a tough deal,” said Councilmember Brett Ford. “It affects a lot of neighbors, but the town doesn't own it. It's private property.”

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