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Thursday, October 15,2009

Foes say makeover of Army Reserve facility isn't all it could be

By Jefferson Dodge

City acquisition

Guiler says the city looked into acquiring the Armory parcel, but the purchase was precluded by the fact that the land was not classified by the Army as a "surplus property."

Some neighbors say they wish the city had been given the opportunity to buy the property from the Army, which must give first right of refusal to public entities when trying to get rid of "surplus property." But the Army's agreement with Stainton occurred before the land got to that classification.

"It's just one of those things where people are cutting deals," says area resident Ruth Blackmore.

Stainton, who developed other residential units on the same block, says he began talking to the U.S. Army about the Armory property about eight years ago, and that after much effort he and the feds agreed to a deal in which Four Star would receive the property in exchange for constructing a building at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs.

He says the agreement was signed about two years ago, and that it wasn't an effort to get a deal done on the sly or behind the city's back.

"It wasn't anything that happened overnight," Stainton says.

Not another Washington

When comparing the Armory project to the Washington Elementary controversy, Guiler agrees that the contexts are different. The historic Washington parcel had been used by the neighborhood for many years, whereas the graffiti-covered Army building is "kind of an eyesore," he says.

Guiler agrees with those that say there are three other issues: location, location, location. "When you get into more historic, more established parts of Boulder, there seems to be more resistance to things," he says.

Guiler also credits the developer with being responsive to concerns. He cites the decision to incorporate the controversial stand-alone garages into the first levels of the homes as an example.

But Guiler notes that like the Armory plan, the Washington project was quiet initially, and vocal opposition didn't erupt until the end of the process, when it came up for formal approval. He said city staff members have not determined yet whether the zoning change would be consistent with the BVCP, and that it will likely be several months before the Planning Board reviews the developer's formal application.

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