Public split on Cooper Creek Village Development in Winter Park
Town of Winter Park held public hearing of Cooper Creek Village development plan on August 16
During Winter Park’s town council meeting on Aug. 16, trustees reviewed Cooper Creek Village’s Final Development Plan and listened to community members’ idea of what the town could grow to be.
The Cooper Creek Village development is headed by Charlie Johnson of JAC Colorado II, LLC and developer Jeff Vogel of Vogel & Associates. Vogel is a familiar face in Winter Park as the developer of projects like the Rendezvous Center and Roam subdivision. Johnson, a Winter Park resident, is the co-owner of Cooper Creek Square and helped build the town’s transit center. Cooper Creek Village is one facet of a $100 million development investment plan, inspired by the town’s Imagine Winter Park plan.
The development plan has been ongoing since 2021, with the most recent public hearings on Aug. 9 and 16. Some community members have expressed support, while others have raised concerns. An additional public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 6. Voting on the development will take place following culmination of public hearings.
Cooper Creek Village would encompass two areas. The first, 53-acre area is bordered on the south by U.S, Forest Service land, north by the Idlewild Lane Subdivision, east by Beaver Village Condominiums, and west by Hideaway Village South. The second 6-acre area includes 10 parcels in town. Nine are north of town hall and include the Cooper Creek shopping center, the clock tower building and associated parking lots; the other is located south of Vasquez Road next to Winter Park Station. Altogether, the development would be nearly 60 acres, both in unincorporated Grand County (which would be annexed into the town) and Winter Park’s town limits.
Housing, hotels and commercial space
Johnson and Vogel plan to build a full-service hotel, plus a variety of housing. Their final development plan includes a total of 875 housing units, 720 hotel units and 115,000 square feet of commercial space.
The hotel’s maximum height would be 75 feet, or around 5-7 stories depending on construction. The height limit for single-family homes is 40 feet, multi-family units are limited to 55 feet. Since some housing would border the Idlewild Lane subdivision, developers will construct a 30-foot treed landscape buffer.
A plan for affordable housing
Workers are needed to run the development’s commercial spaces and provide services for the increased tourism Cooper Creek Village will create. James Shockey, the town’s community development director, explained the four affordable housing options developers have proposed:
- Developers could convert existing buildings in Cooper Creek shopping center into 45 deed-restricted bedrooms, with 20 completed as deed restricted after one year and the remaining completed after six years. The units would be deed restricted for 20 years once occupied, being reserved those making less than 120% annual median income.
- They could deed restrict 10% of all dwelling units in one portion of their development. These units would likely be townhomes.
- The developer of the hotel will provide workforce housing or cash in lieu for 30% of the additional staff needed to staff the hotel.
- A residential real estate transfer assessment of 0.5% will be placed on any transfer of residential real estate in the development indefinitely. This is on top of the transfer assessment the town collects on real estate transactions in general. Funds from the assessment would be restricted to creating affordable housing.
Open space and ski-back trail
Developers have dedicated 10.5% of the area to open space, which will primarily be made up of a ski-back trail, allowing for continuous downhill skiing all the way from the resort to downtown. They will also develop a trail network connecting to the national forest for cross-country skiing, hiking and biking.
Impact on wetlands
During the public comment, residents expressed concerns about the construction on wetlands, which are a vital part of Colorado’s ecology. Wetlands protect the water quality of rivers and reduce flood risk. Humans, animals, vegetation and microorganisms all rely on this resource. As with most developments in Winter Park, there are wetlands in the area.
Jurisdictional wetlands are protected by the Army Corps of Engineers; developers stated no structures will be built on these wetlands. The development area also includes non-jurisdictional wetlands, which are still vital to the ecosystem but can potentially be built on. Roads, utilities and trails aren’t considered to have a long-term detrimental impact, so these will go through non-jurisdictional wetlands. Structures that developers might build on non-jurisdictional wetlands require 1-to-1 mitigation. This means the developer must preserve or create wetlands in another area and protect that area from future development.
For decades, Winter Park Resort and the town have discussed building a gondola to run from the resort to downtown. Connecting the two areas would create a convenient way for both locals and visitors to travel between the areas. The developers will dedicate a gondola easement by the transit center and support the project, but responsibility for construction of the gondola remains with the town and the resort.
Cooper Creek Village’s final development plan has initiated strong feelings in the community.
Some community members are in support of the development, including local business owners who would benefit from the increased tourism. Proponents say the gondola will make it easier for visitors to stop in restaurants, shops and bars after a day on the slopes. The hotel will offer amenities like a conference center and spa, reducing reliance on short-term rentals. Supporters believe the development will provide more jobs and housing, plus recreational opportunities like the ski-back trail. Some feel the ski-back trail and gondola would also reduce vehicle traffic.
“It has the potential to add a diversity of housing types and lodging properties in the downtown area, which will produce a vibrant and pedestrian-oriented downtown,” stated resident Brian Cerkvenik in a letter to the town. “It will increase employee housing opportunities and generate a perpetual revenue source dedicated to new employee housing.”
On the other side of the coin, some residents are concerned that the gondola’s creation ultimately lies with the town and the resort and doubt it will become a reality. Limited parking would complicate the gondola’s construction as well. Residents of Idlewild Lane are concerned that development will take place in their backyard, increasing foot traffic while reducing their open space. Others are worried potential overdevelopment could turn Grand into another Vail or Aspen, with overcrowded sidewalks lined by big-box stores. From an environmental perspective, some worry the development will reduce green space, threaten the delicate wildlife population, and strain water resources as the Western megadrought looms.
As one of the only mountain towns near the Front Range with potential to grow, Winter Park’s development is likely inevitable. During the meeting, residents posed the questions: Can development walk the fine line between providing access for recreation, while protecting the environment that allows for recreation? Can development maintain a home for local businesses and community members who give Winter Park its small-town appeal, while also providing lodging and amenities for visitors?
As community member Randy Reaugh stated in the the meeting, “Let’s not let Winter Park turn into Summit County, or any of these other communities in the mountains where we see unbridled growth and a clustered place to live.”
The town is working with the developers of Cooper Creek Village to ensure the process benefits both the developer and the community. The next step in this on-going project is another public hearing, set for September 6 at Town Hall, then the developers will have time to address the public. Community members can visit WPGov.com/our-government/agendas-minutes to learn more about the Aug. 16 meeting, or register to participate by Zoom for the Sept. 6 meeting once it’s made available.
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