Town council unanimously approved the latest incarnation of its master plan, one that will pave the way for the final piece of the downtown Mainstreet corridor.
The 15-month update of the Parker 2035 Master Plan culminated with the 6-0 vote June 4 at Parker Town Hall, amidst light objections from a few residents who believe the re-characterization of the previously approved “historic center” district will allow a big box store to go right next to a residential neighborhood.
Part of the master plan update included the creation of the “east downtown gateway,” which encompasses town hall and vacant properties to the north. The town owns a 24-acre parcel in the gateway known as Pine Curve, which is the subject of the opposition. The east downtown gateway allows for up to 300,000 square-feet of gross leasable space, however, council member Gary Lasater noted that town hall now accounts for 33,000 square-feet of that, and a future expansion could double the size of municipal office space.
Bryce Matthews, comprehensive planning manager for Parker, said during his presentation that the historic center designation makes it more difficult to develop the land. Despite the title, Lasater said there was nothing of historic significance on the properties within the district.
There also are several flaws with the property, which is part of the reason why it has yet to be built upon. There is an absence of on-street parking on Pine Drive, a lack of pedestrian connectivity to Mainstreet, limited access and undesirable slopes.
The east downtown gateway allows for auto-oriented uses, which could include drive-thrus, gas stations and repair shops. Automotive businesses were not allowed under the “historic center” guidelines.
Erich Kirshner, a Rowley Downs resident who spoke against the east downtown gateway but in favor of the overall master plan, said those who participated in the public process expressed a desire for small shops and cafés on Pine Curve, not a large retail store and automotive shops. He said the term “auto-oriented uses” was “vague” and urged council to “keep with what folks want.”
But the majority of council favored the idea of providing services to an area where none exist. Lasater said poor planning by previous councils had every gas station and grocery store built west of Parker Road and suggested Pine Curve might provide the last opportunity to do something about it.
“There is no other land on the east side [of Parker Road] for a commercial center,” Lasater said.
Councilman Josh Martin, who lives in Canterberry Crossing, said a service station and grocery store would likely be embraced by those living on the east side of town. Residents in Rowley Downs, Willow Park, Canterberry Crossing, Sunset Ridge, Parker Vista, Riva Ridge and rural areas around Tomahawk Road could benefit from new development on Pine Curve.
Subdivisions like Stonegate and Stroh Ranch have prominent shopping centers nearby, and Lasater said a planned commercial plaza for his neighborhood, Clarke Farms, was scrapped in favor of more homes. He said it’s unsafe to walk to the store and cross Mainstreet, especially with children who cannot make it across in the 30 seconds allotted by the pedestrian signal.
Martin said the fact that Parker owns much of the land in the east downtown gateway - a transition area from downtown to suburban neighborhoods – provides a unique opportunity for the town to dictate what is built there. Councilwoman Lisa Coe agreed, saying the town can help protect existing view sheds for homeowners directly to the east and ensure there is a sufficient buffer.
Mayor David Casiano said Pine Curve is an “architectural nightmare” and has been the “white elephant of the town” for quite some time. Over the years, there have been plans to construct a justice center and a cultural center with a library, but they never came to fruition.
“I don’t see anything happening in the near future with this property,” he said.
Council member Amy Holland said the establishment of the east downtown gateway will ultimately help facilitate to “final completion of Mainstreet.”
The master plan is a policy document that does not set any specific zonings, but rather guides future decisions. One of the guiding principles is to “enhance our downtown” and promote “aesthetic excellence,” Matthews said.
Additional facts about the Parker 2035 Master Plan:
-Added language that encourages the promotion of arts and culture components in the downtown core area
- Included goal for businesses to improve streetscapes along major thoroughfares, including Mainstreet and Parker Road
-Added provision to allow for the redevelopment of struggling commercial areas
-Added a strategy to work with Douglas County to add more north-south roads east of Parker
-Language included to minimize visible impacts of auto shops
-Added section to encourage the relocation of employers to Parker