The debate over the development of the village of Crooked Creek continues

As the development enters its final stages, the city council will review the plan at its September 20 meeting.
City of Winter Park/Courtesy Image

Grand County residents remain divided over the controversial Cooper Creek Village development in Winter Park, as evidenced by public comments at a Sept. 6 meeting regarding the development.

During the meeting, residents of Grand County came forward to discuss the development. Some expressed their support for the project, including a land reserved for the gondola and a hotel with all amenities. Others expressed concerns, such as increased traffic on Timber Drive and the fact that workforce housing is located far from town. Developer Charlie Johnson of JAC Colorado II, LLC also spoke. He described improvements his company made to its final development plan after evaluating previous public feedback, such as preserving open spaces for the benefit of wildlife and recreation. Johnson also addressed new concerns expressed by community members at the Sept. 6 meeting.

Diving into the history of development

Public hearings on the development plan have been ongoing since October 2021, each time sparking debate. The most recent hearings were on August 16 and September 6. On August 16, the developers presented their FDP to the city. According to the FDP, Cooper Creek Village will consist of two areas. The first 53-acre area is bordered on the south by US Forest Service land, on the north by Idlewild Meadow, on the east by Beaver Village Condominiums, and on the west by Hideaway Village South. The second area of ​​6 acres includes 10 plots in town. Nine are north of City Hall and include the Cooper Creek Mall and associated parking lots; the other is located south of Vasquez Road, next to Winter Park Station. In total, the development would be nearly 60 acres, both in unincorporated Grand County (which will be annexed to the city) and within the city limits of Winter Park.

Opinions of residents divided

At the September 6 meeting, several members of the community were grateful for the improvements the developers had made to the blueprint. A major concern has been alleviated: Idlewild Meadow, the open wetlands of the Idlewild Subdivision that were previously marked for development, will now remain undisturbed.

“I want to acknowledge that Charlie (Johnson) has worked with us and we very much appreciate the decision to leave Idlewild Meadow as a passive open space. Yeah, wildlife! I was thrilled,” said Cathy Ratschkowsky, a resident of the Idlewild Subdivision.

Another major concern has been the lack of water to support the new development. Bob Wolf, former city councilman and former chairman of the Winter Park Water and Sanitation District, explained that the city has entered into many agreements with Denver Water over the years to increase Winter Park’s water supply. Park, with now 6037 taps available for development.

“It may seem like we’re building at an accelerated pace…and maybe our water is running out, but that’s just not the case,” Wolf said.

Grand County resident and business owner Mark Johnson spoke about the benefits of providing more amenities and accommodations in the city, as Winter Park Resort is now on the map as one of the most popular resorts in the country. .

“This project is good for us,” said Mark Johnson. “We are no longer a sleepy little resort town. In fact, we’re on the verge of international stardom…we have some of the best ski areas in all of North America.

Winter Park resident Chris Siewack expressed cautious optimism about the project, first congratulating council members and the developer, but warning that Cooper Creek Village must keep the intimate small-town appeal intact. of Winter Park.

“I’m worried about the soul of this town,” he said. “I moved here because it’s a place where you can show up on the mountain with tape on your clothes and no one is judging you. People look out for each other here, young people move here, and it’s a family type story. I don’t want to see this place turn into Vail. That being said… I’m trying to focus on the positive and get excited about this project moving forward.”

Siewack added that one aspect that would get residents involved in the project is to ensure that all housing created for the workforce is in Winter Park. Under the current agreement between the city and the developers, some workforce housing could eventually be located up to Red Dirt Hill.

The city council and Johnson have talked about this point. Both parties have admitted that not all housing may be restricted to the downtown limits, but there are 45 secure restricted access bedrooms for a location in Cooper Creek Square. As the city grew, Johnson and the city debated whether they wanted to be “locked in a corner” by designating all workforce housing in the downtown area, but decided said it was ideal for the accommodation to be as close to Winter Park as possible.

“I agree that we need to keep the workforce in the town of Winter Park, and that creates the soul…. and the culture of a community. That’s what we want to do with workforce housing,” Johnson said. “Our project has the highest labor housing requirements of any project ever proposed in the City of Winter Park.”

A petition for community members to work where they live

After the meeting, community members Chris Siewack and Bob Wright decided to take it a step further beyond public comment. The pair took to the streets with a petition expressing the need to keep affordable housing within development boundaries. Wright submitted the petition, along with a letter to the city council, after obtaining signatures from community members. Wright told Sky-Hi News the signatures were obtained by nearly 100 residents of Winter Park businesses on September 12 and 13.

“With more time, I believe this list could go on to hundreds or more. I received no opposition from the community when I presented this petition to them,” said the letter Wright shared with Sky-Hi. News, “Some people said they weren’t into politics, but no one was opposed to keeping labor housing in the Cooper Creek development. Everyone was opposed to the idea that the workforce housing is as remote as Red Dirt Hill.

Wright explained that he and Siewack visited the following businesses: Epic Mountain Sports, Philly Phatz, Best Western, Randi’s Grill & Pub, The Noble Buck, Fontenot’s, Conoco, Wake N’ Bacon, Fireside Market, Liquor Depot, The Perk, The Trailhead, Smokehouse BBQ, Liquor Store, Strip & Tail, Winter Park Pub, The Ditch on 40, Hideaway Brewery, Subway, Christy Sports, Divide Board Shop and Active Images. They also received signatures from several Fraser and Tabernash business owners.

“Many signatories were visibly upset when presented with the idea that labor housing for Cooper Creek Development might not stay within the boundaries of the development,” the petition letter continues. “People are happiest when they live where they work. There are so many problems with trying to build a workforce community outside of Winter Park’s jurisdiction. Police, fire, transportation, mental health and the list goes on.

Only time will tell where affordable housing can be built, as the city continues to evaluate the project and the future face of Winter Park.

Next steps

As one of Winter Park’s largest developments to date, the City Council has spent many hours with the developers to craft a deal that ideally benefits not only tourism, but also the locals who make the community a special place where tourists want to flock. . As Siewack said at the Sept. 6 meeting, “It’s the soul of the city — the people who live here all the time, spending money during mud season. People who live here all the time care. Let’s keep them here.

Now that the public hearing is closed, the city will continue to meet with the promoters to finalize the agreements. Their next meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 20. To learn more about previous meetings on Cooper Creek Village or how to attend the September 20 meeting virtually or in person, please visit:

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