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“My Dream Home Became My Nightmare”

Residents Respond to New Centerra West Proposal


By Jessica Schneider

Editor

The Loveland Voice

August 8, 2023


When Vanessa Wagner relocated from Austin, TX to Loveland in 2020 with her mother, she looked forward to settling into a new-build home in The Lakes at Centerra, one of several developments by McWhinney in Loveland. With mountain and lake views, and close access to the private community pool and Explorer Park, Wagner believed she landed her dream home. Three years later, she says her home is literally sinking from the middle due to the monopost installed in soil that wasn't properly compacted during construction, and a crack in the foundation supporting the garage. Wagner says this was confirmed from a structural engineer's report, which she paid for out-of-pocket. 


“It has resulted in a lot of wear and tear: from the floorboards sinking an inch below the floor trim, diagonal cracks stemming from doorways, doors not closing, to the kitchen cabinets coming apart from the walls,” said Wagner. She also said that while the home warranty will cover repairing the monopost, none of the interior damage is covered.


Imagine sticking a pencil in sand, putting a brick on top of it, and expecting the pencil to stay put,” Wagner said.

Vanessa and more than 250 of her neighbors gathered on July 27th for a presentation by Kim Perry, Vice President of Community Design and Neighborhood Development at McWhinney, about a new development, which McWhinney is calling “Centerra West.” They learned that McWhinney is proposing an annexation and a subsequent rezone of the area neighboring The Lakes at Centerra, from low-density single family homes (R1) to high density residential (R3), with apartments up to three stories tall. On July 25th, the annexation proposal was submitted to the City of Loveland.



The pool at The Lakes at Centerra hasn’t been functional since 2021. All images provided by Vanessa Wagner, homeowner The Lakes at Centerra.


At the July 27th meeting, homeowners at The Lakes at Centerra said that they purchased their homes with the advertised expectation of a functioning pool, a park, and usable sidewalks. They also say they wish they had a grocery store and a gas station that was easily accessible. They say they currently don’t have any of these amenities, and they endure excessive traffic to get to food and gas. They say they are concerned that high density new builds will increase traffic in the area, and be dangerous for students attending High Plains School, especially when crossing a widened Frank Rd. between school and home, without a crosswalk.


The proposed development will require annexation from Larimer County into the City of Loveland, rezoning and amendments to the Millenium General Development Plan (Millenium GDP). The Millenium GDP is a 672-page plan designed and led by McWhinney, that encompasses development in Centerra, but not areas outside of Centerra. If the McWhinney proposal for Centerra West achieves a majority of votes from The City Planning Commission and subsequently City Council at meetings in August and September, respectively, the amended plan could result in 850 new dwelling units in the “Bowtie” area, including three story condominiums and apartments. These additional units are of concern to some of the residents at Lakes at Centerra, who said they could block the lake and mountain views that were a major incentive in purchasing their homes, as well as increasing traffic and decreasing safety.



Slide from the Centerra West Presentation provided by Kim Perry, VP of Community Design and Development for McWhinney, the developer of Centerra and Van de Water in Loveland.


In response to the issues with her home and the proposed rezone, Wagner provided public comment at the August 1 City Council meeting last week, stating, “The effects made to the community to change from low density to medium to high density will be drastic to the existing communities.”


Buckling sidewalk at The Lakes at Centerra. All images provided by Vanessa Wagner, homeowner The Lakes at Centerra.


Wagner, a financial auditor, says the numerous structural issues with her home have made her kitchen unusable for weeks. She was recently reimbursed, after 2 years, by her warranty company for more than $22,000.00 for damages. In order to do so she hired a structural engineer to detail evidence of cracking and separating occurring around her doors, counters and windows as a result of her monopost sinking. The resulting report is more than 60 pages long. While she was successful in her efforts to regain some of the costs to fix the monopost, the damage reimbursement did not cover all of the damages to the interior of her home.

The builder of Wagner’s home, Richmond American Homes, who contracts with developer McWhinney, has been named as a party in more than 100 lawsuits in Colorado since 1990, according to data pulled from the Integrated Colorado Courts E-Filing System (ICC-ES). Richmond is one of the contractors hired by McWhinney at The Lakes at Centerra.


The Rezone That Wasn’t (Or Isn’t, Yet)

If you live near downtown or in the West End of Loveland, you are probably familiar with the CIty’s efforts to rezone what became less than an acre of that neighborhood from R1 to R3. The city abruptly withdrew their petition to rezone the area July 18th of this year, just hours after postponing the discussion for an entire year. (If that statement is confusing to you, you are in good company).


In a letter to residents of the West End, Brett Limbaugh, Development Services Director for the City, says he made the decision to withdraw the petition to rezone the parcel, “to allow City staff time to explore other options and find a solution that was more acceptable to the neighborhood.” He added that a special webpage dedicated to the issue will be launched in September.


Gail Randall Aspinwall, a resident of the West End who is the media spokesperson for the grassroots neighborhood group that is against rezoning in her neighborhood, had a strong response to what is happening to residents of The Lakes at Centerra.


The Comprehensive Plan (Millennium GDP) map for the Centerra West parcel calls for low-density, and only low-density,” said Randall-Aspinwall.  “They (McWhinney) are asking for a blank check with this rezoning. This is a gross violation of the owners’ property rights and their right to due process, which calls for transparency and honesty.”


While Gail and other property owners in Loveland’s historical West End await a final decision, McWhinney appears to be asking City Council for similar accommodations for the City for Centerra West parcel, albeit on a larger scale, within a faster time frame. The West End rezone conversation took place over more than nine months, was eventually whittled down to four buildings, and then paused. In contrast, the Centerra West rezone, as presented at the July 27th meeting, could include 850 new high-density homes and is slated for a vote by Loveland City Council on September 19th of this year.


Amending the Millenium General Development Plan

The Millenium GDP is a document that governs developments in Centerra in Loveland. The document states, “The overall goal of the GDP is to provide a long-range plan for the future of the eastern part of the City that will encourage quality development that is carefully planned and orchestrated.” At the July 27th meeting with residents, Perry said that the Millennium GDP needs to be amended.

View the presentation slides from McWhinney, and listen to audio recordings of the July 27th meeting, here.) 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former Loveland City staff member said, “The Millennium GDP is constantly being amended. It is effectively a site specific zoning code. They (the developer, McWhinney) basically get to write their own rules.”


“A GDP that is developer-led is always going to be to the benefit of the developer… The question is how much influence they have. McWhinney definitely has an outsized influence (in Loveland). During the years I worked for the City we had one planner who basically only did McWhinney projects.”


In response to an email from The Loveland Voice requesting information about how the proposal is being altered in response to community feedback, Perry said, “We are still working through the details related to this. We plan to present alternatives to (the) Planning Commission on August 21 and it will be included in our submittal packet.”


History of the “BowTie” Area and Land Ownership

In 2018, MSP, a Denver-based developer, owned half of the land in what is now the proposed Centerra West. Their proposal at that time was for R3 (medium to high density) but was amended to R1 (low-density single family) as a result of pushback from the community. Pushback on the R3 proposal in 2018 was largely in relation to traffic congestion on 34 and Frank Rd.


(According to the audio files of the July 27th meeting between McWhinney, City representatives and Centerra residents, traffic congestion remains an issue of concern).


Minutes from the July 23, 2018 Planning Commission meeting state that current City Councilman Patrick McFall (then a Planning Commissioner) encouraged MSP to work with McWhinney to resolve issues between the two developers. MSP confirmed that they no longer own the land, but did not provide further comment.

From what we can gather from news articles and 2018 meeting minutes about the MSP/Bowtie/ McWhinney development issue from City Council and Loveland’s Planning Commission, MSP changed their plan from high density to low density as a result of community concerns. MSP’s presentation to Council on August 21, 2018 included an addition of only 93 new single family dwellings. According to the Loveland Reporter-Herald, this proposal was approved by the Planning Commission.


City Council had the opportunity to approve or deny the request for annexation from MSP on August 21, 2018. A motion was made to approve the item. Then a motion was made to withdraw the item, which was carried unanimously, upon condition of it being revisited as a study session.* The item, however, was never brought back for a study session. It is, however, now being considered under new McWhinney ownership of the area.


Fracking Concerns Remain

At the July 27th meeting, Perry stated that there are no mineral rights related to the “BowTie” area that is slated to become Centerra West, then restated her comment to say that no surface rights are applicable. This has left Wagner with concerns about horizontal fracking under her property, as surface rights are not required to access oil and gas underground.


Wagner isn’t alone in her concerns about the difference between surface rights and mineral rights. Earlier this year, the Master Financing Agreement (MFA) for the McWhinney development colloquially known as Centerra South was approved by the Loveland Urban Renewal Authority (LURA) by a vote of 9 to 4. The issue was controversial for several reasons, one of the most notable reasons being that it would collectively divert approximately $155 million dollars from the City’s general fund and the Thompson School District towards public infrastructure to support additional brick-and-mortar retail. 

From the City (lovgov.org): Watch the May 16 City Council meeting covering the LURA Master Financing Plan. Loveland City Council voted 7-2 to approve the Master Finance Agreement and 8-1 on a motion to approve an agreement that would restrict surface rights to drill for oil and gas from the Centerra South property.

While Wagner said she wishes to remain in her “dream home” near Boyd Lake, she is reticent about what is to come for her neighborhood.


“I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will fix my home and sell it as soon as I can, once they (McWhinney) break ground on this new development.”


Residents who want to speak to these issues can do so at the Loveland Planning Commission on August 21, and at City Council on September 19th of this year.

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