In response to negative feedback from community members, South Metro Fire Rescue has decided against building a fire station on a plot of land north of Mountain Vista High School. South Metro still plans to utilize a location in southwest Highlands Ranch to reduce response times and increase coverage.
A Feb. 12 community meeting at the high school drew about 50 residents and several South Metro employees. Many of the attendees opposed the original site, which sits on a slope off Wildcat Reserve Parkway and Summit View Parkway, 640 feet away from the nearest home. The site is in the boundaries of what is expected to be a future historic park, owned by the Highlands Ranch Metro District.
Views from the site are of the community's iconic windmill, the Rocky Mountains and the downtown Denver skyline.
Neighboring residents voiced concerns over the safety of the location — accessible by an already congested street and intersection — the obstruction of premium views and the intrusion of open space that is home to wildlife and walking trails.
“It would block a lot of residential views,” said Marc Lumpkin, a neighbor who attended the Feb. 12 meeting. “It would be a dangerous location for fire vehicles trying to exit onto a busy, blind hill and it's a primary conduit to the high school, middle school and only a half-mile from an elementary school.”
Leaders from South Metro, including Chief Bob Baker, acknowledged residents' concerns. Plans for the fire station — dubbed Station 20 — are moving forward in a different direction.
South Metro's main priority is to get a fire station built as soon as possible to provide increased safety and security to the residents of Highlands Ranch, Baker said.
“We also want to be good neighbors and listen to the concerns of the community and do the best we can to mitigate those concerns,” Baker said. “We want to do our best to build on a site that is most neighborly.”
South Metro is now considering a site north of Wildcat Reserve Parkway, southwest of the original location and farther from the closest homes.
The new site is adjacent to an existing water treatment facility that resembles a white barn, near a signalized intersection shared by Mountain Vista High School and Mountain Ridge Middle School.
“It would be a lot less obtrusive and there is already a building there for public use,” Baker said.
It, too, is in the boundaries of the metro district's historic park.
South Metro Assistant Chief Vince Turner said the department is working on preliminary plans with the metro district and Shea Homes, which owns land used as a working cattle ranch on the property. Another community meeting to discuss the new location is expected to take place within the next 60 days, Turner said. A location has yet to be determined.
If plans move forward, construction of Station 20 would begin in late summer and wrap up by summer 2020.
What would be the community's third fire station is made possible by the unification of the Highlands Ranch Metro District and South Metro Fire Rescue, which took effect Jan. 1.
For 37 years, Highlands Ranch contracted fire services from the City of Littleton through Littleton Fire Rescue, in partnership with the Littleton Fire Protection District.
Citing increasing costs and a desire for improved service and financial sustainability, the metro district considered joining forces with South Metro Fire Rescue. In a special election last May, voters approved the merger. The unification makes South Metro the second-largest fire and rescue provider in Colorado.
At opening, Station 20 is expected to house four firefighters and one fire engine. South Metro expects the station to respond to between 600 and 1,000 calls in the first year — or about two to three a day.
Station 20 will be in close proximity to the Backcountry Wilderness Area — 8,200 acres of open space bordering the southern edge of Highlands Ranch — which typically sees brush fires in the hot, dry summer months.
South Metro will use capital funds to pay for the project. The total cost has not been determined, but Turner said similar fire stations can cost anywhere from $3 million to $8 million.
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