The Highlands Ranch Metro District seemed to take one step forward and one step back in its quest for a senior center during a Sept. 24 board meeting.
Board members progressed by considering where the center could be built, but hit a snag when the general manager brought up the need for a community survey beforehand, which will take at least six months.
During the meeting, the metro districts' parks and recreation director, Carrie Ward, presented the staff's findings on possible senior center locations. The team found that an optimal lot would cover at least five acres and the ideal building would be about 22,000 square feet.
The team narrowed the options from the 23 sites they examined to the three most viable options: one lot on Highlands Ranch Parkway, another on Plaza Road and another in Toepfer Park.
While the Highlands Ranch Parkway lot is the most expensive option at nearly $11 million in development costs, it's also the most centrally located and the most visible, Ward said. These factors, along with lot size, property owner, infrastructure and traffic were considered during the process of selecting a spot for the center, Ward said.
Most of the staff that worked on the study selected the Highlands Ranch Parkway option as the best choice.
Some of the staff recommended the Plaza Drive location, which is over $600,000 cheaper to develop and could provide opportunities to share programming with Wind Crest Retirement Community, Ward said.
The staff determined that the Toepfer Park option was too small of an area, she said.
Now, the metro district is welcoming members of the community to give their input on the lot options and the senior center. From now until Oct. 18, the Metro District will accept written comments by mail or email. The board hopes to decide on which lot during the Oct. 23 board meeting.
The full site evaluation report is available at www.highlandsranch.org/seniorcenter.
Comments can be mailed to 3280 Redstone Park Circle or emailed to email@example.com.
A six-month delay
After Ward gave her presentation about potential locations for the senior center, Terry Nolan, general manager of the metro district, brought up the need to survey the community before construction.
“It's been five years since we've done a community survey,” Nolan said. “It (the senior center) is by far the most expensive parks, open space and recreation project we've done. So, it's probably advisable to check in with the community on the future senior center.”
Some board members expressed opposition to a survey that, even with an aggressive timeline, won't be finished until March. Ultimately, the board agreed that the survey should have been completed sooner but that it needed to be done.
Until then, there are limited steps that can be taken to move forward with the senior center, including selecting a site, beginning site preparations and discussing a potential partnership with the county, Ward said.
“You don't want to design something and then find out from the survey that you've been designing the wrong thing,” said board chairman Jim Worley.
Douglas County is considering partnering on the project and adding 10,000 square feet to the senior center to house some of their offices, said Sherry Eppers, a spokesperson for the metro district.
Multiple seniors in attendance voiced their concerns about the survey during the public comment portion of the meeting. Some asked how the survey respondents would be selected and if there was any chance the survey would be skewed.
Worley assured concerned citizens that this type of study is scientific and will weight results based on the demographic responses. If fewer seniors respond, their selections will have more weight, he said.
One resident raised questions about the necessity of such a center and pointed out that a senior facility could be combined with another community center. Board member Vicky Starkey said she is interested in the idea because she struggles with constructing a building for only one demographic of the community.
“Whatever is going to be done is going to be done right for this community,” Worley said. “So, if it takes a little bit longer, that's the way it is. It needs to be done right.”
The metro district began considering a senior center in 2014, Eppers said.
The next board meeting will be Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. in the Highlands Ranch Metro District office building, 62 Plaza Drive.
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