Orchard Mesa Residents Worried About Controversial New Development

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Dozens of Orchard Mesa residents descended upon Tuesday night's City Planning Commission meeting to voice their concerns over a controversial new development in their area.

Tonight, the planning commission held a public hearing on a 17 acre piece of land near the Old Spanish Trail in Orchard Mesa. They voted to recommend a zoning change that could allow such a development to be constructed. While residents say they're glad the commission voted to zone the land less dense than the developer wanted, they say they still have a lot of concerns.

Sonny Shelton says she loves her neighborhood and that she's willing to fight for it. She and other neighbors of a controversial new development say they have several concerns.

There's the issue of ground near Edlun Road not being very stable. There's the issue of that land not being very accessible. Then there's the issue of the Old Spanish Trail.

"Our main concern is the destruction of the history of this trail and losing it," said Shelton. "It's a non-renewable resource."

Residents say the new development would block the beautiful canyon views, encourage building on top of the trail, and make it different than the place people enjoy.

"We do consider it Mesa County's backyard," said Vicky Felmlee, a concerned resident.

Developers say their project would not destroy the trail, and agree with neighbors about protecting it.

"It has to be not only preserved, but enhanced if it can be," said Kris Pickett of Value Engineer Services.

But they say Orchard Mesa is a popular place to live and they're looking out for the interests of the land owner who wants to sell it -- another huge point of contention for the neighbors.

"We feel it could possibly be a risk to the consumer and a risk to the homeowners," said Shelton.

The owner of that land is Mark Strodtman, a developer wanted on charges of theft, forgery, and racketeering in Weld County. Officials believe he may have left the country.

Neighbors say they don't want someone like that doing business in Mesa County.

Developers wouldn't comment on Strodtman's charges, saying they weren't issues for this development.

"This is currently an issue about land use," said Pickett. "It's really irrespective of the land owner."

But neighbors say they're going to make it an issue and continue to fight for their neighborhood.

"We have a lot of committed people who are putting their heart and soul into this," said Felmlee.

During Tuesday night's meeting, those neighbors read letters from State Senator Josh Penry and Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland who say they hope to make the property a public park.

The issue makes it's way to City Council late next month.

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