Catholic retreat approved for rezone
golden» A controversial Catholic retreat center planned for 247 acres near Conifer that some mountain residents worry will be a wildfire disaster waiting to happen got a critical boost Tuesday when all three Jefferson County commissioners approved a rezoning allowing the project to move forward.
The Emmaus Catholic Retreat & Conference Center, which would feature a five-story, 80,000-squarefoot main building that could host thousands of visitors every year, has caught the ire of neighbors near the Shaffer’s Crossing site who say the foothills communities along U.S. 285 are some of the most fire-prone in Colorado.
The rezoning hearing has been continued twice this fall as neighbors have sparred with the Archdiocese of Denver — which bought the property last year and wants to build a retreat center to replace one that burned down near Allenspark five years ago — over the proposed facility’s fire-proofing plans.
Adding to the standoff has been the inability of the archdiocese to come to a formal agreement with Elk Creek Fire Protection District over how to best provide fire protection to the religious campus.
“You develop a sensitivity and fear of seeing (a wildfire) on the news,” said Valerie Amburn, whose family has owned a cabin in the Glenelk neighborhood for decades. “This location is simply too risky for a structure of this size.”
She and her neighbors have asked that the Emmaus center not be allowed to have wood-burning fire pits on site, but instead use gas-powered pits.
“Life safety is not a negotiable standard,” Amburn said.
But the commissioners said the archdiocese had included a sufficient number of fire mitigation measures in its plans — an on-site water storage facility, nonflammable materials for its buildings and fire breaks throughout the property — to proceed with the project.