Catholic re­treat ap­proved for re­zone

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By John Aguilar

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.

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