How tall is too tall for Windsor’s downtown businesses? Town Board to decide

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This image shows proposed areas where increased building heights would be allowed. Subarea B would allow 40- to 45-foot maximum heights. Subarea A would allow buildings up to about 65 feet.

Windsor’s Town Board appears to be shying away from increasing the allowable building height in some parts of downtown to 75 feet, instead favoring a lower height limit in hopes it will still encourage residential and commercial development downtown.

The town’s downtown corridor plan limits building heights to 30 feet — about two stories — while the central business district allows buildings up to 75 feet, or about five stories.

Town board members have twice discussed possibly increasing the permitted building height because the maximum 30 feet is much more restrictive than the central business district, town planner Scott Ballstadt told the board at a work session Monday.

The height limit has been effect since 1999, when the potential for taller mixed-use projects was not really anticipated, he said. Now with Windsor’s population growing, the board wants to encourage the kind of downtown revitalization other towns have seen from buildings with a mix of retail and residential. 

“The mix of residential uses creates a population to support businesses outside of typical daytime hours  … which is consistent with the town’s goal of enhancing and expanding community and downtown vitality,” Ballstadt wrote in a memo to the board. 

Downtown Windsor is pictured in December.

On Monday, he proposed creating two subareas within the downtown plan, one that would increase height limits from 30 to 45 feet, or about three stories, and one that would increase height limits to 65 feet, or about four stories. 

Areas north of Main Street and east of Seventh Street could allow a 40- to 45-foot maximum height along Main Street to allow slightly taller buildings and amenities such as rooftop restaurants and bars. 

The other area, south of Main Street and east of Seventh, would allow a 65-foot maximum height behind buildings that front Main Street to allow taller mixed-use buildings that “add commercial and residential uses to support downtown businesses,” according to Ballstadt’s proposal. 

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Windsor’s Downtown Development Authority supports raising the height limit, said board chair and antiques store owner Dan Stauss. The town “is at a disadvantage when trying to attract new business,” he said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out a lot of tax dollars leave Windsor and go to neighboring towns. Businesses can’t expand out, their footprint is locked in. The only answer is to go up.”

Downtown will become stagnant and distressed, and businesses will move out if vertical growth can’t occur, he said. 

Any new projects that wanted to exceed that height would have to get a variance or exception from the town. 

Downtown Windsor is pictured on Dec. 1.

Jenny Whittington spoke against increasing building heights to 75 feet.

“We love our downtown … we love the idea of restaurant rooftops … but when we hear there might be a 75-foot-tall apartment complex (across from Windsor Lake), it makes me go crazy. It will change what Windsor is,” she said, referring to the potential redevelopment of what the town calls its backlots, a dirt area now informally used for parking near Windsor Lake. 

While the town is talking with a potential developer about the backlots, it does not have a formal proposal on the table. 

Building height variations could go the Windsor planning commission on April 20 for a recommendation and back to the Town Board on April 25. 

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Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at patferrier@coloradoan.com. Please support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.