Belmar Park is a 132-acre park that’s a favorite for many Lakewood residents, like Steve Farthing who visits the park often with his wife for birdwatching.
“There’s hundreds, over 230 species that visit the park, many species of which are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” Farthing said. “It’s kind of a unique place because it has so many birds and other wildlife, and other people just like to just jog or walk their dogs there.”
Birds are Farthing’s main concern. Some of the birds that protestors are most worried about are the ones that live on an island in the middle of Kountze Lake.
“Birds are very sensitive to the construction activity, and there’s also a demolition process because there’s the office complex that has to be removed,” Farthing said.
But there are other concerns like the traffic a complex of 412 residential units with 542 parking spaces would bring.
The roads around the park are narrow. The city told FOX31 that a traffic impact study was reviewed and approved by a transportation engineering team as part of the formal application for development.
It was determined that the existing street design and transportation infrastructure can accommodate the vehicular traffic from the proposed development with no significant public improvements required.
There are 69 trees that are set to be removed. The city requires tree replacements or a fee-in-lieu. For this project, which is still under review, the result would be 204 new trees in addition to the trees planted as a result of site plan requirements, on and directly adjacent to the site.
The city is considering the following strategy to restore lost canopy and habitat:
- Accept tree plantings in Belmar Park, immediately adjacent to the development, to help buffer the park and proposed Belmar Trailhead
- Plant trees and shrubs in Belmar Park to support wildlife habitat and park use where appropriate
- Accept a fee for the remaining replacement trees to be used in Ward 3
Residents are still nervous about the removals. One woman went as far as to chain herself to one of the trees set to be removed during an event at the park on Saturday.
Farthing and others who are against the build are planning to attend a Lakewood City Council meeting on Monday night to voice their concerns, but the city told FOX31 the city council has no control over the build.
The lot and building are privately owned; therefore, the city doesn’t have rights there. The development is happening under existing property rights. This means the city council does not have the ability to decide whether this development should be allowed or not.
The next step is for the planning department to review the build to ensure it meets the city’s regulations. That administrative review is expected to continue through the end of the year.
FOX31 reached out to the developer with Kairoi Residential but has yet to hear back.