WOODLAND PARK, Colo. - The New Mexico developer of a planned entertainment business in Woodland Park heard the first public feedback on his idea, and it was largely negative.
Timothy Rabon wants to build Diamond A Chuckwagon, a country and western entertainment venue similar to the 54-year-old Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs.
"Russ Wolfe created the chuckwagon model when he opened his ranch," Rabon said. "There's a demand for this kind of venue. I don't mind ours being considered a Flying W look-alike. I consider it an honor."
However, most of an audience of around 100 neighbors were sharply critical of the plan at a two-hour public meeting Wednesday night at the clubhouse of the Shining Mountain Golf Course.
The golf course is across Highway 67 from the 20 acres purchased by Rabon as the site for his development.
Neighbors were most upset about the entrance to the venue being not on the highway but on Sourdough Road, a neighborhood street.
"You're going to have a parking lot for 300 vehicles going in and out every day during the season," a neighbor said. "We have enough problems with traffic and safety as it is, from the golf course. It's not so much the project I hate, it's the location."
Members of Rabon's development team said the Colorado Department of Transportation is usually reluctant to create a new access route off a highway, but they would be responsible for upgrading Sourdough Road to handle additional traffic.
Rabon hired a consultant to conduct a month-long traffic study of the area, with results expected this fall.
Neighbors also expressed concern about the project creating noise, trash and light pollution -- the same issues they say they've had from the gold course.
"This is the first I've heard about these problems from the golf course," said Sally Riley, planning director for Woodland Park.
Neighbors also worry the project will lower property values, but Riley said that shouldn't happen because a zoning change likely won't be necessary.
"This is another example of our town leaders allowing something to come in despite our objections," a neighbor said. "We can attend meetings but in the end, these projects tend to be approved anyway."
Rabon's development team confessed to being surprised by the reaction to their plan.
"I expected the concerns," Rabon said. "but I didn't expect this many people or this much negative reaction. This is the only location in town that works for us. If it gets rejected here, we'll have to look for a venue in another town."
Rabon said he selected Woodland Park over Estes Park.
"Most of the people who come through here are staying for a week and looking for things to do," he said. "There's plenty enough business that we don't have to compete with the Flying W."
The development plan includes retail shops, an area for weddings and possibly a petting zoo.
Rabon said the next pubic meeting won't occur until next year as he continues to finalize his plan, which ultimately requires the approval of the planning department and the City Council.
"I'd say it has a 50-50 chance of passing," he said.
Some neighbors said if the property is to be developed, they'd rather see homes built than a chuckwagon venue.