Two members of the informal committee exploring whether it is feasible for Niwot to incorporate gave a presentation to Niwot Community Association Board members at the board’s Sept. 4 meeting.
Mary Coonce and Anne Postle spoke to the NCA about the work being done by the informal committee. Members of that committee are Niwot residents Tony Santelli, Cotton Burden, Robert Discipio, Ron Bernal, Lane Landrith, Coonce and Postle.
Committee members had suggested that an NCA board member be added as a member of the informal committee. Instead, after discussion, NCA board members elected to add the group to its monthly agenda and ask the informal committee to either send a liaison or a written progress report to the NCA meetings. NCA area representatives also will gather opinions from residents in their areas to transmit to the informal committee.
“We function as a neutral information source for our members and we relay concerns and questions from them to the appropriate group,” said NCA President David Limbach. “We work to increase communication and transparency.”
At the NCA board meeting, Coonce said the informal committee rose from concerned residents and business owners. “We have heard this incorporation idea bubble up over the years, and we wanted to find out if it was even feasible,” Coonce said. “We wanted to find out one way or the other. But what we have found is that we need a lot more data to even evaluate the idea.”
Coonce explained that the committee wants to do a cost-benefit evaluation for incorporating Niwot. “We don’t really know if this is a good idea, because of the costs our town would face,” she said. “The committee wants actual data about costs so that our information is accurate.”
“This group has a commitment to follow the data wherever it leads, pro or con,” Postle said. “We don’t have a predetermined stance.”
So far, the informal committee has had a summer intern research what other communities have done and what the process might be for Niwot to incorporate.
“The work done by the intern is just the start of the research that we need to do. It is by no means final or finished,” Coonce said.
According to Coonce, the towns surveyed in the report said they were happy that they had pursued incorporation. But there were some absolute must-haves, Coonce said.
“They all cautioned that any incorporation exploration requires ‘lots and lots and lots’ of community outreach along with the need to keep a good working relationship with the county. They all also emphasized that the devil is in the details,” she added.
Niwot likely could contract for road maintenance and snow removal, police or sheriff’s protection and fire protection, Coonce said. “But will the county rebate anything to us? Probably not,” she said.
Looming over the incorporation process also is the cost for fixing Niwot’s subdivision roads. Boulder County provides some maintenance for those roads, fixing potholes and removing snow. However, it is the county’s position that homeowners are responsible for paying to reconstruct the roads.
“We have received conflicting information from the county about the state of our subdivision roads and what’s needed to return them to good shape,” Postle told NCA members. She said the informal committee is contacting Jacobs Engineering Group and Brennan Gravel to help them get data on what the current state of the subdivision roads is, and what those roads may need in five, 10 and 20 years.
“This is a cost we really need to pin down so our data is accurate,” Postle said.
Both Coonce and Postle stressed that the informal committee is exploring incorporation for Niwot, but not trying to force it on the town.
“We know that we have to talk to residents many times and do surveys and get feedback from our community,” Coonce said. “We want community input on this. We don’t want to force this on anyone. We just want to find out if it is even feasible.”
Postle suggested that each Niwot neighborhood could evaluate what works best for them and whether they want to be part of any incorporation. But she also added that not enough data has been gathered to determine if it is even possible or feasible to move ahead with incorporation.
If the informal committee does decide to propose incorporation, it is “a very long process” to implement, Coonce said. It would likely take a year to get a petition for incorporation put together and then at least two or more years to put any ballot issue together, she said.
There are many more issues than just the cost of fixing roads to consider, commented NCA area 3 representative Pat Murphy. “What about zoning and planning? We know now what the county regulations are, but incorporating could mean that those regulations could be changed.”
NCA Area 5 representative John Barto pointed out that the semi-rural designation for Niwot could change. “I think that designation is important to many of us who live in Niwot,” he said. Incorporating also could mean that more tax revenue is needed, which burdens property owners, small businesses and residents, he added.
Postle said the committee is trying to analyze the incorporation pros and cons using no additional growth in Niwot as the baseline.
NCA board member Mark Brigham pointed out that the informal committee needs to share the information it gathers with the community. “I realize that this is an evolving process, but not sharing any of the information starts up the rumor mill,” he said. “It’s always better to be transparent and give complete access to information.”
Audience member Surinder Dahiya of Niwot agreed. “This is a group that is gathering data and is not officially sanctioned. The more you communicate with Niwot residents, the more you decrease the rumor mill and the level of fear that residents may have.”
Coonce said the informal committee is hoping to be able to hold “the first of many” informational meetings in October or November to hear from residents and talk about the process up to that point.