Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley
Editorial@lhvc.com 

Niwot LID okays land purchase

 


The Niwot Local Improvement District Advisory Committee held its monthly meeting on Tuesday, July 11, with several large expenditures on the agenda.

Before hearing funding requests, members reviewed the July budget reports prepared by county liaison Pete Salas and LID treasurer Harris Faberman. According to their figures, the LID has disbursed just over $25,500 so far this year and has committed to spend another $39,806, not counting the pending applications, leaving just under $68,000 in the budget for the year.

The committee heard first from member Biff Warren on behalf of the Niwot Cultural Arts Association (NCAA) requesting $195,000 to purchase a 2-acre parcel of vacant land next to the downtown business district. Future plans for the parcel include a small gravel-surface fenced parking lot that will accommodate 50 to 60 cars on the south end.

The parcel in question is located just west of Murray Street between 3rd Avenue and 5th Avenue, adjacent to the property occupied by Excel Electric, My Mom’s Pies and Left Hand Ditch Company, and is currently owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF). The amount, which will require the LID to deplete more than 70 percent of its capital reserve fund, comprises the final negotiated purchase price between NCAA and BNSF ($170,000), plus costs related to the purchase.

The contract with BNSF can be assigned to the county, if the county commissioners give the final okay to the purchase, so that the land would be owned by Boulder County, but purchased, developed and maintained with LID funds.

According to information provided by the Warren and the NCAA, the addition of parking spaces in the Old Town area is expected to reduce congestion on residential streets during major events (such as Rock & Rails and First Friday), and also increase available weekday parking on 2nd Avenue by providing local businesses with alternative parking spots for their employees. Warren further noted that a public parking lot has been a chief goal of the local business community for some time and will increase the area’s attractiveness to visitors, while getting vehicles off of residential streets during events. Ultimately, it will make life easier and safer for residents

In the ensuing discussion, Salas reported that the addition of a public parking lot in Niwot had support of county land use and transportation officials, though the county won’t approve use of the parcel as a parking lot until parking use surpasses specific triggers defined in the 2011 Niwot Connectivity Study. A parking study conducted by the county in late summer 2016 showed lower than expected utilization on 2nd Avenue, even during peak hours, but LID members noted that the count included private parking spaces behind buildings that are not obvious to the public.

Citing reaction to the initial release of the Connectivity Study in 2011, LID Co-chair Laura Skaggs stressed the importance of engaging residents and getting public input on the lot development as soon as possible. She strongly urged the NCAA and NBA hold an open meeting on the subject as soon as possible.

“I will do everything I can while I’m here to avoid the buzz saw with the community,” she said. Warren responded that the NCAA and the Revitalization Committee, which has spearheaded the negotiations, intend to do just that later in the summer, noting that at least one resident had already asked for a community meeting about the project.

Warren noted that residents along Murray Street have previously expressed concerns that a parking lot on the land across from their homes will increase traffic on their street and obstruct their views. He presented an artist’s conception of the project, which includes rail fencing and vegetation to screen vehicles from neighbor’s views.

Another open question is what to do with the portion of the parcel that falls outside the proposed parking area. Suggestions for use so far include a park or community garden, or leaving it unimproved for additional overflow parking for events.

Other members had questions regarding the specifics of the purchase process, as well as the ultimate design of the lot, but no objections were raised. Jay Champion’s motion to authorize the county to release the funds from the capital reserve fund was approved 7-0 (members Satir DiMarco and Jim Eastman were absent).

The purchase of the land brings the public lot one step closer to a reality that is nonetheless still several months away. A number of Boulder County bureaucratic steps remain before construction can begin, including a change to the land-use code and securing a subdivision exemption. Following the sale, which is projected to close in late 2017, planning and development are expected to take another year.

The committee heard next from Tony Santelli with two requests on behalf of the NBA.

First, he requested a total of $22,500 to fund the salary of Niwot’s Economic Development Director for the 12-month period beginning July 1, 2017. The position is currently vacant, following Julie Ankenbrandt’s resignation after her contract ended on June 30. Ankenbrandt reported that she and her family have plans to move out of state. Just half of this request ($11,250) will be allocated from the 2017 budget, with the other half to be paid in 2018. A motion to fund the position for another year was approved unanimously.

Santelli then requested $30,000 to fund the NBA’s marketing budget for the next 12 months. The amount includes both print and online advertising for Niwot events and businesses, as well as printed materials, such as flyers, posters, and maps. It also includes online marketing tools, such as the web site (Niwot.com) and social media accounts. The request was approved 5-0, with Warren abstaining.

In New Business, Salas announced that the annual Board of County Commissioners and LID joint meeting will be held on Monday, Aug. 7 at 4 p.m., and urged members to send in their proposed list of talking points. Among the likely items on the agenda will be the newly proposed parking lot and an update on 2016 projects, such as the Niwot Children’s Park.

The Committee will meet next at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 1 at the Mountain View Fire Station.

 

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