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Niwot LID holds annual meeting with Boulder County Commissioners

 

August 17, 2017



On Monday, Aug. 7, the Niwot Local Improvement District (LID) Advisory Committee held its annual joint meeting with the Boulder County Commissioners to provide them with a first-hand account of the state of affairs in Niwot. Commissioners Cindy Domenico and Deb Garder (Elise Jones was out of town) along with County staff Peter Salas, Michelle Krezek and Mark Ruzzin were joined by LID Co-Chairs Laura Skaggs, and Carrie Wise, Vice-Chair Jim Eastman, Treasurer Harris Faberman, and members Tony Santelli, Howard Treppeda and Biff Warren at the Left Hand Grange in Niwot for a robust discussion of the new and noteworthy in Niwot.

Skaggs opened the meeting by welcoming the commissioners, then quickly turned it over to Santelli for the State of Niwot presentation, a “quick summary what we’ve accomplished in the last 18 months, in 2016 and the first half of 2017, and some of the issues coming forward.”

Santelli, who is also President of the Niwot Business Association (NBA), started off by noting that sales tax collections in the district have nearly tripled since 2010, growing from $58,000 to $175,000 in 2017 (projected), due to “vibrant new businesses” filling surplus vacancies around town and improving the business climate.

Niwot also continues to stage several popular events that drive traffic to town, including the “big three”: the Rock & Rails concert series, Jazz on 2nd Avenue (which turned a profit for the first time last year and was voted the “Best Music Festival Outside of Denver” by Westword Magazine), and the Rotary Club’s Oktoberfest.

In business and real estate news, Santelli noted the opening of premier restaurants 1914 House and Lucky Pie, as well as long anticipated updates to old spaces, with the opening of the Old Oak Coffeehouse (in the space formerly occupied by Happy Mountain Bean & Bistro on 136 2nd Ave) and the coming Wheelhouse Bike Shop, which will move into in the former Rock N Robins space later this month.

“Vacant retail space for both Old Town and Cottonwood Square basically now has a scarcity problem”, said Santelli. “It’s a nice problem.”

Santelli then highlighted the opening of Niwot Children’s Park, calling it a “resounding success” that has attracted large numbers of families from both in and out of Niwot since its opening last October. He also credited “leadership team Niwot” for the smaller events staged by other community organizations, such as the Niwot Cultural Arts Association (NCAA) and the Niwot Community Association (NCA).

Other important accomplishments for the LID last year included the five-year update to the Niwot Strategic Plan, the NBA’s development of Niwot.com as a successful marketing tool, as well as the launch of the “Uniquely Niwot” ad campaign, which appeared in local media including the Courier, Longmont Magazine, Boulder Magazine, and CU Presents.

Turning to goals and expectations for next twelve months, the NBA president said the organization’s primary aim was to continue driving traffic to Niwot businesses in hopes of creating and fostering a “vibrant community.”

To that end, a number of exciting projects are on tap for the district, he said, including major progress on the Niwot Connectivity Plan, which aims to improve visibility between the business in Old Town and Cottonwood Square. The LID recently approved funding for improvements to the southwest corner of 79th & Niwot Rd in conjunction with the Cottonwood Park West HOA and a number of other community organizations. Development of two informational kiosks is also underway.

The NBA also hopes to complete the “Niwot in 10 Years” addendum to the Niwot Strategic Plan, which will serve as a vision of the town in 2027, and provide strategic guidance for future funding decisions by the LID. However, that project has been on hold during the search for a new Economic Development Director (EDD) to replace Julie Ankenbrandt, who moved out of state earlier this summer. Three candidates replied to the job posting, and Santelli said the opening should be filled by Sept. 1.

Santelli concluded his presentation by noting planned improvements to Whistle Stop Park, efforts to develop a public parking area, and, last but not least, the expected opening of a retail marijuana dispensary in Cottonwood Square in early 2018.

“I’ve given you a fire-hose of a sermon,” he said, wrapping up his remarks. “But the basic issue is that we’ve seen what it feels like in an almost ghost town not too long ago, to what it feels like in a vibrant, young business community where people from all walks of life participate and get involved in the Niwot story.”

The commissioners were impressed by the community’s ability to bring together different organizations to identify and accomplish common goals.

“It’s a testament to this board being a collection of the community and the trust that people have in Niwot,” commented Gardner.

Skaggs then turned discussion over to Salas, who provided additional details about the EDD hiring process, as well as a quick summary of district finances.

The final item on the afternoon’s agenda was an update by Warren on the Niwot’s ongoing efforts to develop a public parking area.

Citing an improving business climate, Warren began his presentation by noting that demand for parking in Old Town and Cottonwood Square is expected to increase substantially over the next year, making the need for a dedicated parking area increasingly urgent.

Currently, the NCAA is under contract with Burlington Northern Railroad (BNSF) to purchase a 2-acre parcel of vacant land adjacent to the tracks west of town, about a fourth of which could be converted into a small, gravel-surface fenced parking lot that will hold up to 60 cars. Both parties have agreed to a purchase price of $170,000. Warren explained that the contract with BNSF can be assigned to the county, and if the county commissioners give the final okay to the purchase, the land would be owned by Boulder County, but purchased, developed and maintained with LID funds.

Residents on the who live along Murray street on the west side of Old Town have expressed concerns to the LID and to the County Commissioners that a parking lot on the land across from their homes will increase traffic on their street and obstruct their views. Accordingly, Warren and the Revitalization Committee have scheduled a public meeting to discuss the potential development of a lot for Wednesday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m., at the Niwot Grange.

“We’re hoping the meeting will give us an opportunity to talk to people, let them know what our plans are, and get their input,” he explained. “We are very mindful that we want to be good neighbors and make the least impact on them.”

The sale is preliminarily scheduled to close on Dec. 1 of this year, but several hurdles remain to be cleared before construction can begin, including a land use change requiring public hearings before the Boulder County Planning Commission as well as the County Commissioners later this fall. Even after the sale goes through, the county can hold off on developing a parking area until parking use in Niwot surpasses specific triggers defined in the 2012 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 have raised questions about the surveys methodologies.

Warren said he expects it will be up to two years before a lot will be completed. Rosen said county legal and planning staff are working with the LID through the purchase process, and will keep the commissioners apprised of major developments in coming months. Domenico said she is especially interested in the outcome of the upcoming public meeting.

The meeting concluded with remarks from Warren about Salas’, who is retiring at the end of this month. Salas, who has been with Boulder County since 1992, has served as LID liaison for the past six years, and this was his last official meeting in that capacity.

“We thank Pete for all of his service,” Warren said, speaking on behalf of the LID. “We really appreciate the staff support that we get from Boulder County, and he’s always been able to get us valuable information. He’s made the process work really well.”

 

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