Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley

Murray Street residents voice concerns about parking lot


September 7, 2017

Courtesy Photo An artist’s concept of the view looking west from Murray Street at the proposed parking lot.

On Aug. 30 at the Left Hand Grange, residents from Old Town and other interested Niwot residents met with members of the Niwot Futures League (NFL) and the Niwot Business Association (NBA) to discuss details of a proposed 50-spot public parking lot along the railroad tracks west of town.

The 2-acre parcel, which is approximately 80 feet wide by 1,100 feet long, is under contract with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad for $170,000. The parking lot would be located on the southernmost 306 feet of the parcel, adjacent to the My Mom’s Pies parking lot.

At the request of the Boulder County Commissioners, who will be considering land use changes related to the potential lot later this year, the public meeting was convened to give residents along Murray Street a chance to ask questions and provide feedback about the tentative plans to construct a parking lot directly across from two of the homes along Murray Street. Mark Ruzzin of the Commissioner’s office was on hand to observe.

NFL Member Bruce Warren kicked off the meeting with a short history of the 11-year quest for a public parking lot in Niwot, as well as a brief explanation of how the parcel in question was selected. He then handed off to NBA President Tony Santelli, the first of two local business leaders who presented the economic argument for providing a public parking lot.

Seven years ago we were looking like a ghost town and parking was the least of our concerns,” said Santelli, noting that the retail vacancy rate for Niwot was 30% at the time. Since then, he continued, efforts to “expose the hidden gem of Niwot” have paid off in a big way and “vacant retail space is no longer an issue. Parking is an issue.”

“We’ve been working long and hard to make Niwot a vibrant business community and now we’re confronted with the moment of truth on parking,” he concluded.

Niwot commercial property owner Cotton Burden followed Santelli with a similar plea, noting that Niwot needed a “critical mass of businesses” in the current marketplace to allow businesses to thrive. He also noted that this particular parcel is ideal because “it’s a cheap a property as you can get in Niwot.”

Chuck Klueber with the NBA Streetscapes committee presented drawings and an artist’s concept of the parking lot, which showed minimal disruption to Murray Street’s western view. The renderings show a gravel-surface rectangular lot, surrounded by a split-rail fence, low-level downward-directed lights and low-maintenance landscaping that “fit in very well with the neighborhood.”

Warren invited Old Town residents to respond after Klueber’s segment, and several weren’t shy about making their feelings about the lot known. In the civil but pointed discussion that followed, residents cited concerns ranging from noise to excess dust on windy days to potential safety risks from an increase in traffic on Murray Street.

“You’re going to push through a parking lot like this just because it’s convenient for the restaurants, and disregard those of us who own property and our property values,” said Arlene Baldwin, who lives a block north of the proposed parking lot, and worries that the lot will impact her view and lead to congestion on Murray. “Who is going to make up the difference in my property value?” Burden responded that in his experience, a vibrant commercial area led to increased residential property values. Baldwin then questioned whether she could afford to pay increased property taxes should her value go up.

Other residents were concerned about ongoing maintenance of the area, which has for years been mowed by Murray Street residents in the absence of regular attention from BNSF. Warren responded that the proposal is to have Boulder County acquire the property, using Niwot Local Improvement District (LID) funds. Warren noted that LID funds would also be used to maintain the property and the parking lot.

While several of the residents in attendance were opposed to the project on principle, many recognized the need for additional parking in Niwot.

“I’m for the business districts expanding,” said resident Jane Zander, one of two property owners who live directly across the street from the proposed lot.. “It’s just hard when it’s at my expense.” The owner of the other home across from the lot did not speak, but told Warren after the meeting that she understood the need and would not oppose the parking lot.

One of the advantages of a parking lot, according to Warren, is that it would be available for employees and patrons of the downtown businesses, and give them an alternative to parking in front of residents’ homes, which is in the public right of way, but often landscaped by homeowners.

Some were even open to compromise, and suggested they would be more accepting of the lot if enough of their concerns—increased traffic and environmental impact—could be reasonably mitigated. Suggestions included eliminating the fence around the parking lot, allowing for only one entry and exit at the south end of the lot, and adding speed mitigation features on Neva Road, 5th Avenue, and Murray Street. As for northern three-fourths of the vacant lot that won’t be a parking lot, the residents were unanimous that it should be left as is.

Warren concluded the meeting by urging residents to sign up for an e-mail update list, and promised further public meetings at the county level as the deal proceeds.


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019

Rendered 11/05/2019 21:28