Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley

Animal hospital proposal moves forward


Jocelyn Rowley

The Boulder County Planning Commission recommended approval of the Left Hand Animal Hospital’s application for Special Review, allowing plans to turn the former site of Neighborhood Learning Center of Niwot into a 6,400sf veterinary clinic.

Plans to turn the former site of the Neighborhood Learning Center of Niwot into a 6,405 square-foot veterinary clinic cleared an important hurdle when the Boulder County Planning Commission gave its conditional approval to Left Hand Animal Hospital’s site development proposal at a public hearing on June 20.

After hearing testimony from county planning staff and more than a two dozen supporters, the seven commissioners in attendance agreed that the proposed renovation at 304 Franklin Street is both in accordance with the Boulder County Land Use Code, as well as in keeping with the historic character of the Old Town neighborhood. They then voted unanimously to allow significant renovations to the existing structure and grounds, including the construction of a 1,020-square foot vestibule on the west façade and the installation of 21 striped parking spaces.

“It’s a beautiful addition to the Niwot community,” commission member Ann Goldfarb said during the discussion. “Obviously there’s great community support for this business and their involvement. I think it’s a great proposal.”

Drs. Nancy Bureau and Katie Thomas, co-owners of the animal hospital, entered into a contract to purchase the Franklin Street property from Kim and Alan Schwarz earlier this year after the longtime owner/operators of the NLCN announced plans to shutter the 34-year old daycare business and retire to Buena Vista. Bursting at the seams in their current space at 136 2nd Avenue, the veterinarians wanted a new location to accommodate their growing client base while keeping them in the heart of the community they’ve come to love. Both large and customizable, the idiosyncratic lot at 304 Franklin Street fit the bill perfectly.

Because of the property’s location in the Niwot Rural Community District II (NRCDII) and the rural residential zoning, the change in primary use was subject to Special Review by Boulder County.

During that process, county planning staff found that the proposed development will actually result in less intensive use than the daycare center, with projected decreases in outdoor noise and air pollution. The county also noted that updating the existing structure, rather than removing and replacing it, reduces not just the economic impact of the new use, but also the environmental impact as well. A traffic study conducted as part of the review also projected a decrease in vehicle trips in the neighborhood and county requirements for adequate bicycle parking at the new clinic will encourage multimodal travel.

The county also found that the animal hospital relocation has broad public support in Niwot, not just from patients and friends of the clinic, but also from future neighbors. More than 100 community members supplied personal testimonies either in writing or in person about how the clinic has become an integral part of the town’s business and charitable community since it opened in 2013.

“Honestly, we’re what Boulder County wants out of business owners,” Bureau said. “We’re the people that invest in our staff, we invest in our community, we invest in the kids locally. We want to be in Niwot, so we’d like to stay.”

Left Hand Animal Hospital organizes and sponsors the Great Pumpkin Festival’s pet costume contest each year. They are also involved with Fourth of July activities, Rock & Rails and various other community events.

If there were any concerns about the move, they centered around obstructed sightlines on 3rd Avenue caused by the proposed parking spaces along Franklin Street. According to comments from neighbors, several accidents have occurred in the area thanks to limited sight distance for westbound traffic.

“We have lived in this unique neighborhood for 33 years and understand the day-to-day traffic patterns on Franklin from years of ‘keen’ observation,” read a comment submitted to the county by Victoria Keen, who lives on 3rd Avenue with Mike Selak and Roscoe the Wonder Dog. “Some days it can look like a typical sleepy rural town with little traffic and it is difficult for planners or the transportation department to see that there is a problem here. It's important to get this right as a public safety issue.”

In response, the county will install a four-way stop at the 3rd Avenue intersection in a bid to decrease speeds on Franklin Street.

Converting the historic two-story structure into a modern veterinary clinic won’t be without its challenges, and the commission’s approval did come with a list of conditions. Prior to beginning work on the new site, Bureau and Thomas are required to obtain numerous permits, submit a parking plan that complies with both Americans with Disabilities Act and Boulder County requirements, and commit to complete revegetation of any exposed soil on the .34-acre lot. They also have to obtain the blessing of the Boulder County Commissioners, who will hold their hearing on this matter next month.

Construction is now expected to begin later this year. Left Hand Animal Hospital will continue to service clients and their “fur-children” at their current location until renovations are completed sometime in 2019.

“My business partner and I wanted to be part of a community,” Bureau said during the hearing. “We didn’t want to be just a storefront business… Us being able to have this building at 304 Franklin makes us a permanent part of Niwot


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