Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley
Editorial@LHVC.com 

Niwot LID responds to county development moratorium

 

October 11, 2018

Courtesy Photo

As seen from the alley between it and Third Avenue residences, the Southpaw Commons complex at 240 Second Avenue broke ground in late 2017 and touched off a debate about development regulations in the Niwot Rural Community District.

In the wake of the Boulder County Commissioners’ temporary moratorium on new development applications in the Niwot Rural Community District (NRCD), the Niwot LID advisory committee welcomed Land Use director Dale Case and his staffers, Jose Ruano and Denise Grimm, to the Oct. 2 meeting to discuss the wider implications of such a ban, as well as the next steps in the process. They also considered a funding request, elected a new slate of officers, and discussed the agenda for the upcoming meeting between the committee and the commissioners.

Up first was Boulder County liaison Mark Ruzzin with the treasurer’s report through Sept. 30. So far in 2018, the LID has approved $158,439 in expenses, exceeding the budget by nearly $26,000. In the coming weeks, Ruzzin plans to initiate the supplemental allocation process, which will use money parked in the LID’s reserve account to cover the overage.

The month’s sole funding request came from Chuck Klueber of the Niwot Business Association’s Streetscapes committee, who presented a proposal to plant six trees on the south side of Second Avenue as the final component of the NBA’s strategic plan to enhance Niwot’s Old Town “ambience.”

Coming in at a projected total cost of $50,000, the plan requires three different construction contractors plus a landscaper to select and plant the trees. Klueber asked for $47,675 from the LID, with the additional funding coming from a Boulder County economic development grant. Since work on the project can’t begin until March 2019, the funding would come from next year’s budget.

During the discussion, several committee members expressed concerns about the plan’s complicated logistics, and Co-Chair Carrie Wise even deemed it “not practical” thanks to the power lines and narrow sidewalks. Member Scott Firle was reluctant to commit up to a third of the district’s 2019 allocation on a single project, a worry echoed by Co-Chair Laura Skaggs.

“That we’re losing potential dollars on Second Avenue, because we don’t have trees there. I don’t find that to be a plausible argument,” she said. “We’re also trying to deliver on another one of the NBA’s imperatives, which is parking. We have a long way to go on that.”

Ultimately, Klueber was unable to win much support for this proposal, and it was tabled for consideration later.

Moving on to New Business, the board heard from Niwot’s Economic Development Director Catherine McHale, who updated the board on her activities on behalf of the district through the third quarter. She reported a positive response to the town’s new advertising campaign, as well as increased engagement on social media and face-to-face through the Niwot information booth, which started appearing at events over the summer.

She also recently completed a “Call to Artists” for nine pieces of artwork that will be installed in the Community Corner Sculpture Park at the intersection of 79th Street and Niwot Road.

“The art that was submitted was great quality and really varied,” she said. “We’re going to have some hyper abstract modern stuff; there’s a couple of realistic pieces; there’s going to be lights….It’s really going to work drawing people in from one end of town to the other.”

Finally, it was Director Case’s turn to explain his department’s recommendation for the six-month development moratorium in the Old Town commercial zone and address any concerns from the LID members.

He began by acknowledging the lack of immediate transparency leading up to the Sept. 20 resolution, but stressed that public input will be a vital part of the process going forward.

In response to a question from Firle, Case explained his department’s rationale for the halt. In particular, the current NRCD regulations don’t have much to say about mixed-use properties and the appropriate balance between offices, dwelling units and retail space, especially on the non-historic block between Franklin Street and Niwot Road.

There is also some question about the areas that “interface” with the residential zone on Third Avenue. Rather than address such concerns on a case-by-case basis during the development application process, Case said the moratorium allows them to look at the regulations “holistically.” He further suggested that the reforms could produce a more efficient process that is less time consuming for both property owners and county personnel.

“These buildings are really well done these days,” he said. “They’re going to be here for all of our lifetimes. So taking a time out and making sure we get things right for six months seems like a really reasonable thing to do.”

Case then fielded questions from LID member Biff Warren, who got Case to admit that the updated regulations are likely to be “more restrictive” in nature than what has been approved in the past. Case and Grimm then addressed questions about pending projects at Colterra restaurant and, potentially, the former Powder Keg Brewery location.

LID Member Anne Postle, whose planned projects at 280 and 290 Second Avenue have been indefinitely delayed by the county’s actions, confronted Case and Grimm over inconsistencies in how the Land Use Code had been applied recently in the NRCD compared with the past 25 years, another factor in the county’s decision to push ahead with reforms. She also decried the unfairness of subjecting current property owners to this delay due to the county’s past oversights. She noted several applicants who had completed a pre-application conference for development proposals, but who had yet to receive permission from the county Land Use Department to file their applications.

Case also addressed a question about the concerns of Third Avenue residents, who have expressed their dismay about the increased traffic in the alley between their homes and the commercial area, and the loss of privacy that new multi-story developments in the area will bring.

“In any community, there’s angst when there’s change,” Case said. “I can’t explain why for those neighbors and what the expectation is. I think that’s part of this process is to have that communication and try to set those expectations…. Hopefully, we reduce some of that angst in the end and hopefully everyone has a clear expectation and more buy-in.”

Ruano then gave more detail about the upcoming “public engagement process,” as well as the full timeline for updating the code. On Oct. 17, the county hopes to hold a public meeting at the Left Hand Grange to discuss the moratorium and its ancillary issues. On Oct. 30, the commissioners will conduct a public hearing to decide whether to allow the moratorium to proceed as enacted, modify it or even withdraw it altogether.

At the conclusion of the county’s presentation, but before Case and his staff had left the building, Warren proposed a Resolution in Opposition to the NRCD Moratorium and read it into the record. In short, the statement proclaims the LID advisory committee’s opposition to the moratorium, on the grounds that it adversely impacts the district’s business climate and ability to collect sales tax revenue, and urges the commissioners to “immediately” rescind it. This kicked off a whole new round of discussion, but ultimately the committee adopted the Resolution by a vote of 5-0, with members Postle and Bruce Rabeler, a Third Avenue resident, abstaining.

Up next on the agenda was election of officers. In a unanimous vote, Co-Chairs Skaggs and Wise, and Vice-Chair Jim Eastman were retained for another term, and Rabeler was elected to replace Harris Faberman as treasurer.

The evening’s final item was the upcoming annual meeting between the committee and the commissioners, which is slated for Oct. 23 at 4 p.m. Though the moratorium is bound to be a hot topic of discussion, Ruzzin cautioned members to allow time to discuss other “high-level hot spots” such as parking and connectivity.

The next LID Advisory Committee meeting will be held on Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m., the second Tuesday of the month, to avoid a conflict with election night, at the Niwot Fire Station.

 

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