Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley
Editorial@lhvc.com 

Boulder County holds public meeting on moratorium

 

October 25, 2018

Vicky Dorvee

Involved Niwot residents and business owners attended a community meeting at the Left Hand Grange Hall. The meeting was called by the Boulder County Land Use Department to discuss a recently issued moratorium on development in order to revise building codes for the Niwot Rural Community District in Old Town Niwot.

Second Avenue property owners vent frustration

Early opposition gave way to a more cooperative spirit at a public meeting to discuss the temporary moratorium on new development applications in the Niwot Rural Community District (NRCD), held at the Left Hand Grange on Oct. 17.

Dozens of Old Town residents, business owners and community members showed up to express their concerns to Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case and his staffers, either about the six-month ban itself, or about the direction of future Old Town development and its potential impact on neighbors.

“It’s a very small place that’s incredibly special to a lot of people,” Case said. “A lot of people have spent a lot of time in the last 20, 30 and 40 years protecting, developing and trying to make it into a place that remains very special....We want to make sure we have the right tools in place so that we can address the concerns and work with the community as it moves forward with developing Second Avenue.”

With the help of a professional mediator, Case and county planners urged attendees to leave questions or comments about the issues at hand on sticky notes, which were placed on display boards throughout the room. Eventually, that feedback will be used to help planners draft any new regulations. Case and his staff will also meet with the county commissioners ahead of their Oct. 30 public hearing on “whether to terminate, extend, or otherwise amend the six-month moratorium.”

Tensions ran high as the discussion ranged from complaints about the process and communication, to more specific areas of contention, such as use of the alley separating the Second Avenue commercial zone and Third Avenue residences. However, as more speakers shared their perspectives and avenues of potential compromise opened up, the tone turned decidedly more collegial.

Among those most vocal at the meeting was a contingent of unhappy property owners, who detailed a wide range of negative outcomes from the moratorium and urged Case to recommend its termination to the Commissioners.

Colterra owner Bradford Heap expressed his deep dissatisfaction not only with the development embargo, but also with the way county officials have seemingly disregarded the financial impact to his business, a sentiment echoed by other developers in attendance. He also provided a little more clarity about the future of his popular Niwot eatery, which closed last year after a fire destroyed the kitchen.

“The moratorium is preventing me from rebuilding and reopening Colterra because of a parking requirement,” he said. “I can’t get a lease and a lot of things are up in the air….Even if I could proceed with reopening Colterra, it may not make make financial sense, especially in light of the unintended consequences of the moratorium and the potential restrictions on land use that typically follow.”

Heap wasn’t the only property owner with some pointed thoughts about the moratorium.

Tim Coonce, co-owner of Porchfront Homes, detailed a months-long struggle to get his Second Avenue project through the county Site Plan Review process earlier this year, and was blunt about his dealings with Land Use Department staff.

“It’s either gross incompetence or a vast misuse of power,” he said. “Those are the only two choices.”

Like other property owners, he fears “downzoning” and worried that the amended regulations will be onerous and increase the burden on developers, despite their compliance with all regulations to date.

Bob Von Eschen, of Von’s Colorado Concepts, argued that increased traffic in the alley from his proposed new development at the intersection of Second Avenue and Niwot Road won’t be as burdensome as the residents fear, and urged county planners to carefully consider the appropriate mix of residential to commercial use in the new regulations.

Anne Postle, developer of Southpaw Commons, also addressed residents’ concerns about mixed-use properties as well as setbacks. According to Postle, she has redrawn plans for a new multi-unit complex at 280 and 290 Second Avenue three times in response to complaints, even before the moratorium was enacted. In the latest iteration of her plans, she has eliminated all residential spaces and provided a generous setback from the alley.

“I’ve redesigned to try to do what the neighbors want,” she said. “I’ve been in Niwot since 2001, and I want to be a good neighbor.”

Postle’s conciliatory tone, followed by comments from Taddiken Tree co-owner Josh Morin urging compromise, seemed to signal an end to hostilities for the night. As the meeting wound down, both sides agreed to keep their minds and ears open.

“The good thing that’s come out of all of this is that it’s forced us to communicate,” NBA President Tony Santelli said. “Everything should be transparent, and doubtless we all want what’s right for Niwot.”

Interested parties will once again have the opportunity to speak on this issue at the County Commissioners’ hearing on whether to continue or modify the moratorium, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the Boulder County Courthouse (1325 Pearl St., Boulder.)

Those wishing to submit public comment on this issue can do so online. A public comment form is available on the project webpage.

 

For more information, contact Jose Ruano at jruano@bouldercounty.org or 303-441-3922.

 

 

 

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