Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley

Niwot LID holds annual meeting with county commissioners


November 2, 2018

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, the Niwot LID Advisory Committee welcomed county commissioners Cindy Domenico, Deb Gardner, and Elise Jones to the Left Hand Grange for a “very timely” discussion of the state of local affairs during the past 12 (or so) months. Ordinarily used as an opportunity to showcase the town’s recent successes, this year’s presentation to the commissioners was fraught with anxiety about the county’s development moratorium, which was scheduled for a public hearing on Oct. 30.

Acknowledging the issue in her opening remarks, co-chair Laura Skaggs promised to move the meeting along at “a brisk pace” in order to leave enough time for discussion of that contentious topic.

Skaggs quickly turned the floor over to Niwot Economic Development Director Catherine McHale, who detailed the commercial comings and goings around town in the past year. A number of new businesses popped up around town, including the Old Oak Coffeehouse, Niwot Wheel Works bike shop, Inkberry Books, and the Starbuds marijuana dispensary, which has not generated much “fuss” since opening last November, according to McHale.

“It’s been surprisingly quiet,” she said of the controversial pot shop, which critics feared would bring noise and traffic. “They are getting on with their thing….It seems as though they are doing their business and surviving.”

A number of businesses have changed ownership or location, but remained in town (Niwot Veterinary Clinic, Chico’s Grooming Spa, and Seven Wealth), but there were also some departures (Design Interiors, Rockin Robin), and a few high profile closures (Neighborhood Learning Center, Powder Keg Brewing, and Bell, Book, Candle & Coffee). The temporary shuttering of Colterra due to fire in October 2017 was also a blow to Niwot’s business landscape, and not just because of the lost revenue.

“I feel as though Niwot’s on the cusp of something that’s going to be really good to gain momentum,” Niwot Economic Development Director Catherine McHale said. “But I feel that we are missing a weight that brings us to be in a secure place for our businesses. It’s still a bit fragile.”

McHale said she hopes to entice more retail businesses to town, particularly those that generate “daytime traffic.” She then added that the moratorium hampered discussions with potential new businesses, which are leery of potentially restrictive regulations.

Up next was LID member Biff Warren, with a review of Niwot’s active community events calendar. Powered by an assortment of robust civic organizations in addition to LID funding, residents and visitors to Niwot did not have to wait long between celebrations last year. Among the most notable were the Niwot Business Association’s Great Pumpkin Party and Jazz on Second Avenue, an increasingly popular draw for Colorado music lovers.

“It’s really recognized throughout the state, and certainly in Denver, as a premier jazz event,” Warren said of the two-day festival, held annually in September. “When you bring in people and mention that they play with Dave Matthews and other nationally known acts, that’s impressive to people.”

Warren then updated the commissioners about various longer-term and ongoing projects supported by the LID, including Rock & Rails, the Firehouse Museum, Children’s Park, and Community Corner at 79th Street and Niwot Road, which will also be home to the new sculpture park, set to open at November’s First Friday Art Walk.

He also provided an update about the future parking lot, which was the subject of some tumult and a public hearing last year when LID dipped into its capital reserve to purchase a 2-acre parcel along the railroad tracks west of Old Town. Plans to move forward with the lot are on hold pending the results of a future parking study. In the meantime, the LID is using funds to keep area mowed and maintained.

The Commissioners asked about the ongoing relations with the Murray Street residents, who did not embrace plans for a public parking lot directly across the street from their homes.

“They still don’t like the fact that it’s going to impact them,” Warren acknowledged, in response to a question from Jones. “So I wouldn’t say they are supportive…At the same time, they’re respectful, too.” Warren noted that the residents approached him about working on the design of the parking lot, and that they have brought good ideas to the planning process.

He also updated efforts to make permanent improvements in Whistle Stop Park, which are mysteriously delayed somewhere in the county review process.

Anne Postle, who holds the LID’s NBA seat, presented the Vision 2027 update to the Niwot Strategic Plan. Based on survey data from local residents and business owners, over the next ten years, the NBA hopes to create community gathering places, or “hubs”, connected by a network of paths and sidewalks.

The meeting’s “regular” business concluded with a presentation from LID Vice Chair Jim Eastman, who is working with the Boulder County Transportation Department to increase signage along the LOBO Trail in Niwot to direct users to services available in the commercial areas of town.

Finally, discussion turned to “elephant in the room,” the six-month development ban affecting properties in the Niwot Rural Community District, which was enacted by the Commissioners with no advance warning on September 20.

Domenico kicked things off by apologizing for the “short notice scenario,” acknowledging that the moratorium’s implementation process had been flawed, a sentiment echoed by her fellow commissioners.

However, she also acknowledged the underlying concerns that spurred the moratorium in the first place.

“We have to tell you that part of our motivation was that we’re hearing from residents with deep concerns,” she said. “Because this is such a special place, we felt a sense of urgency.”

Skaggs noted the Resolution in Opposition to the NRCD Moratorium, which the LID advisory committee adopted at its regular meeting earlier this month. She then steered the talks to the impact on the LID itself, rather than individual developers.

“There are projects and there are revenues, and both have been lost,” she said. “There is momentum, and Catherine referred to that, but uncertainty puts a real limp in that momentum.”

In the ensuing discussion, members touched on the alley, the appropriate mix of commercial to residential development in the NRDC, and Niwot’s overall business climate, which is emerging, but still needs support. Skaggs also noted the most “painful” part of the ongoing moratorium.

“And then there’s the neighbor-to-neighbor problem that’s emerged,” she said. “We have celebrated this community jointly for so very long and in a myriad of ways, and all of a sudden very bright fracture lines have showed up.”

As the meeting wound down, Domenico reminded members to come to the Oct. 30 public hearing, where the commissioners will decide whether to continue, modify, or end the moratorium.

After talks wrapped up, members of the LID accompanied the commissioners on a trip through the alley behind the north side of the second block to see firsthand the cause of so much consternation.


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