Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

Letters to the Editor, Nov. 21


November 21, 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.

All Niwot property owners deserve the same rights. Through a moratorium, Land Use staff is trying to restrict the use of a public right-of-way to benefit a select few Niwot property owners over others. But the County Attorney and the County’s Comprehensive Plan state that ALL adjacent property owners have equal rights to use the alley. Alley use regulations already exist and are successfully enforced just 50 feet up 2nd Avenue.

Ignoring the existing guidelines of the Comprehensive Plan to restrict access to the public right-of-way alley has dangerous implications:

  • Without alley access, 2nd Ave business patrons who park in the rear are forced to drive across sidewalks! Pedestrians, bikers, baby-strollers, etc., are in constant competition with vehicles. Near-misses occur on a regular basis.
  • Land Use prefers that the alley deteriorate (to discourage its use), so it has not been maintained by surrounding property owners. It’s become a pothole-filled mess which doesn’t drain correctly. Three-foot-tall weeds encroach up to 8’ into the 20’ alley, making it unduly narrow and a fire hazard. Western Disposal has asked that the alley be repaired to prevent damage to their trucks. When business owners attempted to fill potholes at their own expense, they were physically stopped by residential neighbors who were misled by Land Use staff into believing the alley belongs only to them.

The moratorium should be ended so that the public -- business owners and residents alike -- can work together to create a quaint, well-lit alley like those in Longmont and Ft. Collins which is what Cornelia Sawle, owner of Niwot Inn has suggested. This public right-of-way alley could be beautiful and safe if Land Use would end the moratorium and apply the same regulations to both blocks of 2nd Avenue. Let’s keep equal alley access for all.

Thank you,

Xan Rubey,

Von’s Colorado Concepts

My name is Cornelia Sawle. As owner of the Niwot Inn, I am bordered by two controversial issues in Niwot. One is the development of the property next door to the south and the other is the alley directly behind my property. I am writing this letter because, as a business and commercial property owner, I understand the challenges of the people trying to develop, improve, and invigorate downtown Niwot. I am not seeking anything from the county. My business is unique in that I don’t rely heavily on locals since my customers come from out of town, so I feel my opinions are unbiased, merely observations from working in town. I do highly promote the local businesses to my guests.

It is difficult to profitably run a small business in Niwot. It is a small town with limited customers. Commercial real estate prices and rents have gone up significantly, as have the property taxes of which the commercial properties pay a hefty amount. This makes it more difficult for business owners to make ends meet. One solution is to increase the downtown residences. If people live right in town, they are more likely to frequent the local stores. Therefore, I support the addition of more residences being proposed to the county.

I hear people saying “we don’t want to become a Boulder!” Well, that’s not going to happen. Even if ten more residences are added, downtown Niwot is only about four blocks long and there are no buildings over two stories. It is not going to expand into a Boulder. What we shouldn’t have are vacant buildings and buildings that aren’t being maintained.

Since I am next door to 364 2nd Ave, I often observe the backyard. It has a plain lawn that gets drier and drier during the summer months. In my opinion, it’s wasted space that no one uses or enjoys even though it’s a large area right in town. People walking or driving by can’t even see it. It would be an improvement to have a couple of small landscaped residences developed on that empty area. It would bring in more people to use the downtown area. Again, people who live in town are going to use the local stores often and will most likely walk to them, therefore, won’t add much to the street traffic.

This brings up the other issue, the alley. The east side of 2nd Avenue has more pedestrian traffic than any other sidewalk in Niwot. People are constantly walking by; adults, people walking dogs, families, people pushing strollers, children, teenagers, and lots of kids on bikes. On days when there are events such as Rock and Rails or First Friday Art Walk, the volume increases even more. I don’t understand why the traffic is routed across the pedestrian sidewalk to get to the parking lots behind the buildings when an alley already exists that the cars can use.  

I could easily open my parking lot to have cars enter and exit from the alley as could the building next door and on down the alley. If I was given permission to do so, I would eliminate my driveway and add a lawn, creating more green space on 2nd  Ave. I’m not going to fight to have this allowed, but I just want to point out it would be much safer and would look nicer.

The alley behind c Ave is the worst section of town. It is full of ruts, pot holes, untrimmed trees, and weeds that become quite tall and thick because they are not cut down during the summer. I worry about the fire hazard that this creates.

Instead of having the alley so unkempt, I believe we should embrace the alley and make it quaint, as Longmont and Fort Collins have done. They have bricked them, which is good for drainage and keeps car speed slow, and have added soft lighting and flowers. If the county isn’t willing to move the commercial car access from 2nd Avenue, then move much of the pedestrian traffic to the alley. I have seen proposed development drawings of the property next door which has landscaped walkways from the curve of Niwot Road and 2nd Avenue through to the alley. I would be willing to enhance my section of the alley and I’ve heard other commercial real estate owners on the alley say the same. Why not make the alley just as charming as the rest of Niwot?                                                                             

If Niwot is going to continue to thrive and prosper, we need to take the unused, rundown areas and improve them by making those areas more attractive and available to all the people who live in or come to Niwot.

Cornelia Swale,

Niwot Inn

342 2nd Ave, Niwot

To whom it may concern:

I am a resident and homeowner in downtown Niwot.  My home is on an alley on the opposite side (SW) of 2nd Avenue. I live and work in my home. I can walk to every business. This is one of the main reasons that I moved here. I was and still am very hopeful that more restaurants and retail businesses will invest in Niwot. I watched this town for more than ten years before choosing to buy and remodel my home here.

I fully support well-planned development and mixed use. I purchased my property with full knowledge that I live INSIDE a town, however small, not out in the country where I would expect deliveries and pedestrians to be an annoyance. The small alley that I live on supports 7 businesses and 4 residences!

I support the plan of sidewalks and bike paths with all or most deliveries in the alleys. My many friends that live on 3rd Avenue seem to want more shops and restaurants but not on the alley near their homes.

It’s 2018! I am one of many who want a vibrant downtown with mixed use like other small towns. Progressive and engaging for a community.

A diplomatic solution could have been drawn up much more proactively involving business owners and residents. The authoritarian BOCO process, land use staff and county commissioners should be ashamed. This is all at business owners’ and residents’ expense. Thank you Boulder County for slowing our hard-earned progress and pitting neighbors against neighbors!

Lisa Rivard,



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