The community speaks out about the future of downtown Niwot
February 27, 2019
At a public hearing on Feb. 20, more than two dozen interested Niwot community members spoke out about proposed changes to the Land Use Code that will affect development in the 2nd Avenue commercial district.
Here are some comments presented to the Planning Commission:
Dr. David Meisner explained that the mixed use development he and Von’s Colorado Concepts want to build on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Niwot Road was curtailed because of the moratorium. Meisner said, “The benefit to the thousands of visitors and residents to Niwot should outweigh the concern of the few neighbors on 3rd Avenue. They knew they were purchasing property adjacent to downtown. It’s like a homeowner on a golf course complaining when a golf ball hits their home.”
Second Avenue business owner Euvaldo Valdez said initially he was in favor of the revamping of codes because he wasn’t happy with the “lack of aesthetics” of new developments. But he has changed his position because the property on the south side of the street has been ignored throughout the public process. He didn’t have enough time to finish his statements and was told he could submit written comments. “Everything I was going to tell you tonight, I have submitted in writing and I’ve been met with a very dismissive attitude by the staff.”
Steve Rollman, owner of Niwot Feed on 2nd Avenue, the oldest business in town, said, “I don’t know of a single business in Niwot that supports these restrictions.”
Niwot resident and employee at Osmosis Art Gallery, Michelle Henzel said, “Most of the Niwot residents I know do not want unreasonable limits placed on our commercial district. The current checks and balances are significant enough to ensure that the charm of Niwot will remain and get better every year.”
Niwot resident Jill Whitener read a letter from Liz Gould, a 3rd Avenue resident and the owner of the 2nd Avenue boutique Little Bird where Gould is speaking directly to her neighbors. “Our business at Little Bird is down for the first time in seven years. I hope you can all put aside your grievances about the alley and some of the other development plans and look at the bigger picture.”
Gould wrote that what her neighbors fear will be a result of changes on 2nd Avenue won’t be as difficult to deal with as they are predicting, their backyards are large enough to provide a buffer and new developments would add value to their property.
Attorney Robyn Kube, representing several business owners in Niwot, stated that the FAR was “problematic” because the more you limit what can be built on a property, the less economically feasible it becomes given the cost of the land, building costs, and the revenue a business can generate from a small space.
Third Avenue resident, Jim Kalinksi said, “There was a comment regarding well, you live next to a commercial district you should have been aware and you should expect this and I would say to the commercial property owners, you live next to a residential area and you should expect some mitigations to your activities to not impact the residences too adversely.”
The subsequent decision from the Planning Commission garnered quite a reaction as well. Here are a few comments following the meeting:
Mary Coonce, Niwot resident and owner of Porchfront Homes on 2nd Avenue said, “The goal of Boulder County is to keep us a rural community, yet the comprehensive plan says they want Niwot’s commercial district to serve greater Niwot. Well, greater Niwot residentially has grown quite a bit, but not the commercial district, so it’s a mixed message. ”
Coonce said business environments change over time and we have to adapt to retail store fronts not being as prevalent as they once were. She pointed out that Porchfront’s office staff of more than a dozen employees also adds to the vibrancy of the town by eating and shopping in town.
Niwot Economic Development Director Catherine McHale expressed her disappointment in the recommendation. “These types of rules mean that people are less likely to invest in opening the restaurants and stores that we value and need in our downtown area.”
Kim Kalinski, a resident of 3rd Avenue said, "The Planning Commission’s insightful suggestion to offer incentives for retail space is exemplary. Niwot can thrive when shops and restaurants are encouraged to occupy attractively designed spaces that fit in with the character of Old Town."
“We are cautiously optimistic after hearing some of the Planning Commission's opinions on alley access and curb cuts. We all benefit from planning decisions based on facts," 3rd Avenue homeowners, Mike Selak and Victoria Keen wrote in an email.