Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

Incorporation feasibility study available


January 1, 2020

Courtesy Photo

To incorporate or not to incorporate.

Converting the Town of Niwot into a statutory municipality and funding its initial years of operation will "almost certainly" require an increase in local property and sales taxes, according to the Exploratory Incorporation Feasibility Study, an online report released last month by the Niwot Incorporation Committee (NIC) at http://www.Niwotstudy.com.

Billed as "a grass roots effort to understand the costs, benefits and long-term implications of an incorporated Town of Niwot," the study goes on to conclude that those potential increases could be offset by local control of road repairs and maintenance, especially in the area's subdivisions, which could otherwise be subject to a Public Improvement District levy or other county-wide tax hike.

"The hope is the residents of Niwot see the results of the Exploratory Incorporation Study as a top level overview of the some of the options available for ending our worsening roads problem as well as presenting an option to preserve and improve Niwot through local self-rule," wrote committee member Steve Lehan in an email interview. "The niwotstudy.com website is a tool to help them to quickly distill down a lot of the questions that come up when trying to figure out what local self-rule would look like financially and operationally. Niwot is a thoughtful town, and the website is meant to be a starting point to facilitate our thinking and discussion."

Conducted over several months, the feasibility study seeks to compare the potential revenue and service impacts of creating a "focused local government" in Niwot with remaining under the purview of Boulder County and the Board of County Commissioners. It includes a draft budget, with projected costs for holding elections, hiring town staff, and then providing or contracting for municipal services such as fire and police protection.

In its analysis, the NIC used publicly available budget and tax records for Niwot and similarly sized Colorado towns, as well as information from the county finance and assessor's offices. The group also received assistance from a college researcher and Jacque Wedding-Scott, CEO of Whitestone Strategies and former City Manager of Centennial, Colorado, which incorporated in 2001.

The NIC formed earlier this year, after a group of residents and business owners (Lehan, Ron Bernal, Cotton Burden, Tim and Mary Coonce, Bob and Tina Di Scipio, Anne Postle and Tony Santelli) decided to "fully research" the process of forming and funding a municipal government.

"For Niwot, the Subdivision Road Policy, the restrictive residential square footage limits, and control over future decisions are key reasons why incorporation is being studied," reads an excerpt from the site's Frequently Asked Questions. The report also cites several instances in recent years when the county's "lack of representation" caused it to act against the community's interests.

"Niwot's success has depended upon a cooperative and respectful relationship with the Boulder County Commissioners and their staff. However, the trust and mutual respect has been broken," the website states.

With the website launch, the NIC is now hoping for input from the Niwot community. Residents and other local stakeholders are invited to visit the Niwotstudy.com website before March 31, 2020, and fill out a brief survey. The group will also be conducting a series of public meetings and discussions about incorporation starting in the coming weeks. If the issue gains enough support, the committee will begin the next steps in the legal process during the spring of 2020.

"The idea isn't that this is a final plan to be presented-rather it is a conversation to be had about how to best preserve and improve Niwot together," Lehan wrote. "Niwotians have aspirations and concerns, and it all needs to be pulled together. This requires a lot more work to hold dozens of meetings, but it is the right approach for something that requires the input from everyone in Niwot."


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