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Boulder County seeks more information about proposed Niwot parking lot

 

January 8, 2020 | View PDF

Karen Copperberg

The Niwot Business Association has submitted plans to build up to a 50-space multimodal parking area next to the BNSF railroad tracks west of downtown.

An application submitted by the Niwot Business Association to build a 14-space multimodal parking facility with a potential expansion up to 50 spaces at the intersection of 3rd Avenue and Murray Street has been put on hold by the Boulder County Land Use department, pending more information about the potential effects on local traffic.

According to a Jan. 3 message to NBA representative Bruce Warren from staff planner Molly Marcucilli, the county transportation department requested a hold of the review and asked for additional documentation from the NBA to "fully evaluate the impacts of the proposed parking lot on the transportation system, and to determine the level of Transportation System Impact Analysis needed." A TSIA is required by the county for all new development projects that forecast "future trip-making" of 30 or more trips per day. Transportation also requested a redesign of the lot, to add a second point of ingress/egress when the parking lot reaches 50 spaces.

Warren was disappointed by the delay in a process that has now stretched several years.

"I am not surprised by the Transportation Department's request for a hold, but I would have expected them to say something when we presented the design drawings to them for review before we ever filed," he said.

The NBA has had a public Niwot parking lot on its wish list for the better part of a decade, and finally completed a purchase of the vacant parcel north of the Excel building in 2017. Since then, plans to move forward with the lot have languished as the group encountered hurdles in both county regulations and available funding.

"The NBA would have proceeded sooner, but the LID reserve funds had been depleted by the purchase of the property," Warren said. "Also, the NBA has received indications that the county would delay development because certain parking thresholds were not met. This had to do with the methodology of the parking study, and the fact that at least two large business properties remain vacant. We have heard that the lack of available parking has adversely impacted the ability to rent at least one of the properties, so tying the need for a parking lot to a percentage threshold of parking usage becomes a 'Catch 22'."

The NBA jump started the project earlier this fall and submitted its application for Special Use Review in late November 2019, which was accepted by the county on Dec. 16. Per the site plan, the proposed lot will occupy just over one-quarter of the two-acre parcel adjacent to the BNSF railroad tracks, or roughly the area between 3rd and 4th Avenues. No structures will be built for the lot, but it will be bordered by a three-to four-foot hedge on the east and fencing on the north, south, and west. It will have a permeable surface for water drainage, and the landscaping will be "consistent with the rural character of Niwot." Cars will park facing north or south in order to minimize headlights shining into neighboring residences, and "dark sky" compliant lighting installed on short posts has been proposed to protect the view.

The NBA plans to build the full 50-space parking area in phases if the need for parking justifies it, beginning with a 6,138 square-foot part on the southernmost tip of the property. This initial phase will contain a total of 14 spaces-12 regular and two handicapped accessible-with one entry and exit point on Murray Street. Additional 12-space parcels will be added to the property "as needed," along with an electric vehicle charging station.

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A 50-space multimodal parking area proposed by the Niwot Business Association would occupy approximately one-quarter of the two-acre parcel adjacent to the BNSF railroad tracks, but the first phase of construction will include only 14 parking spaces.

It is not yet clear how the change in status will affect the NBA's application, but it's not going to make the process any shorter. Before the hold, the plans were under review by various county "referral" agencies, which identify potential conflicts with existing regulations or impacts on the environment or health and safety.

"It is difficult to get a sense of the timing on this application, as we are still awaiting referral comments," Marcucilli said. "Additionally, because this is a special use application, it will need to go in front of both the Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners. These hearings have not been scheduled yet."

In the meantime, Land Use is also seeking feedback on the proposed plans from nearby residents and other community members. To review the application and submit a comment, visit the Boulder County Land Use website, and use docket number SU-19-0014 to search Development Applications Under Review. http://www.bouldercounty.org/property-and-land/land-use/planning/development-applications-under-review/. The deadline is Jan. 23.

 

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