All Local, All The Time

Niwot LID to meet with county commissioners

Minimum wage, master plan, housing costs, Highway 119 underpass, key priorities.

Those are the topics Niwot's Local Improvement District Advisory Committee (LID) members hope to take up with the Boulder County Commissioners when the two boards meet at the Left Hand Grange on Thursday, April 18 at 3:30 p.m.

The annual meeting between the three county commissioners, who govern Niwot as well as the rest of unincorporated Boulder County, and the members of Niwot's most active advisory board, all of whom are appointed by the commissioners, is open to the public, though public participation is by invitation only.

The monthly meeting of the LID held at the Niwot Inn on Tuesday, April 2, focused on topics to be addressed at the upcoming meeting with the commissioners. Most concerning to LID members is the commissioners' adoption of a minimum wage for the unincorporated county, which almost entirely consists of Niwot businesses. LID vice-chair Eric Bergeson described the concern, saying, "The Niwot business district is facing headwaters, and possibly a squall."

Though most Niwot businesses have learned to live with a $15.69 per hour minimum wage for 2024, an increase of 15% over the prior year, which is higher than any incorporated municipality in the county, it is the scheduled future increases of 5.67% in 2025, and 8.58% each year thereafter, that is most concerning. If left in place, the scheduled increases will culminate in a minimum wage of $25 per hour in 2030, a cumulative increase of 83% over the current state mandated minimum wage rate.

Since the LID is fully funded by sales tax revenues, LID members are concerned that retail businesses will go out of business if they are unable to afford the increased labor costs, especially in light of higher property taxes and increased insurance rates. LID members also expressed concerns that the increase does not fairly treat tipped employees compared to non-tipped employees at restaurants, or allow a lower wage for student interns.

Without sales tax revenues, the LID would not be able to provide funding for popular local events, or pay for infrastructure improvements. LID chair Scott Firle said, "There are a few new vacancies. You can definitely feel the tension." He also expressed concern about the possible loss of "what makes Niwot, Niwot." LID member Sarah Cioni, who owns Belle Terre Floral, said, "It's fragile. I've heard from other retailers that their first quarter was really down this year."

Members also cited the difficulty of Niwot businesses having to compete with businesses located in nearby cities and towns which are only subject to the state minimum wage of $13.65 per hour at this point. They also wondered if the carefully cultivated ambiance of Niwot would be lost without a retail presence.

Mark Ruzzin, Boulder County commissioners' liaison to the LID, noted that the county and the larger municipalities in the county are in discussions about how to best address minimum wages in a consistent manner throughout the county.

A related subject discussed was the high cost of housing in Boulder County. Bergeson said, "A lot of what we think is happening is housing," referring to the high cost of living.

Mary Coonce reported that sales tax revenues collected by the LID are down from last year through January, with revenues dropping from $19,582 to $18,108, a decrease of 7.5%. Although the LID has a reserve as of the end of 2023 of $432,000, a $45,000 payment due to Fletemeyer & Lee Associates for work on creating a Master Plan will be paid from the reserve.

LID members plan to give a short presentation to the commissioners on the development of a Master Plan for Niwot. Bergeson mentioned that the next step for the plan is to present it to members of the public who may not have had an earlier opportunity to provide input.

As part of the meeting, LID members hope to hear about the commissioners' key priorities, as well as an update on an underpass into Niwot from the soon-to-be-built bikeway in the median of Highway 119.


In other business, the LID approved three funding requests.

Deb Fowler and Bergeson presented a funding request for Around the World Day, Saturday, April 27, on behalf of the Niwot Business Association. Bergeson noted that the event was cited by respondents in a recent survey as one that resonated with members of the community.

Firle said, "This is one of my favorites. I really do enjoy this event," citing the food and drinks available from around the world. After a brief discussion, the LID approved funding of $5,854, with the NBA contributing an additional $500 for the event. Costs include a horse-drawn carriage, publicity and musicians throughout town. Participating merchants often "adopt" a country, featuring decor and refreshments reflecting the culture of the community.

The Niwot Community Semi-Marching Free Grange Band will present a concert in Cottonwood Square at 3 p.m., featuring music connected with places from around the world, including "The Girl from Ipanema," "Jamaica Farewell," "Harlem Nocturne," and "The Ukrainian National Anthem." CaIrish dancers, African drummers, a polka band, a flamenco dancer, a Spanish guitarist, a French band, a French accordion player and a face painter will also be on hand throughout the business district.

The ever-popular business beautification project, providing flowers throughout the business district, was also approved for funding. Angela Hudgins, administrator for the NBA, presented the request for funding of $9,575. She noted that Carrie Wise of Wise Buys Antiques, who initiated the project several years ago, "is retiring from this job," but has assisted in the transition.

Mesa Landscape Management, LLC, a local landscaping firm operated by Scott Fath and David Angstadt, has been hired to plant and place the flowers throughout the business district. Hudgins noted that the firm has handled beautification of Cottonwood Square for many years, and that the cost was similar to past years. "They actually walked the town with Carrie for two hours." The flowers will be planted during the last weekend of May.

In a related request, the LID approved funding of up to $15,315 for watering and maintenance of the flowers. Alison Steele of Niwot Market will coordinate the Cottonwood Square watering and maintenance, while Kevin Dooley and Rob Gordon will coordinate Old Town watering and maintenance.


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