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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lafayette Annexation Support

My upcoming Yellow Scene article will be a pro-annexation piece re: the upcoming special election in Lafayette. In a first regarding my articles, a heads up was given to the opposition, who asked for equal space. I don't know exactly what was written or by whom, however the February issue will have both sides. Read the ballot language here.

Thank you to those who disagree with me (you know who you are) who spoke to me about their concerns. I mentioned some of these points in the article and my take on them.

Bottom line: in my opinion the parcel in question is not environmentally superior to others already identified in/around Lafayette for preservation/acquisition and the opportunity cost of denial is too high. Without specific economic impacts articulated I still see the proposed development as better than other proposals likely to come in its place later on. Speculation? Sure. However, I'll take the chance the revenue from a Lowe's will be useful to the city (read: open space funding) over watching the revenue go to a neighbor. Regional growth impacts will affect Lafayette either way.

For more details, look for the article in a couple weeks. In the meantime, here's an excerpt:

This basic question brings to bear the uncomfortable reality of dependence Colorado’s communities have on sales- and use-tax revenues. The short answer: yes, Lowe’s is “needed”. It is needed in the Machiavellian sense that Lafayette has the power to accept an offer to build a revenue generator that could otherwise locate just outside its borders in Erie or Broomfield. This annexation is an economic opportunity in the harsh competitive reality Colorado communities must face.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Machiavelli would be amused by the sales tax game, yes. But he would be most proud of calling an empty field an environmental gem, twisting the vision of the City to serve the desires of a few neighbors, and leaving the farmer empty-handed. Hats off to Machiavelli for helping everyone's argument!

Dan Powers said...

True - the pro-annexation camp has an uphill battle against what most people will see as a vote "for" open space with a "no" vote on the annexation. That parcel is zoned for development, and another proposal will be next if not this one. The cries of open space protection are compelling but ultimately hollow.

Anon said...

A no vote would be agreement with NIMBY neighbors and nothing more. Why did this go so far? It is insane.

Alex Schatz said...

One technical sidenote: The Waneka land is currently zoned agricultural in unincorporated Boulder County. It is planned for "mixed use" (read, a certain percentage of residential, commercial, and open area distributed over a larger planning area than the 32 acres subject to vote) in the City of Lafayette. Planning alone does not entitle future development. Therefore, my conclusion on the earlier thread was that defeat at the election will leave the Waneka land in "limbo." That's a non-technical term for land that can't be farmed economically and can't be marketed because the plans for its future are tainted by uncertainty.

In my opinion, the potential sales tax benefit is a considerable argument in favor of the proposed annexation and zoning. But it is also an oversimplification of the myriad reasons why a City plans for commercial land uses (as in, even outside Colorado's "Machiavellian" sales tax environment, planning and zoning are commonplace). A City, for example, approves plans for churches, banks, and other non-sales tax producers because the activities and services citizens might desire in their daily lives should not necessarily require them to leave the community. The same is true for sales tax producers, whatever the bottom line on revenue might be for the City: Some people just want to be able to shop in Lafayette because it would be a heck of a lot more convenient than the current alternatives.

I also feel strongly that the first rule of law is the consent to be governed. If we live in a community where planning and zoning don't mean what they say, there really are no rules; if there is truly a sweeping new vision for the eastern flank, we need to install that by saying "yes" to something.

Current opponents of the annexation might not be able to bring themselves to say 'yes' to the vote, despite evidence that it is a prudent measure for open space and the City in general (and also the reality that a 'no' vote does not, as Dan points out, create open space) - but if there is really a vision out there, I expect that it will emerge somewhere along the way as positive action with an attainable goal.

Dan Powers said...

I agree with the consent of the governed concept, Alex. I believe this debate is good for a community, because it begs deeper questions about overall development priorities, impacts, perceived identity of the town, regional economic trends, and more.

Following this discussion, this vote will affirm or change the Comp Plan's vision for that parcel. I don;t have a problem with that in theory. But I sure don't want the vote to be perceived as a a vote for or against open space. That's an easier one for people to get their brain around, but the question isn't that simple.

Alex Schat said...

For some, this vote is probably only about open space, whether that should be their only consideration or not. For those people, there is still a question - we agree completely that a 'no' vote does not accomplish anything toward open space in itself. The question is whether they want to see the current system of open space fluorish, or at least accomplish the goals set forth in that vicinity and everywhere around the community, or if we are to rely on an undefined deus ex machina to implement the vision of no development on the eastern flank.

It's really not even clear that no development at all is that vision. The big box proposal (which is not even approved or denied by the vote) has been the focus of considerable opposition. Perhaps the big box aspect garners some significant amount of the no vote. In that case, is the comp plan changed if the no vote prevails? Not necessarily so. I am a broken record: the eastern flank needs sub-area planning.

Anonymous said...

There are enough big boxes already in Lafayette! Look at what we had to give to Target, now Lowe's will want what? This is not the right choice for the eastern side of town.

Alex Schatz said...

So what is the right choice for the eastern side of town? Annexation and zoning would not preclude sub-area planning. At this stage, annexation and zoning don't even guarantee a big box.

Another very relevant point: Lowe's has not asked for Target or WalMart-style tax rebates, no fee waivers, no economic incentive at all.

Both Target and WalMart started the EDA process before land use approvals, so I'm very puzzled by the claim that Lowe's >>might<< apply for an economic development agreement as a huge problem. It's possible, but seems quite a bit less central to the Waneka development than it was for the megadiscounters.

Anyway, where was all this opposition to economic incentives when the City Council courted WalMart and Target? Even if Lowe's did apply for some sort of incentive, it's up to the council to approve it, and the public to protest what they perceive as unfavorable terms for the community.

Anon said...

Uh oh. NIMBY neighbor is upset about Target all of a sudden. Now that it serves a purpose. Target and Lowes don't sell the same things. There is no place in Lafayette that sells what Lowes sells.

KERRY BENSMAN said...

I was ill in bed the night of the annexation public hearings and just recently reviewed the video tape of the proceedings.

So here are some questions readers may like to weigh in on:

1. What is the economic benefit of a Lowe's store here in Lafayette and when will that occur?
(This is a trick question by the way.)

2. What is the difference between what is now called the Thomas Open Space (once the planned site of 110 single family homes) and the Waneka site?

3. What is the impact on E. Baseline Road of both the new Wal-Mart and a Lowe's tore? (Once again a trick question since Wal-mart's traffic study didn't include it and won't open until August and there is yet to be a development plan from Lowe's)

4. As Councilor Cameron propsed during the public hearing, how could sales tax revenue from Lowe's mitigate traffic on E. Baseline? (Once again an interesting question given No. 1 above.)

5. Why would the Town of Erie work with Lafayette on the Highway 7 by-pass if it perceives Lafayette as adding more traffic to Hwy 7 east of 287?

Dan may want to post this as a separate discussion. After folks weigh in, I'll give you my opinion just for your information.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you just show us the answer key first, Kerry? You know, enlighten us with your wisdom instead of "trick" questions.

dreamer-believer said...

I will support the annexation for the reasons stated above by Dan and Alex Schatz. The land is best suited for development and is not prime open space. The land is inside the urban growth boundary where like it or not change may occur. Chuck Waneka is an old man who farmed the land for decades and knows it best. It is no longer a viable farm.

Silly Kerry, trix are for kids.

Alex Schatz said...

Kerry, I do think it would be helpful if you would explain where you are coming from.

For instance, if these questions in your opinion warrant a 'no' vote, why did you vote in favor of the referred ordinances? The council may not have had a realistic option to annex and zone without a vote of the citizens, but you and the council did have the option to scuttle the project entirely when the issue was before you - and you were there for the second reading.