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This forum is a sounding board for a range of issues facing eastern Boulder County. I will prompt discussions with my posts and elected officials can tap into the concerns of citizens here, and explain their rationale on decisions. Follow along with the latest discussion by checking the list of recent comments on the right. You can comment with your name, a nickname or anonymously if you wish. You can become a contributor as well. Thank you for your comments!
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Vote Yes For Lafayete.com

The Lafayette annexation supporters have a website with information I recommend you check out www.voteyesforlafayette.com. This should provide more fodder for discussion. Be sure to check below, as more comments continue to come in on that topic. And just to be sure everyone is aware of some of the other concerns raised by opponents, read last week's Lafayette News re: the posting of open space info on the Lafayette city's website.

To keep it close to the top of the blog, here is the latest comment Lafayette Councilor Kerry Bensman added which has attracted some debate:

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 proposed 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.

17 comments:

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.

Kerry Bensman said...

Good question, Alex. The night I wasn't present, no member introduced a motion to approve or disapprove the annexation. So there was no up and down vote on either of those two options. The rationale was regardless of how the council voted, there would be a petition drive by the opposite side.

Now at the second reading, I could have introduced the "no to annexation subject to voter approval". There would have been no second so it would have died. (Just look at the pro annexation demeanor of council members at the public hearing.) So voting for the referred ordinance put it before the voters.

On a straight up and down vote, I would have vote no on annexation.

In my opinion there is no way the majority of this council would have nixed the annexation.

But since I believe Lowe's will insist on an Economic Development Agreement if the annexation is approved, this council will have a second chance. With Wal-Mart and Target, that occured before the land deal was done. After all, the senior real estate manager from Lowe's was in the audience. He must have been licking his chops knowing the majority of the council by their words and demeanor were giving up their negotiating position.

Stay tuned.

Alex Schatz said...

Respectfully, the record quite clearly shows that Ordinances 46 and 47, introduced during the meeting you were absent were "approving and accomplishing the annexation" of the Waneka land. A condition was added to make the effectiveness of those ordinances contingent on the outcome of the special election, but the council most definitely took action to approve the annexation. In fact, to set the election as an issue of both annexation and zoning, the council had to approve those ordinances, and the City Attorney articulated that point in no uncertain terms at the hearing.

It's also inaccurate to say the only other option was to make a motion to disapprove subject to a vote. Not only should your review of the City Attorney's discussion indicate that that wasn't an option at all, the point of making the council's action subject to a referendum of the voters is that City Charter section 6.11 was going to force any action to approve the annexation to a vote. Charter section 6.11 does not allow a petition from the electorate to reinstate an annexation the council has denied, and that is very obviously not what the would-be petitioners had in mind in this case. They want to see the annexation denied, and the council had the option to do that outright.

Which just brings us back to the merits of the case. You posed a bunch of questions on this blog, which have now been elevated to a top level subject, and you also indicated that you thought there were answers to those questions. If you would have voted no (which you didn't), what is the analysis that leads you to that conclusion?

If you believe that an economic development agreement will be proposed for the Lowe's - purely speculation at this point, as I've noted before - but that an EDA would not be warranted, my hope is that you would articulate your opinions clearly and at the appropriate time. Maybe an EDA, and not an annexation, not zoning, and not future land use approvals, will be the deciding factor on whether the store is developed. If so, your diligence in helping flesh that out is why we elected you to the council.

Cyclorado said...

I'm responding to this post and the previous posts on this subject.

I was swayed a little by the pamphlet sent by Lowes in the mail. I think there are far worse things that could happen on that end of town, but I still think it should remain open or light mixed use, like low density res and smaller commercial.
I don't care for them explaining how much open space we will be able to buy with the tax dollars generated there, when they will clearly be dividing any possible large contiguous open space on the eastern flank. The map that the city put on the web site shows only a small sliver of open space on this section of highway 7. The IGA land to the north is not permanent open space and still needs to be purchased into permanent open space. Then again... this vote has nothing to do with open space, does it?

The tax revenues should be on the increase soon, due to the other developments of the last few years(Ace, King Soopes, Albertsons,Walmart,Target) How much in new tax dollars will we need? I can get to 5+ lumber/hardware stores within a 15 minute drive from anywhere in Lafayette. It would sure be nice to cut 15-20 minutes off my trip, but is that really important? sure Lowes is very different from Target, but it's not all that differnt from the other stores in neighboring towns.

Chris Cameron said...

I have no reason to believe that Lowe's will ask for an EDA, nor that they will get it if they do ask.

dreamer-believer said...

At least Cyclorado has not bought into the lie about Lowe's building on or near the wetland area. Both the for and against annexation campaigns have maps on their websites that show that the Lowe's store would be built far from the wetlands.

Kerry's silence and Chris Cameron's recent post make me think the economic development tax rebate issue is nothing more than an anti-annexation campaign scare tactic that has no legs. Should we start a tally?

Cy, if the annexation fails and Lafayette preserved the land where Lowe's might build, what land should Lafayette remove from the list of properties they would like to secure as open space? At a reported $4,200,000 for the 32 acres, you are going to need to come up with significant acreage to be removed from the city's open space plan.

One more thing that is not being talked about is Lafayette's budget problems and service cutbacks. The library will not be open on Sundays this summer for example. The newspaper this week reported that the city streets are in bad shape and there is no money to fix them. The new WalMart is not going to fix this problem because the council gave them a huge tax kickback. If Target builds a store in Lafayette they have a huge kickback agreement too.

Those deals are done. The council can say no to an EDA with Lowe's. There I agree that enough is enough.

Alex Schatz said...

Thanks for posting, Cyclorado, I really appreciate your opinion.

To clarify my earlier posts, I do believe Issue A is about open space. It is also about City revenues, the City's comprehensive plan, and the realities of what is happening along Highway 7. But it is about open space in several related ways:

(1) As a condition of annexation, open space within the 32 acres will be dedicated to the City in a location and amount that covers all land identified in any open space plan for this vicinity.

(2) Open space plans include other planned purchases in this area and around the City, which purchases depend on projected growth in City sales taxes. Sales tax projections, in turn, are based on the City's comp plan land use map. As I've indicated before, we can't throttle sales taxes and expect to even keep up with land already identified for open space purchase. Whether we like it or not, and however the vote on Waneka's land turns out, the sales tax picture for the future inevitably includes some failures. It's fairly well established, for example, that the future of significant City sales tax producers Ace Hardware and Albertson's may already not be so rosy. This is why maintenance of the City's revenue structure requires a big picture view - I agree with you Cyclorado - but it also requires not putting all your eggs in one basket, which is where we'll be headed if we start to turn the City's commercial land plan on its head. I think it's very dubious that every bit of the commercial development identified in the City's comp plan for this area can be implemented in the lowest intensity form and be as productive for the City as intended or needed. I also doubt the market is there to produce that type of development - the City has not had great success with attracting mixed use in similarly designated areas on the comp plan - so that definitely isn't a revenue stream to count on now and maybe not ever. Make no mistake, a no vote is a vote to pass up a significant amount of open space revenue.

(3) A no vote appeals to the belief that the 32 acres can be secured as open space. For reasons above, I fear that even the wetlands, ridgeline, and rural preservation zones already identified on open space plans will be placed in jeopardy by a no vote. If someone is earnestly concerned about fragmentation of the eastern flank, I think they must confront the fact that serious effort has already been put into looking at the hundreds of acres between existing Lafayette and the boom to the east. Even with a necessary dose of fiscal reality built into the current open space plans for the eastern flank, preserving all the moderate to high open space value land east of Lafayette, as identified on plans, still involves a little bit of wishful thinking and a lot of fiscal discipline. There is no public money current planned or available for open space purchase of the 32 acres, and I'm begging someone to show me a realistic way to acquire the land otherwise. There's also the notion that environmental values preclude responsible development on the 32 acres, but that premise is based on data that doesn’t exist and, at best, inferences about open space value that would throw the entire acquisition plan into disarray and make many, many undeveloped pieces of agricultural land susceptible to unsubstantiated claims of high open space value, basically transforming open space acquisition from a rational process into a political football. For my part, I want to see the wetlands preserved, a continuous buffer that starts at the Broomfield line, and key links along Coal Creek and in the other areas already noted on City plans. I would like to see a lot of open space out there, in other words, and I want to do my best to make sure it happens.

As to the land use question in general, in my view, the alternative to annexing now and putting in a lucrative sales tax producer is to eventually entertain another annexation vote related to another development plan. For people who don't like big boxes, that probably wouldn't be another big box, but there is, in fact, nothing about the present vote that would preclude that. And, as I've noted above, it probably wouldn't be a panacea of mixed use either. Finally, let's keep in mind that opposition rhetoric doesn't stop at just objecting to big boxes. Would a housing development come out any better on a future vote?

In my view, any future vote on annexation will have similar associated land use impacts, possibly with the exception of the visual profile of the building. Though I don’t personally believe it, I suppose a landscape dotted with homes just like up the hill in Broomfield might be more appealing to one's sense of aesthetics. Housing may or may not be what comes down the pike should the present annexation vote fail. But it's clear to me that counting on open space as an option is so risky, so unlikely given any honest assessment of financial and environmental information that I've seen, it's much better to consider what development alternatives the comprehensive plan would allow. Next up for your consideration today, sub-regional strip commercial...

The simple truth is that a no vote may only forestall development and at the same time ensure that, whatever that alternative plan is, it will be less of a financial benefit to the City. As I’ve said all along, I think consequences, good and bad, are inescapable with either a yes or a no vote. What pains me very much is watching open space get tossed around as an issue with so little voice being given to the basic facts and what will happen to open space with a vote either way. I agree strongly with Dan that there is a common space perception that a no vote is a vote for open space, and I want to do my best to communicate why I think a protest vote on development will not have the intended effect on open space.

Based on much thought, I’m almost certain that the 32 acres up for vote will be difficult to impossible to integrate into the open space inventory. I also think that coming up with an idealized land use plan for the area will require some serious thinking about what the City can do, positively, to make it happen. I’m also of the opinion that a no vote will have very little to do with whether that happens or not.

KERRY BENSMAN said...

Alex, thanks for the info. However, I am told there is a petitioning process for the voters to enact or rescind any ordinance. Now whether that would have happened here is anyone's guess.

One of the interesting unintended consequences of this special election process is that there is no way to determine the intent of the buyer of the land. The contract between Waneka and Lowe's is not public. Normally these contracts are an option to purchase the land and have specific conditions in them. Also if the annexation is approved, there is still the planning process that needs to be followed.

As to will Lowe's ask for an EDA, that remains open. As to how the council will respond if they do, there are seven council members and only four are needed to approve an EDA. Both Wal-mart and Target requested an EDA as did King Soopers, the Cheese Importers, ACE, Vitamin Cottage, Albertsons, etc. WM bought the land only after theirs was approved and Target/DESCO have yet to purchase their land. We don't know if the purchase of the Waneka land is conditional on an approved EDA.

Now proponents of the annexation naturally don't want the spectre of an EDA to become an issue. So the answer to question one is that we don't know. If the annexation is approved, it will take some 18 months to two years for the store to open. It will be a messy construction site for a year. If Lowe's gets an EDA, depending on the terms, it could take another four to seven years before the city possibly realizes the sales tax revenue proponents are highlighting.

Wal-Mart is scheduled to open in August, 30 months after they proposed an EDA. That EDA runs 42 months from the opening. That is 6 years. Target runs longer.

Yes, it is easy to simplify all this. But it is extremely complex and the statements being made as to how great a Lowe's store would be for Lafayette don't account for the complexity and are definitely misleading.

Alex Schatz said...

Kerry, do I see a preamble here to actually talking about how you justify a no vote?

Just for the record, I am still totally unclear on what the "petitioning process" you mention has to do with your justification for voting to approve the annexation, or how it explains now coming out as an apparent opponent of the annexation. The tape of the Council meeting you missed, which you recently reviewed, contains some of the most explicit and concise direction I've ever heard from the City Administrator and City Attorney. That included the specific option presented to the Council of denying the annexation, period, that night. Because the ordinance was not denied that night, you had the option to vote no when the annexation came up for second reading. Not one of your present concerns was brought up in that proceeding, and you voted to approve the ordinances on both annexation and zoning, subject to the vote.

Perhaps you had faith in the future planning process, as you mention. It is of course very true that the annexation and zoning status of the parcel, if approved, do not put the store on the ground. That is, in fact, the proper process in which to examine many of the concerns that you bring up in your questions. There are answers to all those questions, but without further detail on why you think those are urgent issues for the current election, I have to believe that you do understand that the City's policy on annexation is and should be largely driven by factors you have not referenced in any discussion to date.

I have certainly never known a City to annex or decline annexation on the simple basis of who owns the land. Chuck and Lois Waneka own the 32 acres subject to vote, and Lowe's would like to buy it. How would disclosure of the contract between those parties provide any relevant detail for the voter?

And, honestly, the spectre of an economic development agreement is not particularly important to me as a voter. I do believe attempting to speculate about an EDA talk provides a means to generate complexity where there is none. I assume the council would examine any proposal and would reject anything approaching the occasionally gratuitous level of incentives that have been approved with the assistance of your recent votes.

Obviously, the economic productivity of any future land use may be forecast with only so much precision. You have doubts about the sales tax picture being cited by proponents, and I'll grant that you are entitled to some skepticism (though I do not personally concur that there is really much doubt beyond the usual margins for any economic forecast). Legitimate concerns or not about revenue projections, I fail to see the real concern that would cause one to vote against the annexation.

A less than top-tier sales tax producer could be the developer in waiting on this parcel, and there are still plenty of reasons why the City would have to seriously consider the annexation. Not the least of which is the City comprehensive plan. The 32 acres up for vote is within the urban growth boundary and designated for development. How does that justify a no vote? I'm sincerely interested in how you incorporate or discount the policies of the City's basic land use plan.

Anonymous said...

Misleading?

Look at the most outrageous thing people have been lead to believe in this campaign. The one about Lowe's is going to replace wetlands with concrete.

I'll take a couple pennies wrong versus that.

Cyclorado said...

I didn't expect that good of a response, but somebody has to make a point for open space and a defeat of annexation at this time. Just look at the map. If this development goes in, then there will be less reason (probably no reason) to put aside the land to the west, adjacent to Lafayette's current edge. This means significantly less open space between Broomfield and Lafayette, than if the development was concentrated on the West side of 120th to town. Then the land on the east could be mixed, res, or commercial and not take up as much space and provide a nicer transition into the wetland area and Coal creek. I know this is a strange way of making a planning decision, but I don't think the largest structure out there should be at the end of town.

I completely agree that there is no money for the purchase of that land as open space. Way higher priorities in that same area already exist. I'm not buying the fact that a Lowes will really get us more open space via tax dollars, because we already are getting over run with developments on every border of Lafayette. Our time is limited for future open space purchase, and I don't think Lowes will pay off before it is needed.

I see this as a stall and a chance to rethink how that area will look. Has the city had any say in this? I feel more like the aity is being told that this how it will be. I don't see this fitting a great vision for the city.

Dream- I wasn't trying to make a point for purchasing this property as open space. I know how the equation works. Every purchased property removes another potential purchase. It does affect what the open space will look like out there, and I do have issue with that.

I would like to see a rethinking of this area. I don't think the comp plan or this proposal work. The Waneka's have 3 corners of that intersection to develop. I'm sure we can come up with a great compromise, that won't hurt the Wanekas and provide something special on our eastern flank.

Enough said. I'm tired of this issue, and we still have 1 month and a whole lot of publicity campaigns to go.

Alex Schatz said...

I appreciate those thoughts once again, Cyclorado. You have my support for sub-area planning. Take that request to City Hall, please.

I’m also glad you agree that there is no pie in the sky for open space. If only that would come along, a no-strings-attached benefactor who could afford to fund the acquisition of, say, $6 million (at least) in land on the eastern flank that hasn’t been identified on open space plans already. Open space is a viable land use, but in balance, and in an amount that is realistically feasible, and in areas that benefit the most from a preservation status.

The puzzle is this: Putting a big box closer to Lafayette's existing edge isn't going to be much more popular. Probably much less, as you might imagine.

But then, Lowe's is an acceptable land use if properly planned (and it is truly in the top tier for revenues to the City). Even if we stopped, even if we took a time-out to improve planning documents for the City, it's not clear that Lowe's should pack up and head for Erie. Lowe's could jump to more hospitable waters in Erie or Broomfield with no warning.

The thing one needs to import from the earlier part of the long set of prior comments is that open space quantities can commercial land quantities are set in balance according to current plans. The plans call for both commercial and open space on the Waneka land.

There are three developable, annexable corners on the Waneka property. The southwest is theoretically the subject of a fundraising campaign to prevent its development. The northwest is a triangular field adjacent to the future Great Park. The southeast is the only corner that is not adjacent to existing development.

I believe there is a good chance that the optimal location for a Lowe's, if you come to a conclusion that a home improvement center is a good way to power the commercial land base (it probably is), is at the southeast corner of 119th and Baseline. The property is also well inside the Lafayette Urban Growth Boundary, designated for commercial and the open space the City is getting at no cost. This is an important precedent, and a no vote could put the City at direct odds with the Wanekas, not only in rejecting this proposal but in approaching all future transactions with the City or the friendly neighbors. I understand people who have reservations about big boxes, but there are serious consequences to turning the opportunity down.

Regional commercial development at the southeast corner of 119th and Baseline could be buffered on all side with transitional land uses. Buffered to wetlands on the east, buffered to neighborhoods on the west, and to the south adjacent to a large swath of open space running between Old Town Pond and the wetlands along Baseline (several acres to be dedicated with voter approval of Ordinance 46). If we really looked at what is going on already in the eastern flank and what we want to accomplish as a City, I believe the annexation of land within the UGB and most intense at the southeast corner of 119th and Baseline is consistent with the comprehensive plan we have today, and goes a step further to help us create a working vision of what could be built and preserved in the eastern flank. If one comprehends that the best case scenario is sub-area planning, one should also comprehend that the outcome of that process could well be to accommodate a Lowe's somewhere on the eastern fringe.

And I am tired of this topic too. Voters can take both sides of Issue A seriously, if they can sort out the facts. Unfortunately, Lafayette needs to make a decision. If people want the best Lafayette, one with both open space and commercial, small town living and a vibrant economy, there must be more going on than reactionary politics.

Voting yes is worth considering. I just don't think we're going to come out of a no vote in the type of harmony necessary to achieve loftier goals. On the other hand, an attentive public can get good things out of a plan that successfully merges commercial and open space.

Cyclorado said...

A special thanks to councilors Cameron and Cutler for having someone phone me to let me know how much you would like my money. I do shop Lafayette as much as possible. Can someone explain to me again how we don't have enough tax revenue, when we have 5 or more new stores already built or in the process? Maybe some patience is in order? And furthermore, it's my understanding that tax revenue from Walmart will go to open space, and not much else. I am unclear on how that works, but that's what I heard. I guess I'm not quite over this yet...

Cyclorado said...

Thanks Alex- I still think it would fit best on the south west side, since this keeps development with what is already developed. I do understand the desire to have Old Town Pond kept as a quaint place for the Old Town folks, but this can be accomplished by proper planning also. There is also the old rail corridor which is key to future trail connections.

I am still siding with a No vote, because my gut feeling is that this doesn't fit with what I would like see happen there. However, thanks to the thoughtful comments I've recieved, I trust that any development will be well thought out.

Isn't it funny how all of the Yes and No signs are popping up next to each other? I feel bad for those who are swayed by 3 words on the roadside. It's going to be a difficult choice.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if the annexation fails Chuck Waneka would think about moving the store to the south west section of his land so it would be right next to development.

KERRY BENSMAN said...

Tomorrow in the Lafayette News there may be some information of interest to all. I was contacted by LN to comment on a letter submitted by the Mayor of Erie. LN may publish it in its entirety. Some of it was quite a revelation to me. The letter addresses the annexation and Highway 7 by-pass.

I find it bothersome that the proponents are touting a $1M revenue stream and Dan now says he doesn't believe the number but some revenue is better than none. That is their key selling point. If one doesn't believe it, how credible are they?

The "leakage" issue touted by the proponents was caused by the city's plea to the Beauprezs' back in 1990 or so to annex the Indian Peaks land into Lafayette and not Louisville. If annexed into Louisville, there would have been no leakage to Lafayette, would there? But as the west side of 287 developed, the retail in Lafayette lagged way behind. Even Albertaons moved to 287 to attract west side customers and non-residents commuting on 287. Doesn't anyone seriously think a Lowes on the eastern edge of town will attract shoppers way on the west via Baseline Road?

As for existing Economic Development Agreements, they have been granted for development on 287 and So. Boulder Road, not Highway 7. The Wal-Mart one which I opposed I contend will have a major negative impact on the city for 2007 and 2008. This one was negotiated without consulting the council and was sprung on us with 3 business days notice. Of all the EDAs, it is the worst one. The irony is that since the opening of the new WM was delayed a year, the financial impact and the traffic impact on Baseline won't happen until late 2007. I wonder what voters would think if WM had opened in late 2006.

At the last council meeting, we approved the new council handbook. One key element in it was that no council member would introduce a resolution without disclosing it prior to that night so it could studied by the staff and legal. Yet two hours later, the council against my objection voted on a resolution introduced that night recommending a Vis-it-ability ordinance. If it moves ahead, the city will either get sued by builders in town or it will kill current residential development, causing a financial crisis.

I guess I am out of step in that I don't consider the comp plan to be cast in concrete, no pun intended. I attended the public meetings and what resulted in the current plan is more the result of input from consultants and city hall than the public. And it is a plan by the way which can be changed.

The road repair problem stems back a number of years, most recently 2001. Of the $11M surplus sitting in the General Fund, only $2.5M was committed to repairs over 5 years. $5M was allocated to economic development and is now tied up in ACE, Cheese Importers, and the Old Albertson's building. In 2006, the city admin did not put the issue on the table. Yet proceeded with a major pay raise. Hmmm....The city's reserve plan ordinance is also out of date and contributing to the financial issue. But one only has to look to Louisville to see that one cannot "big box" their way to financial stability.

Any way, the challenge is always to try to find out what we aren't being told, what information is being withheld. It happens more than you think. The facts, ma'am, nothing but the facts, please.

dreamer-believer said...

I'm burned out on this topic. I still plan on voting yes, but am tired of this blog thread. What else is happening in town?