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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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Open Space Zones In Superior Raise the Poop Debate

At a work session last night the Superior Trustees considered an Ordinance amending the Superior Municipal Code to add a "Natural Open Space Zone District". This was a first reading and people have a few questions - like how the District may be comprised of both public and private lands, and hence uses and improvements would be subject to permitting and other regulations. It's this latter part on private lands that moves property from intended use in the Comp Plan to de facto open space without buying it that is raising concerns. Staff has said the first concept only includes town and COunty open space, but the authority would be granted to extend/approve zones, as I understand it.

Interestingly, to keep tabs on the new District the Board considered an ordinance approving a Parks and Trail Patrol Ranger who will have the ability to issue administrative citations. Matt Magley with the Town has said the need for such a position is due to resident concerns regarding off leash animals in parks and on trails and health and safety issues that it presents. Funds budgeted at $20,000 annually for pet waste pick up would be used to pay an hourly wage of approximately $9-$15 per hour for this Ranger.

The ranger addition seems to be a natural aspect of a growing open space program. However the focus on poop pickup and citations (and the attendant education") has a few residents questioning if that's the way to spend $20k. The debate is around the practical level of enforcement possible vs just adding trash cans and counting on people to do the right thing.

People letting their dogs take a dump and not picking it up are not concerned that they may get a ticket. By the time you are an adult you've either realized you have a responsibility to do that, or you don't care. Ticket threats don't matter - I say this as someone who worked for 5 years for the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Dept. walking the trails enforcing leash laws, checking fishing licenses, etc. Adults know- and make a choice. It works better having other adults publicly shame them into behaving right - yelling "Oh, I have an extra bag if you need one since your dog is going the bathroom on the trail!" is infinitely more effective and satisfying.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Shop Local Launches In Longmont

The Longmont Small Business Association is kicking off a buy local campaign. The usual benefits are trumpeted - local businesses keep their dollars in town and variations on that theme. I support the concept and feel some group in town should get out that message, but it misses the positive impacts of larger employers in town, the obvious desire by the marketplace for the consistency/pricing/offerings of franchises and chains, and the fact that mom& pops rarely make the huge donations to local charities that a national corporation does.

What prompted me to comment on this was my difficulty finding any studies supporting the veracity of such efforts. It makes sense at first glance - and has a feel good message to boot - to champion locally owned businesses. It just appears any long-range analysis of the premise's impact on a community's economic vitality is lacking.

I shop local when I get better service, or very consciously to avoid patronizing certain stores for philosophical reasons. My choices feel good to me, but I don't know if in aggregate they create a better economy for my town. Plus if my town doesn't have what I need, I go next door. Until we have $15/gallon gas, that will always happen.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lovin' The IGAs

So the growth issue is being debated within the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) and today's Camera describes four counties — Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson and Adams — are pushing to expand the growth boundary.

In Boulder County the various Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs) currently in place limit the growth boundaries and annexation efforts of neighboring communities. This allows each community to drop the worry about losing an annexation battle and instead they can focus on who they can attract and incent to develop within their boundaries. They can put some sort of scope onto their Comprehensive Plans and argue ofer the final design they want their town to look like.

The most interesting thing about the IGAs is the way they springboard your brain into the not-so-distant future to imagine each community at build-out. Between now and then, each community needs to shore up long-term financing options for town services. That's why absolutist anti-growth sentiments are flawed. A well funded open space program, for example, needs funding sources. I don't think DRCOG can legally deny any county's expansion of self-imposed boundaries, and for readers of this blog, know that Weld County isn't a member of DRCOG - they have their own agendas out east of EastBoCo.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Where Have All The Good Times Gone....?

The Van Halen version of that song popped in my head as I read Councilor Bensman's question about the drop off in blog banter. There is still a good amount of conversation with me behind the scenes, however the verbal "mosh pit" (as one reader has described it) has taken its toll on several readers.

I like the metaphor and hope after people who stepped out catch their breath they'll feel energized to return. I like having solid, passionate voices interested in vetting themselves. At the very least, blogging is an exercise in strengthening your own thoughts. When you slow down (relatively speaking) and write out and then re-read your thoughts, you get a chance to second-guess yourself and also become more precise in what you're trying to say. Using the blog as a tool for personal skill building re: your own thought process is worthwhile.

Blogs are open slates in the wild wild west - frontier justice, anonymous vigilantes; a 24/7 free-for-all on ideas and opinions. Not everyone is comfortable riding into the frontier...thanks to those of you who've stayed.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

In The Wake Of WalMart

WalMart declined the only bid they received on their soon-to-be vacant property on South Boulder Road in Lafayette. This does not bode well for the hope of redevelopment on that corner.

Usually I'll have an opinion on this but I'm stumped as to where this all leads. Having a vast empty commercial box stretch (with the empty McDonalds off all things mirroring this to the south) will make Lafayette look like its rotting out from the core. A blight study can't be far off....

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

REALLY Mixed Use - What To Do?

So Longmont's City Council has decided they need more time before they approve the massive LifeBridge Church's annexation. Should a church be the main player behind a huge development including housing and retail? More pointedly, should they be tax-exempt in their activities? Isn't their asking the question a slap to the community? This isn't a blurred line, its a blatant distinction that this is a capitalist venture and should be treated and regulated as such. That the church is playing games with their definition and status re: taxes, indeed their true identity, is plain awful. Be a church, or be a developer. Don't be both.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Not Doing Much To Impress: Lafayette PD

Who said it:

Lafayette’s police chief should require his police force to be retrained to use its recording equipment. The training should cover fundamentals like “Don’t turn off your in-car videocamera during a chase” and “Record interviews with suspects in murder investigations.”
The final point in a pointed dressing down of the Lafayette Police Department in the Times Call today.

Does this kind of public admonition really impact police training and behavior? Are sarcastic and skeptical comments from the papers and blogs like this incorporated into any sort of self-evaluation? Or is there really such an us-against-them mentality in police departments in general that any criticism is waved off, when it is even recognized in the first place?

Affordable Housing - Only New Construction Need Apply

I can't help it - those Eagle Place condos on South Boulder Road still make me shake my head with confusion. Who chose those colors? Then over the weekend it struck my how the article in last week's Lafayette News about the family that will be evicted because they live in a non-conforming home - a typical designation in zoning terms. A place that has been used off and on as a residential rental, (or forever, depending on who knows what they're talking about) is going to be removed from rental stock in town while we build more elsewhere.

If affordable housing is truly a priority, this decision to boot them out should be reversed. If the property owner perceives there to be enough reason to develop the property as commercial, he'll do so. To let it lay fallow when someone is willing to pay to live there is bureaucratic nonsense.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Health Care Policy - Changes On the Horizon?

Lots to ponder with this topic...

Yesterday I attended about an hour of a presentation at the Lafayette Public Library on potential changes to Colorado's state laws re: health care policy. Last year the state legislature created a blue ribbon panel on health care. They solicited conceptual proposals and filtered down to four for detailed analysis. The meeting yesterday gave an overview of this process and was meant to be a forum to solicit comments and concerns.

Senator Brandon Shaffer and a couple members of the 208 Commission, as the panel is also called, heard from a range of people. I was intrigued at the points that were raised, and felt sympathy for the folks who have messed up scenarios regarding their specialized needs and their struggles to get proper treatment. The saying "All that matters is your health.." kept popping into my mind.

The key issues I heard include:
  • The distinction between access and coverage
  • How coverage should be funded (by whom, really)
  • Whether health care should be tied to employment (making employers the vehicle instead of the individual)
  • The impact of illegal immigrants on the system
  • Getting the profit motive out of health care
The big question - which the 208 panel reps said was ultimately where this was headed - is whether health care is a right or a privilege. Sen. Shaffer nuanced this black/white analysis by asking "what do people expect for coverage? call it what you want, but that's what we need to aim to provide. With clear expectations, you can start talking about the coverage/access/how to fund issues." (I'm paraphrasing.)

Having this philosophical argument is crucial. I'm turning over in my head the notion of health care as a "right". If I think of the right to free speech or similar concepts, these do not involve a financial impact. This is decision of governing that allows for certain behavior without some kind of suppression. If I think of the right to a speedy trial or other more mechanical rights, to me these seem to involve a policy decision that does involve costs we presume are part of our overall justice system, and as such the machinery we set up should cost the same, per person involved, once it it set up.

But health care as a right presumes that every last medical option and indeed even experimental options should be provided to every person whether they are ill from an accident, genetic bad luck or extremely poor personal lifestyle choices. This philosophical debate will have to address the notion that some illnesses are simply too far out on the limb for society as a whole to be responsible for treating. I don't know where that line is drawn, and what an awful place to be right outside it. But how else, truly, can it be as public policy? And why should anyone assume society will break the bank to take care of them? It's a great ideal, but can it really work that way on a grand scale - that everybody's health problems are treated to the maximum technology available? This elephant in the room is what Sen. Shaffer and his colleagues must tackle. A daunting task.

Yesterday I heard the notion of a two-tiered system, that would provide some kind of minimal blanket coverage for everyone, and then other procedures would be covered by some other kind of ability to pay. I think pragmatically speaking public policy has to lean that way. I can't see how every person's illness can be covered by everyone who isn't ill paying in. How is that sustainable? (These FAQ's address some of my questions.)

And a key side note - where does an emphasis on wellness come in? The legislature just changed the law in Colorado that allowed insurance companies to provide premium discounts to healthier (fewer claims) groups, as this was deemed discriminatory against the groups with ill people, who could be charged up to 10% more. If you can't charge the people who are actually sick more, and you can't give those people staying healthy a break, how can this work? The structural generosity of coverage for everyone has to be tempered with some kind of incentive and benefit if you stay healthy. Whether it's good luck, genetics or proactive behavior, if you're healthy, you're healthy. Such healthy people will get pretty bitter about paying for the unemployed overweight chain-smoker's third bypass operation.

I sincerely hope the legislature will answer the right/privilege question and draw up clear expectations (and limitations) for the coverage everyone deserves/will get in terms of society paying for it. Once we know the "what" we're paying for, then can we argue about how to pay for it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Longmont "Needs" A Natural Grocer?

The Twin Peaks Mall haas been purchased by Panattoni Development Corp and the planned renovations by previous owner CBL to make a 29th-Street-type outdoor mall are off the table. However the new owners do like the general concept, apparently. The comment that "Longmont needs a natural grocer" in the Times Call presumes much. If the need is so strong, one would have been there by now. More from the Boulder County Business Report on this too.

Besides, people can zip south down Hwy 287 from Longmont to the new Super WalMart and get organics in a couple weeks anyway. And there's only about four stoplights to manage on the whole stretch. Plus the increased flow will be certain to help fill the state patrol's coffers with speeding tickets. Another side benefit of economic development!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Which Is Worse: Incompetence or Manipulation?

When you watch decisions manifest from officials and politicians, and their outcomes are less than optimal, never mind positive, you ask why things screwed up. There's the benefit of the doubt that Murphy's Law kicked in, then there's the other two realms of possibility. That a screw-up happened because they didn't know what they were talking about (or actually doing) or they had their own agenda and manipulated circumstances to fit their needs. With the latter, they usually didn't expect the outcome to be so bad anyone would notice a poor outcome. (Although our federal level officials have shown they simply can deny the reality everyone else can see, so what's the problem?)

Lafayette's taser death report unsurprisingly found no fault on the part of the officer involved. Today the Camera reports that the video camera typically functioning in the police car "somehow turned off", according to the investigation.

When someone unarmed and on foot dies in a police chase, and protocols to film the action somehow didn't work, which way should the public sway: incompetence, manipulation, or Murphy's Law?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Heads Up From The County - The Camera Was Wrong This Morning

From Boulder County staff:

In this morning’s Daily Camera there was a story indicating that the staff will be presenting a new version of the TDR proposal to the Planning Commission Wednesday, July 18. I just want to clarify that the purpose of this Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting is not to move ahead on any land use proposals currently being considered concerning house sizes and an expansion of the county’s transfer of development rights program. This Wednesday’s meeting is a regularly-scheduled monthly meeting of the Planning Commission where they’re going to receive a brief update from land use staff on the direction given by the Board of County Commissioners at the public hearing last Tuesday, July 10.

Contrary to what was stated in today’s Daily Camera article, the Planning Commission is not going to take public testimony or take action on any revised land use proposal. The Planning Commission meeting will be held at 5:00 p.m. this Wednesday in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room at the County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl Street. The public is invited to come hear the recap from last Tuesday’s public hearing before the Board of County Commissioners, but the Planning Commission will not be taking any public testimony nor are they considering any new version of the concept draft.

Michelle Krezek

If you have any questions about this Wednesday’s meeting, please feel free to contact me at either mkrezek@co.boulder.co.us or 720.564.2623.

Louisville Still Alluring

Louisville ranks No. 3 on the latest list of America's best places to live by CNNMoney.com. Louisville boasts "the feel of a small frontier town" as well as a modern economic base, they say.

That should come as great news to the community's Revitalization Commission.

What do the other communities "have the feel" of? I'd love your thoughts.

Human Services Overview

Unlike meddling in private property rights, a valuable area of County government efforts will be outlined in two public meetings this week regarding the Human Services Strategic Plan. The public is being asked for feedback on the goals within six key areas:

· Promoting self-sufficiency and stability for Boulder County’s residents
· Improving educational opportunities
· Increasing advocacy for human services
· Increasing inclusivity in service delivery and decision-making
· Creating a coordinated system for human service delivery
· Creating a coordinated system of funding

The meetings happen in Longmont: 7-8:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 18, City of Longmont Senior Services, 910 Longs Peak Ave. and in Lafayette: 7-8:30 p.m., Thursday, July 19, City of Lafayette Public Library, 775 W. Baseline Rd.

County Size Limits - Another Meeting

Wednesday the County Planning Commission holds a meeting about the proposed restrictions on home sizes. As we've discussed, you can buy your way out of the limit, which is disingenuous but avoids the potential of a constitutional property rights battle in court. The County can mandate energy efficiency requirements; I support that.

But the premise is still flawed- the new rule delineates mountain and plains homes and there are different size thresholds for each. How that distinction is made will be of course debated; sq footage relative to lot size would be more defensible.

This hanging-on of a sq footage limit because it seems "too big" is myopic and arrogant. A subjective opinion driven by a "We must do something" mindset is not good government. What is the problem we're trying to solve? If you believe energy consumption to be the problem, the green building regs are the right route. But if you believe you "know too big when I see it", then you'll like this arbitrary size limit idea. That's not defensible.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rudy: "Freedom is about Authority"

"We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again...as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority.. What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority.." Yikes! This man wants to be president?!

read more | digg story

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Olbermann: Bush, Cheney Should Resign

Wow. Calling the president on his BS.

MMMM...Beer... And Liquor Laws

This is all very interesting. Kerry was correct about the state’s authority on tastings (silly me I deferred to the newspaper’s information). In 2004 the Colorado General Assembly gave municipalities permission to allow tastings of no more than 1 ounce of beer or wine or 0.5 ounce of distilled liquor. It also caps the number of days of the year that tastings can be offered at 104. (This was all part of legislation –HB 1021 - also allowing you to take home the rest of a wine bottle from dinner, and lowered the BAC level for DUI to .08 – that kept Colorado from losing $50 million in federal highway funds.)

Some of the stipulations on the local control of tastings: Tastings are limited to a maximum of 5 hours in one day and hours need not be consecutive. Tastings may only occur up to four days per week, Monday through Saturday. Tastings may not be conducted earlier than 11 a.m. nor later than 7 p.m.

In all cases, the municipality can make more restrictive parameters.

The main arguments I’ve found – i.e. just last month Castle Rock’s Town Council considered the issue – is that people could drive from tasting to tasting getting wasted for free. Making alcohol available so easily would threaten the safety of our highways. (Right behind teenagers on cell phones.)

I love when the conservatives in society take a page from the liberal political argument playbook: “If just one life could be saved, isn’t it worth it?” Well, no. The percentage of people who would actually participate in the worst case scenario brainstorm of puritanical, paranoid authority freaks is not enough to of a reason to restrict an otherwise reasonable business practice. The nannyism of this mentality is what conservatives usually resent about liberals.

The scope afforded by HB 1021 above is reasonable; practically speaking I can certainly live with it. But I enjoy arguing principals here on the blog, and this is another area where the government legislated with a presumption of protecting us from ourselves. I resent that mentality from political leadership.

Friday, July 13, 2007

More Sad Trending For EastBoCo Retail

The Denver Post reports on the north metro area's decline in retail developments as home sales sag. They even include Lafayette as somehow part of the US 36 corridor.

I like this quote: "Retail ground that has been under contract or contemplated for retail development is not going to happen for three to five years," said David Larson, a broker with Legend Retail Group. "The saying is 'retail follows rooftops.' But rooftops alone don't go shopping. You need people."

Bad news for Countryside Village: "With new shopping centers totaling more than 4.8 million square feet under construction, vacancies - particularly in older properties - are likely to increase. "

Bummer, man.

Trains - Diesel Or Electric?

Residents Push For Electric Trains says the Times Call.

“In the long run, I think electric will be cheaper,” said John Johnson, a model railroader from Longmont, echoing the sentiments of many of the 40 people at the Thursday night presentation.
What's with the model railroader reference? If a semi-truck driver thought diesel would be a better choice, would you list his occupation?

If you believe the concept of Peak Oil, which makes Global Warming look like a far-off nuisance, diesel trains have no chance of being affordable.


Longmont City Council approved alcohol tastings at liquor stores, up to 26 times per year, at their meeting earlier this week. Local ordinances control the frequency of tastings, Longmont licensees said they needed this to compete with neighboring communities' tastings. I like that Mayor Julia Pirnack argued for once-a-week, even though she was unsuccessful.

Is a limit on how many tastings you can offer necessary? The state leaves it up to each town. The residual puritanism that drives such a decision is disgusting. Whatever problem the Council is worried about curtailing is a function of individual behavior at a given tasting, not the frequency of tastings. And there is a laundry list of laws you can violate with subsequent negative behavior. If a business wants to make a legal product available for sampling each day they should be allowed to do so. Blue laws suck.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What's A Little Traffic Among Friends?

Knowing the bargains are right around the corner, and that the sales tax is funding our small town quality of life, only those non-residents passing through Lafayette to points east and west should care about the impending traffic snarls on and Baseline Rd. WalMart's impending opening in August has raised the concerns about traffic impacts - but its unlikely to hold up their opening.

According to the Camera, WalMart has to have made certain road improvements; in this case the focus is on a turn lane and lights on Aspen Ridge on the north side of Baseline Rd, which will act as the back entrance to the SuperCenter and a likely alternative for delivery trucks.

Councilor Frank Phillips is quoted talking about considering options for withholding the certificate of occupancy until the road improvements are finished. But City Administrator Gary Klaphake says it is not Council's call.

The leeway WalMart is seeking is a loophole (see #2 below) in the development agreement that says:
"The City will not issue certificates of occupancy for the building improvements to be placed upon the Property unless (1) the Public Improvements as required for each lot or the particular phase upon which building improvements have been constructed are substantially completed, except for minor punch list items, and placed in service, or (2) the progress, in the sole opinion of the City, on the Public Improvements required for the Property or building is satisfactory to the City, and the Owner is proceeding therewith in good faith and in accordance with an acceptable time schedule, as approved by the City, and all terms of this Agreement have been otherwise faithfully complied with by the Owner in all material respects."

Oh well. Given the length of time to get lights just across Hwy 287 in front of the Library/King Soopers, people will be used to that by now. Where else do we need lights? Let's get that on the list.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Rise Of The Northeast - Your Two Cents

Erie residents in Weld County may be interested in the survey by Progressive 15, an organization that works on behalf of the economic interests of 15 counties in northeast Colorado. This region's growth will be decades in the making and challenge the "smart" growth and competitive standing of all of east BoCo.

On their site they have a link to a survey on the Northeast Colorado Regional Visioning Project. Weld County readers should chip in with their thoughts. If we think Broomfield is a monster, this is like godzilla. Not just because it is so big, but because it stomps around without a plan - County and municipal cooperation is nonexistent. This group is hoping to steer their godzilla a little bit more.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

FasTrack Cost Overuns One Of Many Concerns

Does a $100 million+ cost overrun mandate a "re-do" as one participant asked at yesterday's meeting on the Northwest Corridor rail line? The environmental impact analysis of the train running from Denver to Louisville, Boulder and on to Longmont brought out a big crowd with lots of complaints yesterday in Boulder; another meeting is Thursday in Longmont at the Xilinx Learning Center.

I think the interesting question is whether FasTracks should be planning on diesel or electric trains. I'll forgo the argument we'll all be using bikes by then (2015) or the idea we will have suffered some other catastrophic social calamity.

Remembering Commissioner Mayer

The Board of County Commissioners has declared Wednesday, July 11, 2007, a Day of Remembrance for Commissioner Tom Mayer. A memorial service and reception for Tom is planned for July 11 from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at the Boulder High School Auditorium. The public is invited to attend.

Longmont Going Green?

Tonight's Longmont City Council meeting includes a discussion on creating a Green Points program (Boulder's is in full swing). This would require residential building permits meet a point system for new homes, remodels or additions. Points are awarded for various efficiency designs and materials. Hit the point total your way, and you're all set. This kind of flexibility allows the builder to decide the best combination (and no blanket size restriction either - big County Commissioner meeting on that tomorrow night.)

Green Points design standards are useful because the efficiency benefits apply to every potential resident (assuming they don't just leave the windows open, toilets running, etc.). I compare this to the non-PC skepticism I have regarding the visitability concept discussed locally. That will be a different post.

Monday, July 09, 2007

When No News Equals Bad News

As if on cue, following the comments of this blog last week on the Countryside Village redevelopment we get an article in the Camera about how no one is interested in developing there. Frequent commenter Lafayette City Councilor Kerry Bensman is quoted as saying "My prognosis is that that thing is going to be dead for a long time."

The online article is followed by posts by the mysterious "Darth", who seems eerily familiar somehow... (it's not me, BTW). There is a stinging assessment: "The best thing Lafayette has going for it is its close proximity to Boulder, not its potential for big box development." Et tu, Darth? Where's the love for Lafayette's small town feel?

Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV's)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Neighborhood Electric Vehicles Have A Few Champions In Superior

To go along with the article today about Superior residents getting excited about Neighborhood Electric Vehicles.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Louisville Revitalization Commission To Be Challenged

The Louisville Revitalization Commission is going to be facing a public vote of confidence this November.

John Leary, a former Louisville Council member and Don Atwood, a member of the Louisville Cultural Council have championed a petition drive and submitted 900 signatures to the City Clerk this past week. They are fed up with the failure of the City Council to make the LRC more accountable to voters.

Usually redevelopment Boards such as this are presumed trustworthy based on the judgment of Councils who appoint the members. Many Louisville residents appear unwilling to leave the nearly $80 million in predicted funding the LRC would handle in the hands of this appointed body. Read the details at www.preservelouisville.org.

Is this type of demand paranoia? Is it about anti-development or strict oversight?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bonanza Drive Redux - This Time In Superior

The ol "smoky back room" discussions (to quote an earlier thread here) have resurged again, this time in Superior where Old Town residents have been angry to learn their presumed mellow neighborhood could actually be connected to new development. And all in violation of previous verbal agreements that such connections wouldn't be made.

Quotes from residents in the Superior Observer include "you’re cutting us off at the knees," and "the death of Old Town Superior.”

Like the resistance to a Bonanza Drive/Vista parkway connection in Erie, the reaction to an older neighborhood being connected to a newer neighborhood - in the same town - comes across as pretty, well, un-neighborly.

Growth happens.

(If you're lucky.)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Keep Asking Until You Get The Answer You Want

The Longmont City Council has approved a request by the Longmont Downtown Development Authority to send out an RFP regarding the LDDA's vision of a mixed use parking garage/retail/residential center on Kimbark street. This comes after about 2 years of analysis and research of options. Last year Phelps Development was hired by LDDA to draft final design options. Turns out Phelps sees a residential portion as a non-starter, and as such their involvement will likely fail to result in them being the lead developer on the project which will certainly involve public financing.

What remains to be seen is how many other developers will come to the table with a residential component. Much like Lafayette's RFP for Countryside Village, just because some citizens think something seems like the right thing to do doesn't mean the idea is economically feasible. In this case, LDDA is getting feedback they don't want to hear from Phelps. So they'll see if anyone else has the answer they want.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Birthday America!

In honor of our Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1776, I share an excerpt from an analysis of this most profound statement of self-governance that I believe should be recalled by leaders of today.

Some context to the act of defiance and creation of our country we celebrate today from the U.S. Department of State:

"The frontier society of the American colonies had fostered a greater sense of individual autonomy, a sense that government should not interfere in the daily lives of its citizens, and that the purpose of government is to secure and protect the liberty and property of its citizens...The pamphlets that began to appear in the colonies in the early 1760s attacked the growing power of Parliament and warned that such increased authority would undermine their individual liberties...the belief that government exists to preserve the rights of the people, and can be dissolved if it fails to do so, remains a prime article of faith for Americans."

Where I come from in my comments on my blog is a premise that government - meaning those smart enough, committed enough and with all due respect, arrogant enough (perhaps "confident" is the right word) to be elected - needs to be viewed with skepticism. This should not be a surprise to anyone with a sense of our history.

Thanks for being a part of this blog and sharing your skepticisms. I hope it is a source for worthwhile debate and ideas.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Lafayette Native The New Commissioner

Cindy Domenico, the Boulder County Assessor, will resign from that post to accept her nomination for County Commissioner from the County Democrats to replace Tom Mayer, who passed away June 22.

On July 10 she will have her first meeting and a big agenda item is the brilliant idea of plucking an arbitrary size out of the air and declaring all but those with enough money to buy their way out of the rule must limit home sizes to this new standard. I can't wait to hear her comments, as they may help bring the discussion back towards energy efficiency and away from arbitrary land use policies the current Commissioners have otherwise been good at avoiding.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Impact Fees - In Theory

My thoughts on a comment in the post below re: Erie's impact fees:

Alex - Don't presume my comments to be so personal. You asked, for the sake of argument, what's so wrong with making development pay its own way. So I'm responding. That concept to me is fraught with flawed premises. What may be described as taxpayer subsidies could also be a pragmatic give-and-take dynamic necessary to attract businesses that make a community more desirable. You have to give a little to get a little. Make it attractive and affordable for a business to locate and employ a few more residents. Have a few more dollars donated from said local company to a local charity, because they like the town. Take in a few more dollars in earmarked funds for open space. (This is in a small business realm, a la Jennifer McCallum's scenario, not Wal-Mart EDA scenarios. There you decide to give a lot and keep your fingers crossed.)

My problem with the "Make growth pay its own way" concept is the myopic viewpoint you must have to stand apart from a commercial development and point and say well, for the extreme privilege of doing business in our town, they must pay for their water connection, their street light, landscaping, etc.(whatever the fees are ostensibly meant to cover). In a bubble, where you are the only community where a business could locate, you could demand that such costs be borne by the developer. In said bubble, you have a cornered market- if they want to tap into your residents/visitors as a revenue source, they will pay whatever you charge right up to the tipping point of profitability, right?

But in reality, with other communities nearby offering similar customer and labor pools, it is spiteful and short-sighted for people to see such commercial growth fees as black and white. All things being equal, what does the community have to gain by the commercial development? You may lose the business to another community where the immediate, absolute cost is not what they are trying to cover. They are willing to take on some of that cost for the longer term impact of your goods/services/jobs. Erie seems to not be concerned with the potential for such loss.

Impact fees are just a couple of the variables to be considered by a business looking to expand or relocate. It seems to me a town would not want to be so measurably different from its immediate neighbors, when sales/use tax revenue is so coveted.

Are there jerks who run businesses who never contribute to local charities, never intern high school kids or care how much they contribute via taxes to open space? Sure, but I believe they're the minority. Why create spiteful policies based on those kinds of business owners? Make policies that show appreciation and the community will benefit in the long run.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Them's Fighting Words

In the Daily Times Call Saturday Erie Mayor Andrew Moore defends the higher impact fees in his town with his assertion the revenues collected go to valuable, quality of life improvements that lead to high quality developments. “Quality has a price. We are not trying to be Lafayette,” he says in the article.


Out of context? Harmless factual reference? Outright dis on a neighbor's development philosophy?

The fact is the fee schedule goes back before Moore's time and he is now having to defend the anti-growth policies of a previous Board. The fact also is that every community is in competition with their neighbor for businesses, and smaller businesses are especially unlikely to have the deep pockets or dramatic projected financial impact necessary to negotiate more favorable deals, or otherwise simply pay the fees as a part of the game. They will go 5 or 15 miles in another direction, out of Erie, and locate elsewhere. (See Jennifer McCallums' situation in this previous post.)

A great anti-commercial growth policy, and in the long run only defensible in a vacuum, which doesn't truly exist in the competitive marketplace of contiguous growing communities. Erie may not be trying to "be" Lafayette, but they also cannot dismiss what Lafayette offers as an alternative to Erie's current and future businesses by way of costs.

From Erie's Growth Management Policy Statement: "It is the intent of this growth management policy that development shall "pay its own way." Stated another way, growth shall be self sufficient, and shall not cost existing Erie residents."

Looks good on paper - and yet is irresponsibly, self-delusionally simplistic.

Thank the 2002 Board for the idea; watch the current Board to see if it will change.