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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Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Little Bit of Hell Froze Over

After five years of attempting to negotiate the ability to develop his land in western Superior - and being rebuffed- Richard Verhey has sold his 155 acres to the Town and Boulder County as Open Space. It is remarkable because Verhey had most recently declared he would use the agricultural zoning of his property (which was the basis of the denials for developing a neighborhood) for a huge pig farm. His spiteful threat was borne out of frustration with neighbors in Rock Creek candidly saying they didn't want to lose their nice views to the west.

Verhey has said recent health issues in his family have led to a change of heart. Read more in the Superior Observer.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Our Eastern Neighbors Rally for Mediators

I wrote in September for the Yellow Scene about the truly disfunctional growth management scenario happening in southwest Weld County. Now a few of the players are going to try to raise some money to hire a mediator to bring some sanity to the discussions, albeit hired sanity. Read about it in the Longmont Times-Call.

For all our gripes about growth decisions among our communities, we're essentially arguing over infill and maybe some relatively small annexations. Weld County's power struggle between the County Commissioners and the towns can provide some perspective on how we're fortunate to be having the debates we have. They're making profounding troubling long-term decisions that will come back to haunt the residents of the island subdivisions and the towns that will be forced to assimilate them or snub them.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Superior Goes All Wind Power

In a rare move for a community - one even Boulder is a long way from pulling off - the leaders in Superior are going to actually put their money into leading by example regarding energy use. The town will be powering 100% of their municipal buildings with wind power purchased through Xcel's Windsource program.

Now that the switch has been made, the next utility bill the town receives should reflect the new cost of this principled move. I say bravo to the town for making a statement, as their choice to do so forces the issue (energy choices and pollution) to be discussed.

The Return

Hello my friends: I'm back from Thanksgiving and have several topics to cover this week. Thank you for sending in your comments over the last week. I'll be back this afternoon with more - and check out the comments section of previous posts - many of you have continued those discussions.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lafayette Growth Debates = More Meetings

The Lafayette City Council will discuss the annexation request of 82 acres on the northeast corner of Hwy 287 and Hwy 42, north of the Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center tomorrow night, Tuesday, during their 7:30 PM meeting. (Scroll down to Public Hearing "N".)

This parcel is not to be confused with the Waneka land whose annexation will be subject to voter approval early next year.

On Thursday, Nov 30, the Lafayette Planning Commission will review the feasibility and "appropriateness" of development plans for the Countryside Village shopping center, better known as the old Albertson's/current WalMart site on the northwest corner of South Public and South Boulder Roads. Read the latest staff report on the redevelopment.

Following passage of Issue 2C in Lafayette, there will be some new parameters (or lack thereof) on the potential development; however 2C's exemptions may be far less of an issue than Boulder County's decisions regarding the land they own to the north.

Louisville Urban Renewal District Meetings

The Louisville City Council and the Revitalization Commission are meeting tonight at 7:00 PM to discuss zoning and design guidelines for the Hwy 42 corridor. The public meeting is at the new Louisville Library at 951 Spruce Street. This may be of interest to anyone curious as to the changes that are to be encouraged and/or allowed in this area. It is likely that increased residential density and various types of commercial (all to complement the future FasTracks train development) will be out on the table.

Then tomorrow night, Tuesday, the Louisville City Council will revisit the urban renewal district issue that failed to get their approval two weeks ago. Read more about this in the Daily Camera or see some of the postings on this blog.

Friday, November 17, 2006

County Goes Big to Enforce Growth

Boulder County has hired some high-level lawyers to help in its case against the Rocky Mountain Christian Church in Niwot. The church wants to invoke the rights of a new federal law to fight the County's decision to refuse to allow the church to expand its building on land designated for open space. Read more in the Rocky Mountain News.

This issue has been simmering along for months, and the recent hiring of more lawyers for the case shows how principled a stance the County is taking.

Last month the New York Times ran a focused expose on the issue. (Scroll down the page to "Exemptions From Zoning Rules".)

Commissioner Ben Pearlman was quoted in the article: "“People are always trying to develop their properties to the limits of the law and sometimes beyond,” Mr. Pearlman said. But the worst suburban sprawl is the consequence of “lots of little decisions that have this cumulative effect,” he continued. “We’re trying to resist this death by a thousand cuts, and preserve the land where we can.”

Should churches be exempt from growth controls?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Fallout of 2B's Failure in Lafayette

This Post is from Lafayette City Councilor Chris Cameron.

I just wanted to take an opportunity to show support for the youth of the Lafayette community and, in particular, those who have volunteered for what is/was our Youth Advisory Committee. The Daily Camera covered the issue today and quite aptly described the dilemma we now face with the failure of ballot measure 2B. In a nutshell, City Council had asked for the ability to make exceptions, by ordinance, to qualifications for advisory board members. This was prompted by and particularly important for our youth advisors because one requirement to participate on boards is to be a registered voter. Due to age, youth are not eligible to be registered voters. From my Monday morning quarterback position, it might have been wise of us to ask specifically for an exemption for minors applying to the Youth Advisory Committee. I won’t try to interpret what “the voters meant…” but I do wonder if the results would have been different if our request had been more specific.

But that isn’t the point of my post today. I concur with Councilor Phillips’ assessment that what is important is having an avenue to discover and address the needs of the youth in our community. What that process will be is in question right now, but what should not be under debate is the very real concern that exists for the youngest members of our community. I agree with committee member Laperle’s assessment that Council wants youth input. I offer my commitment to taking our youth seriously.

I see no difficulty in understanding the “difference between adults and minors,” but also see no reason to inflate the disparity, either. What is important is that all the members of our community are getting their needs met as much as possible with the available resources. Whether a 15-year-old is concerned about recycling, a 6-year-old thinks we need more parks or a 47-year-old has questions about traffic, it is important that we listen. When Council needs input on key issues, it is sensible to gather information from the “experts.” Who better to advise us on the needs of seniors, Latinos, or youth, than the people themselves?

We have to keep in mind that advisory groups are just that, advisory. Ultimately, Council has to take their input and decide whether the interests of the Youth (or Seniors, or Open Space, etc.) align with the goals of the city. Should an advisory board’s proposal not match what Council believes is right for the city, Council has an obligation to overrule that recommendation.

Today I offer my support and appreciation both for the youth of Lafayette and for all those volunteers who sit on advisory boards in the city. Our boards, commissions, and committees are an incredible support system that enable us to do our jobs well for the people of Lafayette.


Chris Cameron
Lafayette City Councilor

The Lafayette News also covered this issue today.

What's up, readers? Is this unintended consequence or did voters feel minors shouldn't be on Boards? I think Councilor Cameron may be onto something with the notion that a more specific ballot issue may have been successful. I think anyone interested enough to ask to serve on an advisory Board should be allowed to, or at least be given the chance to be nominated and/or appointed.

The Erie Community Center Breaks Ground Friday

Holy cow, its actually happening: the 63,000 square foot, $16.8 million dollar Erie Community Center will break ground at a ceremony at noon on Friday, Nov 17. The ECC is located at the northeast corner of Leon A. Wurl Parkway and County Line Road.

The site will house a dedicated senior citizens area, modern cardio and weight training facility, aquatics center, large gymnasium, and aerobics room. Construction is scheduled for completion in late December of 2007. View site and design plans here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Longmont Train Horns & "Wrongmont" online

There's a new comment from the Longmont Times-Call's editorial page on Nov 11 regarding the potential $6 million "quiet zone" project the city could consider to muffle the train horns in town. Back on October 31 I suggested tapping into the now-voter-approved public safety tax to fund it; their opinion is that to do so would introduce a less safe scenario. Tell that to my readers who check out this blog at 1:00 AM when the train wakes them up.

To get a sense of the area that is (subjectively speaking) impacted by the noise of trains going through town, check out the info on www.wrongmont.com, a decidedly upset-with-Longmont website. There's also a lot of info on creating a new County and getting Longmont out of Boulder County.

Anyone know more about the Wrongmont site? I can't find any contact info, although there's a link to donate to the cause.

Monday, November 13, 2006

More of Your Favorite Things: Another Super WalMart in Longmont

Longmont will begin working to widen the intersection of CO Hwy 119 and County Line Rd (Also known as Weld Co Rd 1) in anticipation of a development application for a new WalMart/Sam's Club. Read more in the Daily Times-Call story by Trevor Hughes.

WalMart does not deserve anyone's business, as I've railed against the corporate giant's business practices before when Lafayette approved the Super WalMart about to start construction on Hwy 287. Read my rationale in an article I wrote for the Yellow Scene.

Their low prices come with a larger national and global price; once you understand the variables involved in their smiley-faced price reductions, you can't in good conscience shop there. Ulimately, it costs money to be principled.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Erie's Getting Drilled

Some Erie residents are miffed that a 100-ft gas well drill has been set up across the street from their neighborhood and is operating 24 hours a day. However there's nothing illegal happening, nor is it completely unexpected. Encana Oil and Gas owns the mineral rights to a 131,000 sq ft parcel within a 35-acre patch, and is drilling two wells here.

Here's what to watch for: In Encana's application narrative submitted to Erie before the operations began, they said drilling at each site would last 7 - 9 days. Following this first procedure, a smaller drilling effort will commence and then a third phase will cap the wells. Given that they've already said they would be done in 20 days to the Longmont Times Call on Nov 7, and they started drilling before that, the drilling will be completed by Thanksgiving.

I'll bet a big ol' turkey leg that rig is there past the predicted timeline.

In a similar vein, I wrote about how mineral rights are the little known secret attributes of many communities' open space holdings in my January Yellow Scene article.

Why the Louisville Tax (2A) May Have Failed

My remark that Louisville fell into a general anti-tax mood is challenged somewhat by Louisville resident William Kucharski in today's Daily Camera. He contends people have been supportive of other taxes, just not this one.

Louisville will lose out on about $800,000 next year from the tax that 2A called for. The tax would have been applied to new construction materials purchased outside Louisville and delivered for use within the city. Much of this tax would be borne by new home construction or residential remodeling; it is likely many people who voted against it would never have even had to pay it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Louisville TIF - But Wait, There's More!

Turns out the Urban Renewal District plan in Louisville is on life support; my reports of its demise yesterday were premature. Any of the four Councilors who voted against declaring 230 acres a blighted area could still ask for the motion to be reconsidered in December.

It appears the skepticism from some Councilors is around the concept that the plan's 25-year tax increment financing model should be clarified and otherwise recommended by outside economic analyses. Good idea, but there's only a few weeks to get such analyses. This issue's not over yet, more to come.

Read some of the comments from Mayor Chuck Sisk (a supporter of the plan) and others in the Daily Camera.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Louisville Votes Down the Urban Renewal District

In a 4-3 vote, Louisville's City Council voted down the creation of an Urban Renewal District discussed in previous posts on this blog here and here. The close vote happened with a standing room-only crowd who were mostly against the proposal.

I raised questions about the 25-year window the plan would involve, which was projected to funnel $77 million to the URD and the subsequent mechanism that would handle those funds. I am curious how Louisville residents feel, given that the rules of URD's now preclude the measure from being re-submitted for two years.

Read about it in the Daily Camera.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Results - Most Taxes Fail in East Boulder County

People in Denver were still waiting to vote at 10:00 PM because of computer breakdowns, ballot shortages and other issues that likely should never have been a factor. When you can listen on the radio to the declared victor for governor or other issue races - while still waiting to cast your vote - it makes a mockery of the process. Talk about instilling a feeling of worthlessness to a person's vote. Denver Mayor Hickenlooper spent the night apologizing and scrambling to explain how the Denver Election Commission failed to prepare for the day.

Thankfully Boulder County did not grab headlines like in 2004 for delayed ballot counting or any major computer screw-ups. However, the County website set up to display results is decidedly ugly and less user-friendly than I prefer. Do we really need to see a breakdown of registered votes and their turnout percentages for various constituencies first? If we're bothering to use the County's website at all, we're looking for County ballot issue and candidate race info first.

To see results for eastern Boulder County issues and races, scroll down and look to the left side of the page. Of course, theses are not yet "official" results.

Three taxes failed that I had advocated for in the Yellow Scene this month: 2B in Longmont, 2A in Louisville and 2A in Superior. The anti-tax mentality won out over the rationale and pragmatic reasons for each. Longmont refused to tax overnight, out-of-town visitors; Louisville avoided the ability to tax out-of-town major purchases, and Superior, the worst of all, simply refused to step up and start to fund their own library services.

2C in Lafayette has passed as well as the Boulder Valley School District Bond; both overcoming deep skepticism that the authority/money granted will be handled appropriately by officials. More on 2C as we see how Lafayette City Council words the ordinance it will now create.

I must say Superior's vote surprises me most of all. What's up with that? Read Superior Trustee Jeff Chu's imploring letter to the editor of the Superior Observer asking for 2A's passage.

Did any results surprise you? Anger you? Anyone ready to demand a recount? I'm stuck on this Superior vote...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Check Election Results For Boulder County Online

Alright EastBoCo readers - I'm sure you've voted today and you'll be able to find preliminary election results for Boulder County online at www.voteboulder.org/ starting at 7:01 PM on Election Day.

If you didn't vote, tell me why, or if you had any interesting experiences, let me know. So far the lines have not been reported to be too long. There will be lots to talk about tomorrow.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Citizens For Lafayette Newsletter Now Online

Karen Norback has let me know the Citizens for Lafayette e-newsletter can now be seen online. If you're interested to see her comments (and many others') on Lafayette issues, check it out here.

The newsletter comes out every Sunday and is another great source for Lafayette info. I'm not always in agreement with Karen's opinions (the Waneka/Lowe's vote will be a good source of conversation) however her research is solid and her perspective spans many years.

Louisville TIF Gets Torn Up by Ty

Louisville resident Ty Gee has articulated his anti-TIF concerns in a guest opinion in the Sunday Daily Camera. One of his key assertions:

"Among the highest duties of elected officials are to safeguard the public treasury and remain accountable to the people. Giving the Louisville Revitalization Commission control over $77 million of taxpayer dollars and over "incentivizing" — in effect, giving taxpayer money to — developers to develop is inconsistent with both duties. There is no precedent for this in the history of our city."

Several residents have also expressed deep concerns regarding the authority and scope of the LRC. as well as the entire process that has led up to this point. For the official version of what is happening and answers to some questions as they were raised at a Louisville City Council meeting last month, check out the minutes on the City of Louisville website. Scroll down to CONDUCTIONS SURVEY & URBAN RENEWAL PLAN in the minutes.

At this meeting, City Manager Bill Simmons said the Commission continues to believe that the proposed boundaries reflect the goals and objectives as outlined in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, as well as being prudent and reasonable. More links and comments on Louisville's TIF plan are found in this earlier posting too.

The Louisville City Council will be voting to approve this plan on Wednesday, November 8.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Two Days to Go, 2C Coming Down to the Wire

Thanks for the private and public comments on this - and the phone calls, I'm trying to reach you all. Closer reading of the Ballot Issue 2C's language shows that if passed, the number of units and the length of the exemption are yet to be set by Council: "...SUBJECT TO CONDITIONS TO BE ENACTED BY COUNCIL ORDINANCE REGARDING DURATION OF THE EXEMPTION AND LIMITS OF THE NUMBER OF DWELLING UNITS..."

So if 2C does pass, citizens can still let Council know the limits they would like to see on the exemption.

I've added in the comments section to this post some thoughts I picked up from Lafayette Mayor Pro-Tem David Strungis too. Councilor Kerry Bensman articulates "It Makes Sense to Reject 2C" in the Letters to the Editor of the Sunday Daily Camera, and Councilman Frank Phillips already added his comments to the posting below titled "Lafayette Ballot Item 2C - Does it Even Matter?"

Plus, read more of this discussion from the earlier post "Lafayette Councilor Misrepresented Big Time."

The following submission is from Lafayette City Councilor Jay Ruggeri:

2-C is "To See" the Future. Vote Yes for Lafayette.

In the past, Lafayette's city leaders neglected to include the Albertsons and Wal-Mart area into the exempted portion of the Urban Renewal District. They didn't consider the new trend in urban design that allows for a residence to be located above the retail and office space. Lafayette is now discovering, like many communities, that bringing a "mixed use" concept into the core of a town center is attractive, sustainable and environmentally friendly.

In Lafayette, we want to add that "mixed use" to new County buildings and a new three acre, pedestrian friendly, urban park to address to the void left by the big box stores that have moved to the higher traffic roadways. Correcting this omission will allow Lafayette to participate in the smart urban design planning that other communities currently enjoy. Designing an area without the necessary and supportive residential building permits doesn't make good sense for an interested developer. Without this exemption, we'll be left with big box blight.

One should keep in mind that these residences will be added to the business district, not some suburban sprawl that the growth limit was intended to address. This one time exemption would not change the city's 200 unit per year growth limit. That growth cap will continue. The citizens of Lafayette would prefer to rid that core area of the typical big box retail center.

This vision of the future is not about big money, it's about a quality meeting place. Our citizens want a safe, comfortable, pedestrian friendly town center, not more of the same big box retail centers with a sea of asphalt. We could take a corrective lesson from that Joni Mitchell song, and sing..."Let's take parking lots and put up a paradise !"

Vote YES on 2C. The one time exemption for Lafayette's blight.
Jay Ruggeri, Councilor. City of Lafayette

Friday, November 03, 2006

Lafayette Ballot Issue 2C - Does it even Matter?

As the discussion of Lafayette Ballot Question 2C has evolved on this site and in conversations around town, I am losing the sense that a staunch pro or con stance even matters. Many sources tell me there's not likely to be a development proposal for the Countryside Village property that would request as many residential permits as 2C would allow. A city-wide cap of 200 building permits a year (plus 50 if they're affordable units) would be waived for this particular property if 2C passes.

Plus there are several other land use and expense factors that are weighing against the potential here. The infrastruture costs and a propoerty exchange involving County-owned land to the north of the parcel add to the complexity. In the latest Lafayette News, Councilor Kerry Bensman and resident Karen Norback have letters to the editor listing why 2C is a bad idea.

Councilor Chris Cameron and resident Wade Daniels have letters explaining their support.

I still like the idea of removing the cap on permits, and if it is almost a given that development wouldn't support close to 200 units, let alone more, then what difference does 2C make? I see 2C as unintentionally evolving into a philosophical debate over growth control in general. The outcome will either validate previous growth control votes from 2001 and 1995, or show a flexibility for specific parcels of land.

Given that proposals have to go through a public approval process and ultimately the Council, a site-specific removal of the unit cap removes the possiblity that permits could already be allocated elsewhere in the city in the same year a development comes forward for Countryside Village - and the development proposal, although worthwhile, is rejected because of the city-wide permit cap. To deny this possibility and/or deny the city the ability to avoid it is why 2C is now much more of a principled growth or anti-growth question.

I'm still leaning towards supporting the otherwise moot exemption 2C will offer. But there's still 4 days to go.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Boulder County Coroner Race is the Surprise Headliner

Move over Transit Tax. Good luck, School Bond. These and all the local issue campaigns are falling to the wayside as Denver media is getting involved in the Boulder County Coroner race. There's enough there to make me question my endorsement of Tom Faure, the incumbent, that I sent in on deadline earlier this month to the Yellow Scene.

Letters to the editor in the Daily Camera have highlighted deep dissatisfaction with Faure's job performance, albeit anecdotal. Lafayette resident Tom Macurdy sued Faure on October 27 for failing to perform an autopsy on a judgment call. Then on October 29, Channel 9News Investigator Paula Woodward aired a report after secretly filming Faure for days and raising questions about his work ethic and performance. Ouch.

None of these allegations were known to me at the time of my cursory analysis of the race (Lafayette 2C is much more intriguing) This may be a good example of why not to vote early.

Read about Paula Woodward's investigation at the DenverPost.com.

Faure's opponent, Lisa Jo Floyd, is an emergency room doctor in Aurora. She has been endorsed by both the Longmont Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 6 and the Boulder Police Officers Association. BPOA president Rich Denig wrote in the endorsement: “We believe the primary improvements Dr. Floyd would implement include improved communication with law enforcement and improved efficiency with laboratory results, which will benefit criminal investigations.” Read more in the Daily Times-Call.

So is this cops wanting a coroner they can push around to meet their schedules or cops wanting a coroner who is simply more timely and professional? The allegations are making me wonder more. The emotional stories of people unhappy with how long they had to wait for death certificates are compelling, but are they out of the ordinary for a coroner's office for a County our size?

Massive Liquor Store Rising in the East

For once, Eastern Boulder County can't point a disparaging finger at Broomfield regarding a particular development we may consider aggressive sprawl. No, this time Broomfield's eastern neighbor Thornton will be home to a trophy development that makes you wince at the audacious scope. This month on the east side of the Hwy 7 and I-25 interchange, the state's largest liquor store will open, 51,000 sq. feet of anti-prohibitionist splendor.

Erie and Lafayette's small local liquor stores are mapped out in this Daily Camera article and their owners remark how the new store is likely too far away to cause a huge drain on their sales. What caught my eye though, was one, the amount of marketing detail in the article re: the new store (Camera positioning for a new advertising account?) and two, how different the philosophy of our eastern neighbors' growth plans are to embrace such a store.

As part of the 500,000 - sq ft commercial Larkridge South development, the $7.5 million Daveco Liquors hopes to draw customers from as far away as Wyoming.

Granted the overall development along the Hwys 7 and I-25 corridors doesn't mean the Daveco Liquor Store will even stand out, but while Lafayette is arguing over a potential Lowe's annexation and overiding a growth cap in next week's election, and Erie struggles to get any substantial retail development going along it's sliver of Hwy 7 it controls, another monster example of raw capitalism and tax-generating power is rising in the east. And just in time for the holidays! Yeesh...