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, February 27, 2007

UNofficially: Issue A Passes in Lafayette

On the City of Lafayette's homepage tonight I see a victory for Issue A at roughly 55% to 45%. Check that same link tomorrow for more details.

I'm pleasantly surprised, actually. This last week I found numerous friends were in the anti-A camp and I believed the "enough is enough" message was resonating.

Longmont's Parking Patrol

Longmont is looking for citizen volunteers for its Handicap Parking Patrol. The city says it is looking for "outgoing people who enjoy working with the public" to ensure the "legal usage of handicap spaces". Isn't the PC term "disabled"? Anyway, I'm intrigued the issue is not only big enough to warrant a dedicated group of people to patrol, but that training is provided and I wonder what degree of authority is somehow bestowed on the patrolers.

I've been told the requirements to receive one of the disabled parking space cards are quite broad; a person may have one without noticeable physical ailments. I hope part of the program involves public spotlights of those caught cheating and using the spaces inappropriately.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Superior's New Town Manager Announced

Town trustees have chosen Scott S. Randall, the former city manager of Auburn Hills, Mich., to become Superior’s next town manager. Read more here.

Randall was city manager of Auburn Hills, Mich. from December 2004 to May 2006. He has been city manager of Clayton, Mo., as well as village manager in the cities of Streamwood, Ill., and La Grange, Ill. He was a finalist for the Seabrook, TX ("home of the third largest marina in the US!") City Manager position in October of last year as well as Liberal KS' city manager position. He was also cited as recently as last week as in the running for Santa Fe's vacant city manager position. Looks like Superior has picked a guy many communities found more than capable. But how come they didn't choose him?

It reminds me of the Rodney Dangerfield skit re: shopping for tomatoes. His wife asks - "You took these tomatoes? How come nobody else took these tomatoes?" Exasperated, he replies "How could somebody else take these tomatoes if I took these tomatoes?!?"

Anyway, good luck to the newest local official. There's plenty to work on.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Religous Leaders Appeal to Congressional Leaders

The denial of Niwot's Rocky Mountain Christian Church's expansion plans is heating up, as we knew it would. Maybe they should see if the County Commissioners will put this to the vote of the people of Niwot. A bunch of religious leaders are appealing to the various State legislators asking them to blow off the County's request to have those same legislators ignore or change a provision of the federal law that arguably allows churches to ignore local land-use restrictions.

There's going to be a lot of money spent taking this principled stand. Read more about it in the Daily Camera.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

One Last Time: Vote For A!

My own letter to the editor that was posted to the Daily Camera's website last week; my submission with similar language last week to the Lafayette News didn't make the cut today...

"The Daily Camera editorial opposing Lafayette Issue A (Feb. 4,2007) dismayed me. As a member of the Lafayette Open Space Advisory Committee, I am committed to the continuous effort to acquire and maintain valuable parcels of land in our town.However, the opponents of 1A seem to forget that our open space program relies on tax revenue. I believe the location of this annexation, when compared to the priorities outlined in the City’s Open Space and Trails Master Plan, deserves to be supported.

The editorial’s bottom-line point that “more development equals less open space” is unfortunate, as it presumes "open space"status upon any undeveloped land, when true open space, in my mind, means land bought and paid for by an open space management agency or governmental department. With this definition, we set priorities for such acquisition with the funds available.Commercial development on this parcel will help fund the purchase and protection of even more crucial parcels around all of Lafayette.

It is unrealistic to lump all undeveloped land under the heading of "open space" to be protected. In the long run the methods of revenue generation to purchase true open space will be voted down (with this mindset) because any development at all is seen as anti-open space.

True open space isn't just "there" for free; we must fund our ideals. Our open space program strikes a pragmatic balance between the desire to avoid further development and the means to protect the best parcels. Given our Comprehensive Plan, voting No on A is just a temporary delay, as some kind of development will be proposed for the parcel. Worse, a No vote will mean a missed opportunity to increase open space funding – Erie has revealed Lowe’s interest if 1A fails. I encourage supporters of Lafayette’s open space program to vote Yes on Issue A."

Harber Asks: Vote No on A

A letter to the editor from Aaron Harber:

In terms of sales tax revenue, Lafayette is financially blessed with a King Soopers, an Albertsons, and a Wal-Mart, among many other stores. A Super Wal-Mart is about to open and a Super Target has been approved as well. The City is in excellent financial shape and its prospects are good.

Read the rest here.

Ruggeri Asks: Vote for A

A letter to the editor submitted by Lafayette Councilman Jay Ruggeri:

It’s surprising how much information has been stretched, emotionalized, misquoted and misdirected in the question of annexing a small portion of Chuck Waneka’s land into the City of Lafayette. As I sit on Council, it’s important for me to hear the emotion and realize the reason for the passion in a person’s beliefs, but I must pay close attention to the facts. I believe the facts in this case strongly support the annexation.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Louisville Business Retention; Lafayette Wins the Sales Tax Graph War

The Louisville City Council is set tonight to approve a slate of members for the Business Retention & Development Committee The group will include, by Council ordinance:
  • Three members of City Council
  • One member of the Planning Commission
  • One representative from the Revitalization Commission
  • One representative from the Chamber of Commerce
  • One representative from the Downtown Business Association

Each of the above are to be appointed by their own organizations. The following appointments have been requested by each organization for the 2007 term:

  • City Council – Don Brown, Frost Yarnell, and Ron Sackett
  • Planning Commission – Hank Dalton
  • Revitalization Commission – Rob Lathrop
  • Chamber of Commerce – Eugene Caranci (Loren Loretti as alternate)
  • Downtown Business Association – Arlin Lehman

With the Daily Camera article Sunday about all the revenue sharing and cutthroat sales tax challenges, Louisville might be the first city to truly champion the idea. Check out the graphs that show Lafayette as the only community with positive year-to-year sales tax growth since 2002. Can it be true? I'm sure someone has "the rest of the story...."

But seriously, it is a solid trend that other East BOCO communities would like to emulate. Look for Boulder and Boulder County - each with their own "revenue stabilization" committees working on ideas, to recommend everyone in Boulder County get on board. Lafayette will be everyone's best friend all of a sudden...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Holiday Decorations = Fines

Can you beleive the quotes from various HOA officials in yesterday's Daily Camera re: the likelihood of fines for people who haven't taken down their holiday decorations? We just took ours down a week and a half a go; there are still lots of lights and a few wreaths and lighted animal frames, around my street, although no one's turning on the lights anymore. I also have a 5-ft snowbank in the cul-de-sac. Every day I am reminded of that 3-hour ride from Boulder on December 20...

Getting fined for delayed holiday light removal. Probably makes sense to the people endorsing Lafayette's increased pot possesion fees. Actually, is there anyone endorsing that now? It appears to have fallen out of blatant favor - however the Lafayette City Council will devote time at a study session to the issue.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Erie's Mayor Moore Describes Economic Development

This weekend Erie Mayor Andrew Moore sent out an update with details to a joint Town Board/Planning Board meeting Several topics discussed were spurred on by the responses to a town-wide survey, which had over 400 responses. See a document with the survey responses here.

Mayor Moore had this comment regarding the survey:

Input on Economic development was both the most sparse and diverse with comments and opinions. This clarifies two things:
1. There does not appear to be a comprehensive understanding of Erie's economic picture and strategy
2. A few feel a sense of "losing opportunity" or "running out of money"
Both of these conclusions mean the town and I need do a better job communicating about this topic. For those feeling we are in dire straights, please know we are financially sound and there are no plans, or even discussions, to raise taxes. As you will see below, Erie is actually in a good financial position with substantial reserves, a solid revenue stream, and has long term prospects that are robust.

He also described the group's discussions:
The Board discussed adopting a more aggressive incentive package similar to Lafayette's. Their strategy basically provides for a private corporate safety net with tax payer guarantees. Currently Lafayette has ~$5 million tax payer dollars backing Albertson's, Ace, and the South Boulder road development. If
these fail, taxpayer money is lost.

We choose not to go this route for a few reasons. First, there is no evidence to suggest a more aggressive incentive strategy will do anything to attract businesses in Erie before they can be profitable. Second, Erie has a couple revenue streams that are solid and allow us to be patient. And last Erie, unlike Lafayette and Louisville, does not need as large of revenue stream because our library and fire department are served by special districts not funded by the town.

The full update will be available on his website; as of tonight it still wasn't up but I would expect it there soon. Check his update archives here. Mayor Moore's website is the most comprehensive effort to provide info by an elected official I can find locally.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Off-Base Letters

Reading letters to the editor in the Lafayette News these past two weeks has been frustrating at times when you see the raw uninformed assumptions and either calculated or ignorant assertions that are made. I challenge people to read through the letters with a grain of salt. My bias, as you know, is in favor of the annexation. So a comment from Jeremy Gregory, for example, that proponents claim there is not a wetland in the area really bugs me. The proximity of more valuable wildlife habitat is being blurred to somehow include this specific parcel. I don't know who says there isn't a wetland in the area. What is said is there is not wetland on this parcel. It is an insidious distortion of the argument made by proponents. What a wonderfully vague word that is too - "area". That means whatever you want it to mean.

I implore everyone to visit the parcel before voting. You will have a gut feeling as to whether it is appropriate or not for this spot. I hope everyone who votes does this. The message this vote will send on overall commercial growth will be a guide for several years to subsequent Councils.

Grant Swift, the Chair of LOSAC, has sent in a letter arguing the proximity and the wildlife corridor value of the parcel is worth protecting. Fair enough, this assertion can be debated. But the implication made by many that proximity equals value I do not buy. We have to set priorities and make trade-offs with the funds available for open space acquisition.

There are questions as to why the city "doesn't put the Lowe's" in a specific place. To believe the city can dictate specific businesses' locations misses a huge part of economic development reality. And then the descriptions of well-meaning opposition forces trying to raise money for the parcel as it is so crucial. We already have an open space program, and priorities are set through a more thoughtful process than blanket anti-development.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Longmont's Attorney to Help Boulder

Since we're talking about Lafayette's pot issues (and receiving lots of comments, almost as many as Wal-Mart topics generate!) I thought people may be interested to know Longmont's attorney has been asked to help determine if smoking pot while driving in Boulder ( a misdemeanor) is considered a crime under the city's charter language. If so, City Councilor Richard Polk may be removed from his seat.

What's interesting is the vague language that goes back to 1909, which says you can be removed if convicted of a crime or felony. "Crime" and the intention of the word at the time is being analyzed. Read the Daily Times Call and the Daily Camera articles. Plus there's an interesting editorial about Polk and Rob Smoke in the Camera.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lafayette's Dopey Rules

Last night Lafayette City Councilor Frank Phillips and Mayor Pro-tem David Strungis were on Channel 4 news describing the first reading vote last week to up Lafayette's punishment scale for possession of pot. The Daily Camera has written about the issue as an associate municipal court judge has resigned over the issue as a matter of principle. City officials say who cares.

This is the sort of increase in governmental authority over people's lives that deserves more justification than was given to City Council. Kudos to Strungis for asking for such detail before he would vote in support. Of all the issues Lafayette has on the table, is this really a huge concern? What is this in reaction to? There are more activities impacting Lafayette that you could increase the fines for that actually cause headaches for the residents - how about the still-unshoveled sidewalks in places? domestic violence? Brainstorm, Council - I bet such increased fining authority could be put to better use.

The next reading is next Tuesday. Hopefully there will be some stats presented and we'll hear more than general "drugs are bad" platitudes to justify essentially another way for the government to collect more money. Small town feel, indeed.

Before people ascribe all sorts of meaning to my comments, I'm focusing on marijuana laws here. Meth and other poisons are a different realm altogether.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Louisville Protects Open Space Funding and Economic Development

Hooray for Open Space policies in Louisville - I noticed the recent Business Assistance Program the Louisville City Council approved last month includes a stipulation that any sales tax rebates negotiated with businesses will not reduce the amount they pay towards the standard open space tax of .375 % (See page 14) There is a wide range of agreements that can be made to help entice a company to stay or locate in Louisville; I find this to be a strong way to address complaints of "give-aways" some people call such incentives. It's all about trade-offs.

Read about it in the Boulder County Business Report too.

Friday, February 09, 2007

About the Recent Comments Function...

Yet another chapter in the Recent Comments widget...

The company that supplies the code for the service is AWOL. When I went to check my account with them, the website is "unavailable". For now, I have no idea what is wrong and I'm shopping around for a new company to provide me the code and capability.

Remember, if you would like posting access like Councilor Cameron email me at budanddakota@yahoo.com.

Comment on a Lowe's Flyer

Councilor Kerry Bensman has asked how my comment on a pro-Lowe's flyer came about. I haven't seen it yet, however I hope it is an accurate approximation of my opinions stated here and elsewhere. I was contacted by someone who had read this blog and asked if I would be willing to provide a comment for such a purpose. I agreed, after checking with city ethics rules. I emphasized my comments were mine alone, and not that of LOSAC's; I trust the comment makes that clear.

I haven't ever met or spoken to Mr. Trumbo, I have no financial interest in Lowe's and I'm proud to have been asked to share my opinion. I think this is an important decision Lafayette is about to make.

I will say I have no control or blanket support for Lowe's messaging techniques. The "Friends and Neighbors" schict is transparent and probably causing more harm than good, at least as far as the phone poll goes. When the person calling pronounces it "Wah-NECK-uh", I'm thinking they don't live 'round these parts.

By the way, Janice Moore and Kim Andresky had a letter to the editor that was right on point. Be sure to catch all the comments in the Lafayette News editorial page (they say vote Yes on A)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Refresher Course on the Lafayette Walmart EDA

Just doing my homework here. I am sure there is some logical explanation for some of misinformation presented in an earlier thread, but I thought readers should have the facts.

The original offer of an EDA to Wal-mart was approved unanimously by the Council in December of 2004 (http://www.cityoflafayette.com/News.asp?NewsID=173). Something apparently changed between then and October 4, 2005 when the final vote occurred.

Here is an accurate description about how the EDA works (taken from the City Website):

Wal-Mart will incur the total expense up front for the above items. The City will contribute the $2,335,832 towards the land cost over time from the increase in sales tax revenues generated by the new store. Only the sales tax revenues above what the existing store already generates (projected to be $1,150,000 for 2004) will be rebated to Wal-Mart to pay for the incentives. At conservative estimates, the new Lafayette Wal-Mart is expected to produce $1,800,000 in sales tax revenues each year, meaning that there will be a 3.6 year payback period, after which these additional revenues will be available to the General Fund. It is important to note that the portion of the sales tax that is dedicated for the purchase and maintenance of Open Space are exempt from these rebates, so those funds will see an immediate benefit from the new store’s revenues.

The final numbers in October were: The base was set at $1,110,689 and the rebate amount was set at $2,238,332.

To explain this in simple terms -- if Wal-Mart submits $1,000,000 in revenue to the city, the city keeps it all. If Wal-Mart submits $2,110,689, the city keeps $1,110,689 and Wal-Mart is reimbursed $1,000,000. And so on. The City will not rebate a cent to Wal-Mart until it has collected the base amount. When the rebate amount is reached, all additional revenue goes to the General Fund of the City. At the time the EDA was passed, it was expected to take 42 months to complete the rebate.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Anti-A Flawed Logic

Here's a link to the point-counterpoint on the annexation in the Yellow Scene.

Clay Evans' editorial Sunday in the Daily Camera dismayed me. His bottom-line point that more development equals less open space reveals an idealistic anti-development mindset that I believe is the root of the opposition to A. It is unfortunate, as it means people presume "open space" status upon any undeveloped land, when true "open space" in my mind, given my previously trumpeted pro-property rights sentiments, means land bought and paid for by an open space management agency or govt. department.

It is selfish to lump all undeveloped land under the heading of "open space" to be protected. It is short-sighted and impractical and in the long run the methods of revenue generation to purchase true open space will be voted down (with this mindset) because any development at all is seen as anti-open space. True open space isn't just "there" for free.

In the real world, we must pay for our ideals. Voting No on A is just a temporary block and a hit to the open space program.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

More Commissioners to Revitalize Louisville

The Louisville City Council will decide tonight whether to add two more seats to the Louisville Revitalization Commission. Following the rebuke of Councilor Bob Muckle's Resolution 59 on January 2, which would have added a few more standards for accountability to the Commission, this is a step towards addressing concerns people raised. Are two more votes/voices at the table a good thing? Guess it will depend whter or not you like to people who fill the spots.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Boulder County Wants to be the Decider

The Boulder County Commissioners are taking hard line stances on two issues. One I agree with and one I oppose. They want to tell certain county residents what they can build based on a philosophy of what's "right" yet they do not want to be told by a higher authority that they must also allow other certain people to build something based on what's "right".

On the one hand, they are poised to challenge to the state Supreme Court level (at least) the provisions of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act as providing inappropriate special status to one group over all others and allowing that group to ignore land-use laws the county has re: development. This all comes from the Rocky Mountain Christian Church's proposal to add 132,000 sq ft of additional space on land zoned as agricultural in Niwot. The Commissioners have written to various officials asking for help in repealing aspects of the federal law.

I've been told by Commissioner Will Toor that no other property owner would even consider making such a proposal, knowing the county's priorities and regulations. I agree with their principled stance that no group based solely on religious affiliation should be allowed to grow outside of the bounds set by the county. More detail in the Longmont Times Call.

This doesn't mean I completely support those bounds, however. But that is a different argument. Given that those standards are set, everyone must play by those rules. Churches deserve no special exemptions.

The RLUIP Act "prohibits zoning and landmarking laws that substantially burden the religious exercise of churches" under the blanket of First Amendment protection. With this constitutional rationalization, church supporters passionately decry the unfair and subjective oppression they are facing from the Commissioners. The Commissioners do not buy the argument that supporting/enabling church growth is the "right thing to do".

On the other hand, the Commissioners are considering an indefinite building moratorium authority for themselves based on the possibility that someone could propose a construction project that is environmentally inefficient or otherwise not as sustainable as they would like to see. Construction materials and techniques that are not energy efficient are not the "right thing to do," and hence the Commissioners are working on ways to indirectly and directly require such construction in unincorporated Boulder County. I do not agree with their approach and have written about it earlier.

On Thursday, the Commissioners announced the March 6 hearing on the topic has been tabled. Perhaps they realized that subjective opinions on a development proposal before creating standards vetted in the public arena are not defensible.

Great Letter to the Editor

EastBoCO reader Alex had a letter to the editor published yesterday in the Daily Camera.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Erie Mayor Moore Reveals More

A Message from Erie Mayor Andrew Moore
January 31, 2007

A Regional Opportunity

Over the last few months Erie and Lafayette have been working on potential revenue sharing opportunities on land north the new Super WalMart and South of Arapahoe on 287. This land is covered by an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between Erie, Lafayette, and Boulder County which will require regional cooperation to revise.As I've written previously, Erie and Lafayette have also been cooperating on what a reroute of Highway 7 would look like to take traffic away from Peak to Peak Charter school and Pioneer elementary while giving Erie a new quality entrance to town east of the Lafayette sewer plant. Both of these items may be in the mutual benefit off our communities.

Recently, Lowes completed its market research and determined that the SE corner of Highway 7 (Baseline) and 119th would be the best place to put a new retail store. From a corporate view, it makes good profitability sense to put a Lowes at this site as it is the only intersection on Highway 7 that connects Broomfield, Erie, and Lafayette in one 4-corner place.

Although Erie and Broomfield both have attractive commercial land available on Highway 7 further to the East, none of our parcels connect our communities like the corner of 119th and Baseline.Lafayette City Council has chosen to let their citizens decide if the Lowes should be annexed to Lafayette. This of course makes the discussion more challenging as Lafayette’s Council is no longer the clear decision maker. In forming my view it became clear that locating a Big Box at the intersection of Baseline and 19th was not in the best interest of our mutual goal to reduce traffic on Baseline. It also became clear that working together with Lafayette we could, perhaps, seize an opportunity to think regionally, preserve buffers between our towns, and reduce traffic while increasing safety near our shared schools. That can be accomplished by placing big box development on Highway 287 where revenue sharing is a possibility and roads already exist to handle the traffic.

This is the Erie Board of Trustee proposal sitting with Lafayette now. Of course this will not be an easy discussion or road to follow for any leader in the region. There are competing pressures.In the long term, after the emotions of the short term are gone, we'll all be judged by how well we've planned in a sustainable way.

Either a new commercial area will be erected at 119th and Baseline removing a wonderful buffer between Erie and Lafayette, or we will sit down and find a way to preserve our buffers, reduce traffic, increase safety, and share revenue in our bordering areas. It is hard to say what will happen next.

The Lafayette City Council would have preferred Erie kept this private. I understand that. I may have complicated things for some, but maybe, just maybe, we'll make something happen for the good of the region.

Best Regards,