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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Friday, June 29, 2007

Run For Commissioner, Appoint Your Successor?

There must be a rule against it, but perhaps it never came up before: I noticed in the Camera article about all the potential County Commissioner candidates that two are in posts that would be filled by appointments if they are vacated. But they're filled by a decision of the County Commissioners. So If Cindy Domenico, County Assessor wins the election, she would be able to weigh in on the appointment of her successor? I'm checking to see if this is the case; if you know let me know.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

More Traffic Makes The News?

The Lafayette News highlights the impending traffic headache for residents living across Hwy 287 from the imminent Super WalMart.

From the comments quoted, Council looks like they somehow dropped the ball. However I believe the state bases additional lights on the highway on traffic counts, which won't increase until post-WalMart. So the folks in the neighborhood east of WalMart are screwed. Turning south onto Hwy 287 from Caria will be a headache for years. But cheap Advil will always be right across the street.

Sex Ed Worth Talking About Some More?

The last few days have been very baby-centric. Kyla says hello to all. Back to the blog today with a comment on Sex Education.

I had followed this through St Vrain Valley School District Board minutes (p. 15), and in the Times Call today it hits the front page: Who should be teaching kids about sex? The Boulder High Conference on World Affairs panel flap brought this to a point. Concerns raised by those afraid of sexual discussions between adults and minors: the appropriateness of birth control and homosexuality as they relate to moral judgements. What if something is presented as fact that bumps against a belief system that says said fact is morally wrong?

Is public school sex ed troubling to you? I'm sure it's different now than when I was in junior high; I think you had to have a permission slip and could opt out if your parents wanted.

With the District saying they want to be sure they follow state laws requiring science-based instruction, it seems that parental permission to take the class is the way to address the concerns of people not wanting their kids to learn anything other than home-based dogma. Fair enough, they'll learn it on their own eventually.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Impact Fees - What Is Their Impact?

Bear with me - a long post, on an interesting regional issue regarding small business development, the true engine of America's economy.

I received an analysis of Erie's Impact fees from a business owner looking to expand in that town who has been distressed at the disincentive the fees are to remaining in her town. Jennifer McCallum is a lawyer who wrote a letter to her fellow Erie Chamber of Commerce members describing the following:

"I plan to add an additional 5,000 sq ft onto my existing building (2500 sq ft on two floors). When I began to investigate the costs of building this expansion, I learned that the fees associated with building in Erie are much higher than in the surrounding communities. The cost per square foot of building in Erie and two of the surrounding communities are below:

Erie: $10.37 per sq ft
Broomfield: $3.35 per sq ft
Lafayette: $4.06 per sq ft

When I began to investigate the reason why the costs of building in Erie were so much higher, I learned that Erie has impact fees that equal$7.33 per sq ft. I then investigated the cost of the fees in the three surrounding communities with and without their respective impact fees. The results are below:

Total Erie Fees: $10.37 per sq ft
Total Erie Impact Fees: $7.33 per sq ft
Total Erie Fees Without Impact Fees: $3.04

Total Broomfield Fees: $3.35 per sq ft

Total Lafayette Fees: $4.86 per sq ft
Total Lafayette Impact Fees: $0.80 per sq ft
Total Lafayette Fees Without Impact Fees: $4.06

"I wanted to share this information with you as I was shocked to see that there is a disincentive to growing your business in Erie. This may affect you if you are also thinking about starting and/or expanding your business here. I had no idea that Erie had impact fees that were different than those in the surrounding communities. I assumed the costs of building a structure in Erie were similar to building in the neighboring communities but, they are drastically different. I will be very sad to have to consider moving my business out of Erie. " She continues: "This is my home and I have enjoyed starting and growing my business here. But, as you will likely agree, I need to at least consider this option as the impact fees in Erie are exorbitant and add significantly to the costs associated with building the addition my business needs to survive."

Mayor Moore has responded to the assertions in part through his newsletter:
"We all share the desire for transitioning Erie into a high quality, commercially robust community. To achieve that vision the BOT has spent the last three years committed to distinguishing Erie from nearby cities by focusing on quality growth and upscale community amenities. A commitment to quality has a price. Town impact fees, on new construction and development help pay for roads, bridges, flood control, parks and other public infrastructure improvements desired by Town residents. The improvements help market the Town for quality commercial projects. State law requires impact fee charges be based on public project costs. The impact fees that help pay for and enable the construction of these public improvements are an alternative to higher property taxes for all of our residents.

"Some have implied our fees are too high. Because state law requires a nexus between fees and costs any subsidies would have to be made up through other means. With that in mind, the BOT has commissioned an independent consultant to review of Erie's impact fees by analyzing our current situation. I anticipate the results coming to the BOT in August. This information coupled with the Ad Hoc Economic Development Committee plan, due in September, should give the BOT information needed to consider and make appropriate policy changes. I look forward to getting the study data so I can form my own view." Read his full commentary on impact fees as part of his Moore Info Newsletter.

Some impact fee context from a 2003 article in the High Country News about Erie: "During [Barbara] Connors’ first months in office, she turned the town’s pro-development establishment on its head. The outspoken Manhattan transplant fired the town’s administrator because "he was one of their boys." She raised impact fees on building permits and placed a moratorium on new permits until the town ironed out questions about the capacity of its sewage treatment plant. "

I bring this up as some history to Connors' tenure as she may be a name you see re: the County Commissioner seat mentioned below.

Commissioner Election Scrambling

Wow, the reality of a vacated County Commissioner seat - following the passing of Tom Mayer Friday - shows even on Sunday there's no downtime for the politically ambitious. The Camera has an article about the various folks who may rise to the top of the Democratic Party's list to be named on the ballot. This has to happen by July 2. I notice Lafayette Councilor Frank Phillips has endorsed Lafayette Mayor Chris Berry on the Camera's website.

I encourage astute political wonks such as EastBoCo readers to lobby for that spot. Although for many of you that means revealing your secret identity. But oh, the power and the glory!

Who Really Runs The Show

As has been alluded to in a previous post, the true level of influence and indeed control that staff has in any municipality compared to the elected Council is worth noting when we debate how various policies have evolved or how information is presented for public analysis.

Yesterday Bob Greenlee, a 16-year member of Boulder's City Council and former Mayor made this point in an article about Boulder's special election: "One thing all council members will eventually learn is that the council doesn't actually run the city at all. The staff does. A bevy of outside paid consultants are also there to help sway outcomes."

How about creating a directly-voted-upon Mayoral position, with city staff reporting to the Mayor? Is the design of City Managers keeping the distance between staff and elected officials too far apart?

Friday, June 22, 2007

County "Flexibility" Re: Home Sizes

The County planners on Wednesday evening revealed a somewhat more flexible proposal re: home size limits - various combinations of green building requirements and transferable development rights credit purchases. So they heard the argument for energy efficiency standards, yet all they did was ADD that to the indefensible de facto open space funding fee that the TDR credits entail. The County Planning Commissioners will forward these details as a recommendation to the County Commissioners.

Interestingly, basements could be excluded from sq-footage calculations. Imagine the semantic definitions and arguments, especially for homes built into a slope. The county calls it a regular level, homeowner calls it a basement. And anyway, an exemption for basements? How does that square with the energy efficeincy premise of size=wastefuleness? It doesn't, it gets back to the indefensible "rural character" argument. We know "too big" when we see it. Dig deep enough, hide your girth, and its okay. Whatever. Excavating companies in Boulder County, rejoice!

Being a leader on climate change technologies I support - I'll even support some regulations along with incentives. But this drive to put a limit on a home size because it seems like "too much" is not right.

The fact any such restrictions give current homeowners a grandfathered spike in valuation is an unintended consequence that Commissioners should also consider.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Curfews May Change?

Turns out the Camera story re: Lafayette's curfews we've been debating was incorrect in their large "Council Rolls Back Curfew" headline today. A correction online has been added to show what Councilor Bensman said below - they only asked the City Attorney to come back with language changing it for consideration. As a writer I feel bad for reporter Kate Larson who misunderstood the Council discussion. Always tough when you announce the wrong news.

Curfews. What a lazy, paranoid rule for a place with an otherwise good ol' small town feel. So you can't walk the streets because the police say so. Does that keep the unsupervised kids from doing dangerous things indoors? Where are the stats showing curfews prevent anything (in towns of similar size and demographics) to a significant degree? What is the history of the curfew? What "we must do something" scenario brought the curfew into play? Want to give police something to do? Make it illegal to simply be outside at a certain time.

Show me the stats to justify it, I'll happily eat crow. Perhaps I'm the paranoid one.

Lafayette Dawdling On Taser Investigation?

"Ten months after a Louisville man died after being zapped with a Taser by a Lafayette Police officer, an internal investigation of the incident remains unfinished."

What takes so long? asks the Longmont Times Call editorial today.

"Public servants at the Lafayette Police Department should level with the public about what happened the night Wilson died," they say.

Should any of us expect anything beyond a terse "we found no inaapropriate action was taken" from police investigating themselves?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Housing Authority Board Infiltration in Longmont?

Tonight the Longmont City Council is taking a look at the relationship they have with the citizen Housing Authority Board. Staff has recently researched a gray area in which the Council liaison to the Authority gets to vote on decisions. It's just a small quirky issue - the five appointed members of the Board wondered if Council member - the sixth LHA "member" - should get to vote. Why would there be a Board with an even number of votes? The details and chronology dug up by staff shows it all came to be about 6 years ago when there was a spot filled by Council member that previously had been a citizen's spot, then the citizen's spot was filled by a Council appointment.

Then the Council member started voting when he felt like it.

Now the only reason it deserves to be watched is that the Longmont Housing Authority's programming and efforts to provide affordable housing is funded by City Council vote. In the recent past, disagreements over how to prioritize spending federal funds granted for such programs have arisen between Council and the LHA. If the Council member spot is a voting spot, a tie vote can gum up the potential decisions of the LHA with a deadlock.

Immigration Law Meaningless

From Clint Talbott: "State lawmakers last year were determined to Do Something about illegal immigration. And they did do something; they passed a bunch of new laws." Read his comments in the Camera.

He makes the point that the farce/intention of looking tough on illegal immigration is meaningless when the federal government fails to actually do anything with the information police agencies provide. And the federal level immigration reform is hopelessly trapped between those refusing to let go of the emotional revulsion at letting anyone get away with entering illegally and those who figure what's done is done, let's integrate in a sweeping motion.

When the feds come up with a database we can trust (the Basic Pilot system now is a joke) then we can talk about verifying employment eligibility then we can have some kind of impact. What to do with those people who've been here illegally for years? I don't know.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Brats in Battalions Were Ruling The Streets...

This topic made me think of that line from Alice Cooper's "Generation Landslide" off of Billion Dollar Babies: Lafayette is being asked to extend curfew for those under 18 from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM Sunday through Thursday. Any problem letting kids stay out later?

I'm just curious if the cops currently just cruise on by without curiosity if they see a kid out at 9:45 PM anyway. Isn't any kid out after dark something to notice? Do we need an official curfew? Can the cops not ask them what's up until after the curfew kicks in? It just all seems like overblown bureaucracy. If something looks suspicious, check it out. Who cares what time it is?

Friday, June 15, 2007

WalMart Keeps Rollin' - Broomfield's Next

The Broomfield Enterprise describes "an unusually well-attended Land Use Review Commission hearing" last Monday regarding a 196,000-square-foot WalMart Supercenter to be built northeast of 120th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard. Broomfield's looking a a nearly $5million sales tax break to lure WalMart in. Sigh.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Boulder County Districting Scheme

Boulder County is broken up into three districts. District 1 is basically the City of Boulder west of Hwy 36, Jamestown, Ward, and Nederland. District 2 is the part of Boulder east of Hwy 36, Louisville, Lafayette, Superior, and part of Erie. District 3 is Longmont, Niwot, Lyons, and points west. How the county is split up and the amount of districts is not the issue as much as how the county commissioners are elected.

Each commissioner resides in one of the three districts and no two commissioners can reside in the same district, meaning the commissioner for District 1 can live in District 3, and 3 can live in 2, and 2 can live in 1, or some other combination. So your representative can and may live in a different district, and not be as familiar with your districts issues as he should. That’s not representative government, and a loophole that should be closed.

In Longmont, the city is broken up into wards. The way it works is that, for instance, only the people who reside in Ward 2 can vote for Ward 2’s candidates. Those candidates must also reside in Ward 2. In addition, there are “at-large” seats, including the Mayor position, which everyone in the city can vote on, but at least you’re guaranteed a seat on the council that is meant just for your part of the neighborhood. But in Boulder County, everyone in the county votes for all three districts. People in Superior vote for who will represent Longmont, and vice-versa. The reality is that the residents in the City of Boulder select all three commissioners. And that’s exactly how they want it. Again, not representative government.

Boulder’s model doesn’t apply to State Senators or Representatives, or the U.S. House of Representatives. Those are broken down into districts and you only get to vote for your district candidate, not the next district over, or all of the districts. This scam is better than gerrymandering (a form of redistricting in which electoral districts or constituency boundaries are manipulated for an electoral advantage). Why bother with that when you can rig the system this way? Some fallout from this unfair setup is, according to a Times-Call editorial, a high-ranking county official changed his party affiliation to have a snowballs chance at a victory. “Hey, comrade, join the party if you want that spot.” To that I say “Nyet”!

Obviously, the easiest fix would be to allow voters to only select the commissioners in their own district, period. Those candidates should also reside in that district. You could even add a couple of “at large” commissioners that everyone could vote on who would represent the entire district. This was the idea behind the “Drive For Five” initiative a few years ago. Alas, that didn’t pass because voters in Boulder said so. Any other change would be nearly impossible to pass for the same reason. If we aren’t the “City and County of Boulder”, then the City voters shouldn’t be the final word for the rest of the county. In another article, a different approach: seceding from Boulder County.

WalMart's Energy Efficiency?

Two points about the WalMart discussion have been interesting - one is how much WalMart plays into future revenue projections and therefore what the city believes could be leveraged with bonds on the ballot this fall; second is the notion of energy efficient design at the new Super WalMart.

I had written about my sympathy for the Lafayette City Council in February 2005 regarding their December 2004 damned if you do, damned if you don't predicament with WalMart. Councilor Kerry Bensman helped me with a bit of history to WalMart back then - he has alluded to the bigger picture in a recent comment below.

So how does WalMart's tax breaks on sales square with long-term revenue projections for the city budget? My call for not shopping there on ethical grounds I expect will not truly keep the hordes from swarming, it is just my voice in the wilderness. But, if WalMart doesn't bring in more revenue than they did at their South Boulder Road locale, they don't actually get any kick-back. And I'm intrigued at any kind of energy efficiency aspect - such stipulations would likely have been a deal breaker. Lafayette residents haven't clamored for that as a priority like Boulder residents (yet). Here's what WalMart says they're doing without being asked.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

WalMart Flaw #11,562

"We found that managers and assistant managers went into employees payroll data bases, and they deleted time that had been entered by employees." Long said that he found written policies from Wal-Mart's corporate offices telling managers across the country to practice payroll manipulation.

As part of my simmering reminders to people not to shop at WalMart (so Lafayette won't hit the threshold of negotiated kick-backs) here's a new article on the company's latest involvement with the law from the Denver Business Journal.

Malcolm Fleming New Louisville City Manager

Malcolm is the new man in Louisville; here's the press release.

Much like the PreserveLouisville.org website that is all over the alleged/presumed improprieties of Louisville's Revitalization Commission, Mr. Fleming has been included in the detailed rantings of a watchdog website back in Washington accusing various public officials of secretly working to re-zone land for a racetrack in 2005. (I say rants with all due respect as a fellow blogger.)

So, he also brings the experience of having vigilant activists digging up all sorts of details regarding economic development possibilities. That will be handy, as PreserveLouisville.org is challenging the authority of the Louisville Revitalization Commission with a ballot issue this November.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Revenue Sharing - Just Brainstorming

I've been looking into how revenue sharing can work. I was skeptical, but had no facts to go on. So here are a few sources:
Casino revenue sharing in Kansas
Statewide revenue sharing concepts in Massachusetts
Video on revenue sharing concepts in Michigan (state/local sharing)

Building on my earlier comment, here's my idea: Imagine Boulder County 20 years from now. All the municipalities have annexed, IGA'd and otherwise built to their borders. County open space and permanently unincorporated land makes up any buffer.

Somewhere along the way, say 2015, the County citizens vote to approve changes to the management plans of open space to allow commercial and retail development in specific areas. As the development occurred on parcels considered rural preservation or otherwise off-limits in 2007, no one community ever anticipated the area as available for its own comprehensive plan (hence budgetary) vision.

I like this concept - not simply approving a tax, but the creation of a source for the tax. Plus, as I understand it, Commissioners have the right to make "significant changes" to open space management plans following public hearings - but no public vote is technically necessary. See OS 8.02 at the bottom of this page.

Anyway, the sales and use tax collected by the commercial development goes towards some regional need (transit/education/health care/whatever - this is another brainstorm discussion). As the various communities didn't have plans to annex and monetize the parcels, a regional expense should be more easily accepted.

Over time, the guaranteed redevelopment of underperforming interior commercial/industrial parcels within each community will be shaped by the various affordable housing ordinances of each town. Density in construction is essentially mandated and actually is profitable. Large commercial construction is not as profitable in these areas as is mixed use office/retail/housing. See Countryside Village in Lafayette or StorageTek/Sun in Louisville.

In the long run my hallucinated evolution places larger manufacturers and larger employers/retail on the periphery of each town, in the areas slated for mutual revenue sharing. (Think something similar to the impending Lowe's and Target in Lafayette; the Superior Marketplace and the Hwy 7/I-25 corridor.)

My brainstorm isn't about paving wetlands and destroying sensitive habitat. To the extent that various parcels have fewer priority characteristics (in the face of figuring out how to pay for the quality of life services in our wonderful patch of earth called Boulder County) they can be considered as potential locations for revenue generating development that goes to our larger County-wide priorities. Boulder's northeast border parcel floated as a big box development is another example. 2004 was too soon; by 2020 it may look real practical.

The vote on the Lafayette Lowe's also shows somewhat how this could look: peripheral locale, non-sensitive habitat, large revenue generator. Difference: Lafayette gets it all in this case.

As I re-read this, I'm utterly unconvinced. Please comment on parts you think can work and parts that are non-starters.

As Alex has indicated, finding out now if there's even a snowball's chance is worth it to save years of fruitless wrangling.

County Hearing You Can't Buy Your Way To Larger Homes

The Longmont Times Call opined today about the County's house size limits - or reduced sizing incentives, as they may call them. They also believe the ability to pay your way out of a limit misses the point. Read it online here.

See below for this blog's conversation on the topic.

Garage Sales Getting On Neighbors' Nerves

In Longmont a serial garage sale organizer has been told the city code doesn't allow more than 12 in a year. After six weekends in a row of Friday/Saturday sales Sherri Willyard has been warned that's it for her little side income gig.

From Longmont's municipal code:

For purposes of this chapter, a “garage sale” is defined as the occasional nonbusiness public sale of secondhand household and other goods incidental to household uses by a person or persons from a location zoned for any residential densities set forth in Chapter 15.03 or 15.04 of this code. It is unlawful to hold a garage sale more than three consecutive days, or for more than twelve days, within any twelve-month period at the same location. (Ord. 0-2001-78 § 3 (part); Ord. 0-92-22 § 1 (part))

It's the failure to pay sales taxes that ends up being the real reason to limit garage sales. I know you're thinking I would champion this as a property rights issue; not this time.

Monday, June 11, 2007

You Can Party Once Again In Boulder County

The County Commissioners have changed the (surprise) arbitrary administrative decision on the part of the Land Use Department that donations given at a house party with a live band constitutes a "business" and hence is regulated - and not allowed - within unincorporated Boulder County.

The background to this issue is vintage Boulder County Land Use thinking, the kind of stifling and random, inconsistent application of otherwise worthy land use protection values that I've heard about anecdotally since moving here 20 years ago. Read "House Concerts - Temporary Stay of Enforcement" here. And all it took to get this ball rolling is one person to call to complain - and it turns out the County admits they can't identify who that complainant was who set this all into motion.

My rantings about the County's land use regs have been fueled by such anecdotes. You just have to keep an eye on 'em.

Mobile Home Park Residents Have Council Weight Behind Them

In Lafayette the attention of the City Council may help residents of the Arbordale Acres neighborhood deal with onerous lease requirements set on them by their property manager. Read about it in the Camera. The article describes Councilor Frank Phillips suggesting (and the Council agreeing) Kingsley Management Corp. must sit down with Arbordale residents to discuss their concerns before its mobile home park license is renewed.

There are legitimate gripes, and focusing on the rental park license is the way to bring pressure on them to explain their rationale for their lease terms.

A concern: in the world of return-on-investment-to headache ratios, abusive property management tactics can be worth it financially. But vigilant City Councils end up shining the spotlight on abusive tactics by management companies and by extension the property owners. If they realize they can't profit by being overbearing or otherwise lax in their management, and they may have their license revoked by being more accountable, they could just say the heck with it and kick everyone out and redevelop the whole neighborhood into townhomes worth more money. Elsewhere in Lafayette, the Shady Acres mobile home park is going to redevelop after facing sewer and other maintenance issues and the current residents will be displaced.

Working over seniors and lower-income folks is not always noticed or prioritized by elected officials. This is just the kind of big brother role you want to see a Council take on. As long as the emotions don't run too high and Kingsley actually wants to keep managing a mobile home park, the city should retain an affordable neighborhood.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

New Louisville City Manager Imminent

The official announcement and offer will happen Tuesday; the selected candidate was contacted over the weekend. Predictions?

Senior Pork On The Chopping Block

Louisville City Council told staff last week to return with a plan to eliminate a property tax discount for seniors that I had remarked in April seemed gratuitous. In tight times, the city is making a pragmatic analysis and the Louisville Times article points out the nearly $300,000 a year the city spends on senior programs.

The gist to me is that the amount given back is so small as to be token in nature. In aggregate it costs Louisville about $30,000 a year (max $133 per applicant). And with a new state program offering much more for senior property tax rebates, eliminating this makes sense.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Building Size Limits - Who Makes The Call?

My earlier comment about the County Commissioners perhaps reconsidering the 4000/2600 sq ft limit on plains/mountains homes is questionable based on the editorial they wrote for the Camera today.

They say "What we are trying to do is create a balanced program that mitigates the impacts of large structures without setting an absolute size limit," yet they also say "...while there would be no ultimate "cap" or limit to structure size ... a property owner who wants to build above a certain threshold would be required to purchase Development Rights or Credits in order to offset the larger scale of that development."

So what isn't articulated yet is the threshold sq. footage that would trigger a TDR purchase - which is a de facto limitation except for more wealthy homebuilders. They can buy their way out of a limitation that ostensibly is about reducing the carbon emission impact of larger homes. But if the larger home/pollution concern were truly defensible, they would champion the limitation all the way to court. But there are building technologies that address the size/pollution concerns. Hence the BuildSmart program they describe.

Because this loophole will exist, I feel the political decision to avoid a frontal assault on property rights ends up instead creating a rule that is actually about the subjective notion of "rural character" and appropriately-sized residential development.

The Commissioners say: "More and more of the new homes in Boulder County are far larger than existing homes; in many cases existing modest-sized homes are being scraped off and replaced by much larger structures. One of the main goals for the proposed TDR program is to sustain the rural character of Boulder County and to help preserve a diversity of housing stock, encouraging the preservation of smaller homes and mountain cabins while allowing for larger homes on parcels where that scale of development is appropriate."

The premise to this statement is that there is some kind of baseline design or size for homes in Boulder County that is the absolute standard. As if the homes built between (throw a dart at a stack of calendars) 1958 and 1975 demonstrate the "appropriate rural home" to be compared against today.

At one point people lived here in tents. Then cabins. Then various types of farmhouses and ranch homes. There is a never-ending evolution of home styles built in the manner the landowner desired - all with an unquestioned presumption that you could build what you wanted on your land. Who cares if the average home size in, say, 1987 was X sq feet? What does that have to do with the home I want to build today?

Well, we're more aware of aggregate pollution impacts on the global environment. Okay, I buy that premise. But that's where the efficient design standards come in. If you're building a home today it is more likely the materials far exceed the efficiency of homes 10+ years older. The County can press for further efficiency standards with the pursuit of carbon emission reductions with a straight face. People not liking it can buy and build in 100 other counties around the west.

Implementing a TDR purchase requirement then is about the subjective decision that a certain size is simply "too big", efficient design or not. That's my concern. Sure, I can look at homes and figure it's outrageous and who needs a house that big? But that's not my decision to make on them, outside of warranting efficient design. It is a property rights value that is deeply American. I believe the Commissioners figure that somehow a certain size is just too big. And they know what that is. (But you can buy your way out of the limit? What?!)

If Commissioners and public officials thought the same thing back in the 1860s as they're proposing now we'd all be living in tents and cabins. I know, I know, that's a stretch. My point is that homeowners of today feeling that a large house violates some kind of "rural character" have presumed a random year's average home size as "appropriate." Well, I don't buy it. Change happens. Be happy the Commissioners at least care about the efficiency aspects, the truly worthwhile concern.

Read the Commissioners' opinion here.

Read the proposals in layman's terms in the Boulder County Bunsiness Report.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Governor Ritter To Tout Eagle Place

Wow. The Governor is coming June 30 to recognize Eagle Place's energy efficient design. I imagine he will avoid commenting on the colors; however the Lafayette City Council has asked the developer to switch up some of those ugly hues.

While I was a loud voice complaining about the color choice, my understanding is that the developer chose options from a palette that was approved. Two questions: 1) Do we really need City Councils making second thought judgement calls on people's paint choices? And 2) if so ( I would argue no - everyone has an opinion and mine's no more valid than the developers) , in what context would those colors ever not been ugly? Why are they allowed, ever?

Although I still say the overall design and paint choice makes for an unimpressive entrance to Lafayette, if those colors were initially allowed, then let'em go. There must have been a decision on the range of allowable colors for developments way back when that reflected the low level of concern officials had about color choices. Otherwise these never would have made the cut.

More seriously, let's find out if the new tenants are employed in Lafayette and if they lived in Lafayette in the first place.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Commissioners Coy About Limiting Home SIzes

In the face of more criticism than I think they expected, the Boulder County Commissioners hedged last night on their stance regarding the limits on home sizes. I believe they still want to implement the plan as stated (4000/2600 sq ft limits on plains/mountains homes) but they're providing "nothing is set in stone " platitudes while they regroup their messaging.

From the Camera: "I worry a lot about what rural Boulder County will look like in five years or more, when modest houses are scraped for larger ones," said Commissioner Ben Pearlman. "We're at a crossroads now."

Ironically, they will allow the loophole of being able to pay your way towards a larger house by purchasing development rights to preserve agricultural or rural land elsewhere in the county. Then, only the wealthiest of the wealthy will move to Boulder County and buy their way towards the large home they want. That is the true trade-off the Commissioners must be willing to accept - fewer homes in total - and huge ones at that - who become a side source of revenue for open space. What a millionaire's playground Boulder County will become (even more so). One more way to make Boulder County land more exclusive - and it can't be lost on people how that helps current homeowner's property values.

Check out the related quandary of the Commissioners: how to legally delay an approved 6000 sq ft house for Karen Bernardi because a floodplain study due next year may render her property un-developable.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Retiring From The 'Scene

For those who may not have seen it yet, the June issue of the Yellow Scene has my last article; I've retired from the publication on good terms. It was simply time. You can read my nostalgic overview of the last five-plus years' and 80+ columns online here.

I have grown along with the Yellow Scene, which was literally on yellow paper and featured entertainment and pizza coupons over muckraking back then; Shavonne Blades has continued to grow the reach and value of the free publication into the most relevant and useful publication in east county, I dare say.

I have coupled my sincere citizen interest with my research for articles on a variety of topics and this enthusiasm continues with this blog. The immediacy and interactive nature of online conversation has attracted my interest. I like the potential for my editorial comments to be challenged almost immediately with facts and context by those familiar with the situation.

More than just my chiming in once a month on an issue, I see this blog as a useful tool for officials and activists vetting a decision or topic. Thanks to the years with the Yellow Scene, I am more educated, connected and interested. I hope you continue to join me in building the value of this blog.

And thanks to all of you for reading me - and providing info and quotes! over the years.

County Draws A Line Around Home Sizes

"It's going to stir up some controversy, and some people might think it's heavy-handed," says Peter Fogg, a county land-use planner, regarding the potential regulations limiting homes to 4000/2600 sq. ft.

From the Camera today: As part of the county's transfer development rights program, a homeowner who wanted to build big would have to pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars into a bank set up to buy conservation easements and make open space purchases elsewhere in the county. The bigger the house, the bigger the payment into the transfer development rights program. "There's a price to everyone of land impacts, energy use and construction materials, and there should be offsets for doing those things," Fogg said.

What additional absolutes should the county pursue? number of vehicles per person? number of children per family? This arbitrary limitation is based on what "feels right" and comes from a place of envy and disgust at the blatant excess of others. It is not the kind of mindset that should be the basis of public land use policy.

What is the problem trying to be solved? And what makes 4000 sq ft the magic cut-off point to address those "problems"?

Monday, June 04, 2007

We're Broke - And We Play Nice!

Louisville City Council will consider adopting the Code of Ethics of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation Tuesday; MDEDC President Tom Clark will make a presentation on why this is a good idea.

I like the concept; in practice I've heard the commitments not to "sell against" a neighbor and share information is spotty and not always championed by members. Mr. Clark's efforts are worthwhile though and have been more successful than similar efforts around the country. They're more realistic in creating an atmosphere of opportunity for the Front Range than say, oh, revenue sharing plans.

We're Broke - Let's Share!

At the County's urging, the notion of revenue sharing between communities is going to be discussed by the respective City Councils in Louisville and Boulder Tuesday. A proposal to study details to the project needs $49,000; Louisville is being asked to chip in $7,000.

Getting started on this concept is not going to be easy; it goes against the grain of municipal funding mechanisms based on sales tax that have been in place for decades. I perceive the best options for success would be to develop previously un-annexed land between two communities and allow for commercial development; put as many of the costs/responsibilities onto the County. That is likely not within the County's Comp Plan given the buffer philosophy in place (not to mention each community's open space acquisition priority list).

The other option means development of a parcel within a given community's boundary. So someone gets the responsibility of fire protection, traffic and other components of a business in their town while sending some of the income to a neighbor or a regional revenue pool. Hmmm.

I'm curious to see the details to how $49k will be spent and the presumed details that will be discovered. BTW - Lafayette, Erie, Superior and Longmont will be asked to chip in too.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Walkin' Much In Downtown Lafayette?

"We are trying to get more people involved in active lifestyles in Lafayette" says Debbie Wilmot, community relations director for the Lafayette recreation center. A big article in the Camera describes the mile markers up and down South Public Road that will help people guage their walking distances while strolling the length of downtown. Have you noticed them? Do you even walk downtown?

CU Growth Expert Restates the Obvious

The Times Call gives and overview today of the Wednesday evening lecture by William Travis titled “‘Dumb Growth’ in the New West”. Points included 1) Growth in the New West outpaces the national average; 2) an additional 1.5 million people will live in Colorado by 2030; 3) local planning is ineffective and myopic and 4) more intergovernmental agreements are necessary to plan on an ultra-regional level.

The trends he predicts for "exurban" growth in the mountains will result in more "extreme commuting". Businessweek described this disturbing scenario last year: commuters spending at least a month of their lives each year traveling a minimum of an hour-and-a-half one-way to work. Their ranks have jumped an astounding 95% since 1990, according to the Census Bureau, accounting for 3.4 million workers.

I'm a new dad and that makes me feel even more tired.

Read more about Travis' book "New Geographies of the American West," and hear a podcast interview on the Camera's website.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Lafayette Dropping the Dope Discussion

Today's Camera headlines the Local Section with the decision to back-burner the pot fine increase topic in Lafayette. In the name of pragmatic time considerations - and weighing the relative import and impact of this topic against more important issues (like national immigration statements?), City Administrator Gary Klaphake is quoted: "That's such a huge distraction for such a minimal return".

While I agree that this doesn't deserve further discussion, it's curious that research into the current status of actual marijuana use in Lafayette (the kind of info Mayor Pro-Tem David Strungis requested be presented before City Council consider increased fines) and subsequent debate on increased deterrence and punishment would be pragmatically relegated down the list of priorities, while the hub-bub of a statement on national immigration policy - a symbolic statement - was championed by a majority of the Council.

Superior Considering Recreation Funding Ballot Issues

A couple weeks ago the Superior Town Board approved a community wide survey regarding input for priority parks and recreation amenities. (Why read when you can kick or hit a ball?) Anyway, residents have received mailed surveys and are encouraged to return them with their opinions.

Their input will be used to determine whether or not there is enough support to ask the voters of Superior to put a ballot initiative forward in November of this year. Click here for an aerial map of the study items.

The Town is hosting two Community Meetings for citizens to learn about these parks and recreation amenities. June 14 at 6:00 p.m. at Town Hall will include a review of the information and plans that have been developed to date for the amenities throughout Superior, as well as an opportunity for citizens to provide feedback and comments on the plans. A second Community Meeting focusing on amenities proposed for Original Town will be held June 21 at 6:00 p.m. at Town Hall. This meeting will include a brief review of the process and plans developed to date, but will focus the proposed amenities and potential concerns related to Original Town. Call 303-554-9005 with questions regarding these meetings.