First Fridays: July 20185 min read
Last night, Trustee Sandie Hammerly hosted the monthly “First Fridays” open forum for residents to speak directly with Trustees about anything on their mind. I love these events as a way to get the pulse of the town and also get to better understand the Trustee’s opinions in a casual setting!
While the events are usually held in the morning over coffee and pastries, last night, we went to Brunelleschi’s in the Sports Stable, and enjoyed thin crust pizza and happy hour drinks. The discussion centered around two tangentially-related topics: the Town 15 and the Livewell Foundation’s proposal to build a charter school / community center on the property, and the proposed plans for the town to expand the privately-owned Sports Stable into a town-owned community center.
Most of the residents in attendance agreed with the mission of the Livewell Foundation’s charter school (Summit Academy), but not all thought that our town needs another school – there was a lot of debate over the quality of education at Monarch High School. The main opposition to the proposal was the location. The Town 15 is a prime piece of land (corner of McCaslin and Coalton, across from Calamante), and putting a school there could cause significant traffic issues. As a high school, in particular, residents were concerned about the significant amounts of parking needed for student drivers. Although Summit Academy would be very centrally located in Rock Creek, as a charter school, it would be filled using the lottery, so most of the students would not be Superior residents and would be coming from elsewhere in the county. The Livewell Foundation’s leader, Jack Chang, is expected to make an offer to the town this week for purchase of the land to build – much more to come once we know the terms of the offer, and particularly, what terms would be offered for residents to use the community center facilities that Jack is proposing to build along with the school.
But speaking of community centers: I found the discussion of the proposed Rough Rider recreation / community center at Town Center to be much more interesting. When I first started becoming involved in town politics, I was a huge proponent of getting a community / recreation center for our town. As readers of my personal blog know, I am a big workout enthusiast, and I’d love the opportunity to have a low-cost gym close to my home. However, when I actually run the numbers, I realized that a town-owned rec center would not be as cheap as I expected.
The town staff is looking at increasing our mill levy by 1.5 mills (about $60 per year on a $500K home), as well as increasing sales tax by 0.25% (which would give Superior the second highest sales tax rate in the area, in comparison to Boulder, Louisville, Lafayette, Broomfield, Erie, Longmont, Westminster, and Arvada). Meanwhile, the family resident rate is proposed at $179/month for the “silver” access plan (access to the Community Center and Impact Sports, but not the turf, ice, or full facility). That’s only $30/month less than Lifetime Fitness’ $209/month for two adults and one child (which is what the town’s plan assumes to be the average family size). Once membership is fully ramped up after six years, the facility is only expected to serve 3,300 members – or less than a quarter of our growing population. (All numbers from item #2 here on this Monday’s Town Board agenda.)
For $60 a year in increased taxes, I’m willing to kick in if that’s what everyone else wants to do. (It should be noted that 39% of respondents to the Town’s 2014 Indoor Space Survey said they would not be willing to spend more than $50 per year in increased taxes for indoor facilities.) But personally, I don’t think I’d get a membership plan at those prices – particularly when the Town Center is further from my home than Lifetime, and only marginally closer than continuing down McCaslin to Louisville Rec. I’m currently ambivalent as to whether the Board should push this to the ballot in the fall, as I think the voters should have the opportunity to decide (assuming that residents are armed with the facts around the proposed cost – a big assumption). But if the proposal does become a ballot initiative, I would personally vote “no” to moving forward with it.
The biggest thing I have noticed in our discussions of a community center / rec center is the lack of attention to costs for what the town supposedly “wants”. When a survey goes out asking if I want a lazy river, weight equipment, and cardio classes? Sure, sign me up! (And can we add a bar to the lazy river?) I’m not at all surprised that so many residents said they like the plans, or that the majority of the comments said they want this or that added – it’s really easy to like something when you don’t have to pay for it. But you can’t look at amenities without also looking at their associated cost, and I think we’ve made a mistake in asking residents what they want without also clearly articulating the cost / consequences of those choices.
In the 2014 community survey, 73% of Superior resident respondents said they’d be interested in partnering with Louisville on community / recreation facilities. Louisville was big enough on their own to not need our support (thanks to their sizable sales tax base – something Superior needs to work on increasing). But I think rather than seeing us take on a $19M bond that we’d be paying back until 2039, I’d like to see us explore partnerships with neighboring communities and privately-owned facilities that don’t require us to shoulder the bulk of the costs.
Building community is incredibly important to me, and a big part of my vision for the town is more events like our fantastic Fourth of July parade / pancake breakfast, Chili Fest, and Count the Lights. I’m also eager to see our Town Center become the “crown jewel” of our community – a destination for residents and visitors alike, with restaurants, shops, and other establishments designed to encourage people to stay a while. However, I don’t think we need a town-owned community center for us to continue building our community – and this price seems like a high one to pay, with a heavy focus on the recreation aspects that are already being done well by Lifetime Fitness, Louisville Rec, and many privately owned facilities. Let’s focus our collective town government efforts on doing what the private sector can’t / won’t do, rather than duplicating efforts.