Town Board Meeting: August 27, 201845 min read
TL;DR: The Board voted 5-2 to close the intersection at Weldona and 88th Street, with Trustees Lacis, Dozal, Hammerly, Pennington, and Folsom voting to approve the motion, while Trustees Ryan and Hanson voted against the motion. On the opposite side of the connectivity vs community debate, the Board voted 4-3 to approve Boulder Creek Neighborhoods’ plan to extend Coal Creek Drive to their property line, with Mayor Folsom and Trustees Ryan, Hanson, and Pennington in favor, and Trustees Hammerly, Lacis, and Dozal opposed. It remains to be decided by a future Board whether Coal Creek Drive will continue from that property line all the way to Town Center, or whether the stub will instead be replaced with a park. Finally, the Board voted unanimously to reject Jack Chang’s offer to purchase the Town 15 in order to build a charter school and community center on the land.
This is a long recap to go along with a very long meeting (which started after the three hour Board Retreat that I already recapped here). I’ve divided this Board Meeting’s recap into sections that correspond to the items in the meeting agenda, and also summarized the gist of the various public comments rather than reporting each one, but I’m aware that it will still be quite a slog to get through. Godspeed, neighbors! 😉
With regard to approval of the agenda for the night, there was talk of moving up public comment on Mr. Chang’s proposal to purchase the Town 15 on behalf of the LIVEWELL Foundation and build a charter school and community center on the land. However, since this item on the agenda had already been noticed to begin at 10:30pm, the Board decided it wasn’t fair to move it up at the last minute.
While I will not go through all the reports from the Board / Staff, there are a few things of note.
Trustee Sandy Pennington mentioned that she’s very happy with the new circle that was built at Eldorado K-8 to relieve traffic at drop-off / pick-up; she said that in her opinion, it is working quite well. She also praised the crosswalks around town that were recently painted by the CAPS committee. Trustee Pennington noted that CAPS will be at the Chili Fest this weekend (September 8) with a mural and could use volunteers to man the booth and also to paint squares for the mural. The mural will be assembled from all the squares that residents paint, and displayed on the wall of the underpass near Superior Liquor.
Trustee Pennington said that in 2019, CAPS will be working with a consultant to put together a master plan for art in the community – an announcement I am thrilled to hear. As you’ve seen me write numerous times before, I think it’s always best to have a plan, even if that plan requires adaptation due to new opportunities.
Finally, Trustee Pennington spoke out against the ballot initiative to change the Gallagher Amendment, pointing out that Rocky Mountain Fire is making it sound like they have had a decrease in revenue of $600,000. In fact, they are not experiencing any decrease in revenue; they would just get $600,000 more if it weren’t for the Gallagher amendment. I am going to write a full post on the Gallagher Amendment as we get closer to the election, so that you can fully understand the implications and decide how to vote, but I agree with Trustee Pennington that it’s important to understand the numbers – which are not currently being represented fairly by the fire department’s communications.
Town Manager Matt Magley said that construction on McCaslin is expected until the end of September, where previously it was expected to wrap up in the middle of September. I think we’re all eager for this to get done as soon as possible, so let’s hope they don’t run into any more delays!
General Public Comment
During general public comment, Candidate for Mayor Gladys Forshee stated that she wants to see the Town take Open Space funds and use them to reimburse residents for the increase in taxes that will go to the Rocky Mountain Fire District. However, she is in support of the Rocky Mountain Fire District’s request for additional funding.
Candidate for Trustee Dalton Valette commented that he would like to see a legislative tracker built on the town website, similar to the Domino’s pizza tracker. I really like this idea. This spring, I suggested an idea to the Town Board to crowdsource the pros and cons of hot topics, and publish those pros / cons in real time on the web so residents could more quickly and easily understand what issues are being discussed and what the debate is about. Although the pizza tracker concept to show the status of pending legislation might be a bit more simplistic, I do think it would be a great way to provide clarity into when and how something will move forward. (Unfortunately, as fun of a video as it is, “I’m Just a Bill” from Schoolhouse Rock is not really applicable to municipal operations.) From my own experience in pushing for new alternate side parking rules, I know that it can be difficult to get on Town meeting agendas, and sometimes even proposal authors / development applicants aren’t notified until a few days before the meeting – making it difficult to drop everything to prep and attend. The more transparency we can provide around decisions, the better for all involved.
As a consultant, I can’t disclose my clients, but I found it ironic that Mr. Valette cited the Domino’s app as the example. As luck would have it, I led a team to build a similar digital app tracker for one of my clients. Furthermore, in my work as a program manager for various implementations, I’ve developed numerous trackers and status templates to ensure that stakeholders are fully informed. If elected, I certainly look forward to helping move this general idea forward and figure out how we can actually implement something of this nature.
The Fair Maps presentation needed to be rescheduled… and the whole room breathed a sigh of relief, as we were all aware this meeting was going to be long enough anyway 🙂 Stay tuned for more on this initiative, coming to you in the form of ballot measures to approve Amendments Y and Z that target gerrymandering. As we get closer to the election, I will be publishing blog posts around several of the major initiatives you’ll see on the ballot this year, to keep you informed as you prepare to vote. (Click here to check that you are registered to vote.)
Consideration of Options to Reduce Traffic on Weldona Way
Once the consent agenda finished, the first special topic discussion began. On the topic of Weldona, Alex Ariniello, Public Works and Utilities Director, presented the issue and data. Director Ariniello said there were two options that the Town initially evaluated: closing Weldona at 88th Street, and putting a left turn restriction on the exit from Akron to Coal Creek. Based on email feedback after the agenda went out, Town Staff also added two more options: an option to make 88th / Weldona only an exit rather than an entrance (turning it into a one way), and an option to split Weldona and close it in the middle. While I understand that these options were identified after the agenda was sent, I do wish an updated agenda had included data for these options, since the public was not aware they were being considered until live at the meeting.
In looking at the traffic numbers, a typical home generates 10 trips/day; there are ~100 homes in the Weldona area, which would lead to 1000 trips/day. However, further analysis revealed that the homes in this area average 12 trips/day (for 1,200 trips/day total), plus another 600 trips/day of cut through traffic. Director Ariniello noted that all of these numbers are approximate – certain days could be higher or lower – but said that traffic counts are always measured on a Tuesday or Thursday when school is in session.
Trustee Lacis asked about what kind of traffic numbers would constitute a traffic problem, and Director Ariniello said it depends – that some people say 800 is livable and some say 1,500 is where it gets problematic. When asked about similar streets in other parts of Rock Creek, Director Ariniello said that Yarrow, Torreys Peak, and Castle Peak also have issues – and that the bottom of Castle Peak gets 2,700 vehicles/day. Director Ariniello said that he worked with the developers (e.g., Boulder Creek Neighborhoods) to determine the traffic numbers – and that this is standard practice for them to work together, with Town Staff asking questions and confirming assumptions. Having the developers compile the numbers could indicate a conflict of interest, but it is somewhat mitigated by the Town Staff review (assuming the review is rigorous).
Director Ariniello felt that the new third option to make 88th / Weldona right-turn and exit-only (exiting from Weldona to 88th) was problematic because it would be both difficult to build and difficult to enforce. He anticipated that this option would bring the number of vehicles/day on Weldona down to 690, even conservatively assuming that people who wanted to travel eastbound on 88th would still exit at 88th / Weldona and proceed to the Rock Creek traffic circle to do a U-turn.
Finally, Director Ariniello addressed the new fourth option to cut Weldona off somewhere in the middle – so one side would exit to Coal Creek and the other to 88th. This option was originally suggested by resident Nicolas Metts, and it’s certainly a creative solution. Splitting Weldona in the middle would be difficult to do physically, but it would be possible to use the “eyebrow” at the corner of South Weldona Lane and East Weldona Way, and turn it into a cul de sac. However, Trustee Lacis expressed the opinion that he hates to bisect a neighborhood, and several others on the Board agreed.
Today, Akron Place (on the west side of Weldona) gets about 1,000 vehicles/day, while Weldona at 88th gets about 1,500. As there are an estimated 600 vehicles/day of cut through traffic, the assumption is that a right-turn only option would eliminate half of those cars. However, I don’t think it’s a valid assumption that cut through traffic is equally bi-directional. I think it’s quite likely that there is more cut through traffic going either into or out of the neighborhood… but not being a resident of this particular area, I couldn’t hazard a guess as to which way would be more popular.
With regard to the costs, most of the Board agreed that they weren’t as concerned by cost as they were with the potential success of a solution. Looking at the numbers, Trustee Lacis pointed out that with regard to cost of a traffic circle at Coal Creek Drive and Rock Creek Driveway, this circle was already being discussed independently of Weldona, and so the costs should not factor into this decision. (And as I pointed out in my pre-read of the meeting materials, this roundabout or traffic circle was proposed with both of the originally proposed options – so it doesn’t help to differentiate between the options.)
Trustee Dozal pointed out that Weldona is different from all the other streets in the area. It is the only street that connects out to 88th rather than funneling all traffic to Coal Creek Drive / Rock Creek Parkway, a designated collector street. She expressed disappointment that the Board did not have all four options to review ahead of the meeting, rather than just learning about them and trying to review the numbers live. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Based on the original two options, I didn’t have a strong enough opinion to weigh in, but now seeing the two new options, I think option 3, in particular, could have been a good solution – or at the very least, an option to try before going full bore and closing Weldona at 88th.
I will not recap every public comment, particularly as some of the commentary got repetitive, but I want to issue a huge thank you to everyone who came out! I am a firm believer that we need to get residents more engaged and involved in decisions, and I know it’s not easy to drop everything and sit through a Town Meeting (especially one as long as this one). Public comment began at 10:30pm, and big kudos are deserved to everyone who stuck around to express their opinion.
Weldona resident Burton McKenzie pointed out that there have been 12 accidents since 2011 at the intersection of Weldona / 88th. He noted that while Weldona is currently defined as a local street (meaning it has less than 2,000 vehicles/day and also has backout driveways), it is only 36′ wide – while local streets should be 60′ wide according to the Town’s guidelines. Meanwhile, 88th is classified as a minor collector (defined as 2,000-8,000 vehicles/day, with two lanes). But the Town of Superior’s roadway design criterion say that the speed limit for a minor collector should be 30mph, while 88th has a speed limit of 35mph (equivalent to a major collector). Major collectors usually have four lanes, painted or raised medians, and left/right turn lanes – none of which 88th Street has, even though it also meets the traffic volume count with 9,400-10,000 vehicles/day (with major collectors being 8,000-18,000 vehicles/day). Mr. McKenzie raises a great point about 88th Street – either the speed limit needs to be lower, or we need to add more of these traffic calming / safety measures there, regardless of what we do about Weldona.
Edited to add: Moreover, Mr. McKenzie got cut off from continuing by time limits, but later clarified that his main point was that our Town guidelines require a 330 foot minimum distance between the intersections of local streets and minor collectors, a 660 foot minimum distance between local streets and major collectors, and do not allow minor arterials (the next category up) to be connected to local streets at all (see page 13 here). By my measurement, the intersection of Boyero and Weldona is only 261 feet away from the intersection of Weldona and 88th Street. Based on these minimum distances not being met, and especially if 88th moves up to become a minor arterial based on traffic from Town Center, it cannot be connected to Weldona. With these distinct guidelines, regardless of the safety argument debated later, it’s clear that the Board made the correct decision.
Resident Eddie Goldstein took an interesting approach to the problem by looking at how closing Weldona / 88th would inconvenience individuals. Taking his own home as an example, bypassing Weldona / 88th and instead exiting to Coal Creek Drive would make a previous 0.17 mile trip now 0.84 miles long. While the 0.67 mile difference may sound negligible, if someone does 6-8 one way trips/day, that can make a big difference.
By Mr. Goldstein’s count, there are 94 houses in this neighborhood; he believes some residences will be helped by changing the traffic patterns while others would be inconvenienced… which is exactly why this decision was such a difficult one for the Board. As an alternative, Mr. Goldstein suggested potentially turning this area into a gated community, where only residents can get in; he also offered the idea of using car transponders to toll any vehicles that cut through from one side to the other. While those ideas got chuckles at the meeting, I appreciated Mr. Goldstein trying to think outside the box 🙂 Sometimes the best solutions are born from brainstorming without limitations!
Speaking of brainstorming, resident Megan Anderson is a teacher who asked her students to brainstorm ideas (without disclosing that it was her neighborhood in the problem), and the students also came up with the idea of turning it into a gated community. Ms. Anderson said she was frustrated by closing the shortest possible access to the hospital, especially when she believes many people on the culs de sac are senior citizens who need that quick access. She cited Colorado guidelines that state that it’s illegal to shut down roads that lead to the hospital, but I was unable to find these guidelines myself. If anyone knows Ms. Anderson, I’d love to be put in touch with her to learn more, particularly in light of the Board’s decision.
Resident Louis Musher put forth an interesting question that I think gets to the heart of this debate. Do we really believe that the traffic on Weldona is a safety issue, or is this a matter of people not wanting as much traffic on their street? Resident Rich Kaufman pointed out that since the speed bumps have been put in, there’s been an enormous reduction in speed on Weldona – and this is backed up by the data published by the Town that the speed humps reduced the 85th percentile traffic speed from 26mph to 20mph (below the current speed limit of 25mph, and the lowest 85th percentile speed clocked anywhere in Rock Creek).
If people are indeed speeding, Mr. Kaufman suggested paying a sheriff to sit at each cul de sac on Weldona Way and issue tickets – pointing out that if someone gets a ticket on a street, they’re probably not going to speed on that street ever again. I have to agree with that logic – I was once guilty of speeding on the road to Denver Airport, and now I am extremely careful every single time to slow down around the curve by Blucifer 🙂
In a later comment, resident Rebecca Metz says there have been studies done that safety is not at all affected by the number of cars, but by the speed, and inquired as to whether there were any safety studies done to see exactly how safe Weldona is. In a conversation on Next Door that I had with Weldona resident Liza McKenzie, Ms. McKenzie pointed out that there are numerous factors that affect safety beyond speed or volume – like the blind curves and backout driveways. These qualitative factors are certainly important to consider, and it’s why we need resident input in addition to numerical data points.
While we heard a lot of concerns about safety from residents, I have to agree with Ms. Metz that some type of study would be needed to fairly judge the safety of Weldona, particularly given the relatively slow traffic speeds. Without that study, it sounds like many residents don’t like the traffic and are calling it a safety issue, when really, it’s a preference for less traffic at the cost of convenience. If there truly is a safety issue, I would be all in favor of figuring out a solution, but from the data points cited, it doesn’t seem like the closing of Weldona / 88th is safety-related, and the accidents at the intersection itself could be solved with the exit-only / right-turn-only solution.
Resident Connie Button said that she lives right in the middle of Weldona, and doesn’t see the traffic as a problem. She noted that Weldona has more signs to slow down than a school does (a fact reiterated to me by Ms. McKenzie when I visited the street – see photo at right, and see if you can spot all five signs in the pic). Ms. Button said that she didn’t have any choice when the signs were erected in her yard, but that she put up with them because she wanted 88th / Weldona kept open. Furthermore, Ms. Button says that the only time the heavy traffic makes left turns from Weldona to 88th difficult is when school is starting / ending; she believes that going around the circle at Rock Creek is more dangerous, and would like to see Weldona / 88th left as is.
Agreeing with Ms. Button, resident Marla Press expressed concerns that closing roads down will make congestion worse, and wants to open as many roads as possible so that people have options. Ms. Press believes that there will be accidents on Coal Creek Drive if people have to right turn onto it and then make a U-turn at the end of it to get back to Coal Creek Parkway. She wants to see improvements on 88th (like the medians and turn lanes suggested by Mr. McKenzie), but believes that by keeping all streets open, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem.
Finally, resident Greg Dieter from Boyero Court said that he is opposed to closing Weldona at 88th Street, and that he and his family bought into their home specifically for the ease of access. While this opinion was not in the majority of the residents who spoke up at the meeting, I have been concerned that there may be more residents like Mr. Dieter who want things kept as-is but haven’t been speaking up about it. Some people prefer connectivity, and some prefer community, and I think it puts the Board in a tough spot when people buy their homes expecting one thing and then getting another. If there are safety issues, of course we need to fix them, but I don’t think it’s right to substantially change the character of a neighborhood by opening / closing roads that weren’t originally open / closed. More on this when we get to the Lanterns Lane discussion later in the night!
After an hour of public comment, the Board had the chance to state their opinions. Trustee Lacis said he was discouraged that last year we chose to put in speed humps rather than solve the problem once and for all. He said that those speed bumps have been ineffective, and haven’t slowed people down, but the data I cited earlier shows just the opposite: that the speed humps have significantly slowed traffic down to 20mph.
Trustee Lacis pointed out that the problem with Weldona is not the speed or the traffic or even driver behavior, but the design. Trustee Lacis said Weldona was poorly designed from the beginning, with blind corners and driveways backing into those blind turns, and that it was designed before Monarch and Avista went up, which have further exacerbated the problems.
Trustee Lacis agreed that Weldona is a cut through, and reiterated that Weldona will continue to be a cut through unless we do something about it. I agree with that, and also agree that people will take the shortest path from point A to point B. However, I disagree that the only solution is to close Weldona at 88th Street. Removing various turns on / off Weldona will prevent it from being used as a cut through just as effectively as closing it entirely, without inconveniencing neighbors who want to maintain the original connectivity that they were promised when they bought their homes. However, Trustee Lacis doesn’t believe that adding medians on Coal Creek will diminish westbound cut through traffic.
Trustee Lacis said that we should be focusing on smart planning – which in his view is creating communities, not cut throughs. Trustee Lacis noted that while Rock Creek is a master-planned community, it was planned around community, not around connectivity, and that people move to Rock Creek for the community and not the connectivity. However, I would disagree with this point. Whenever you move to a home, one of the key considerations is its location, and that’s why one of the first criterion to narrow a home search is town / neighborhood. Location preferences don’t always get as granular as a house or even block level, but you certainly do decide whether your daily routines make reasonable commutes from a potential home. After hearing all the commentary, I don’t think that an extra minute or two is a big deal (even if repeated multiple times a day), but I also don’t think it’s correct to say that nobody chooses a home for connectivity.
Trustee Sandy Pennington said that she spent two hours with Trustee Hammerly on Sunday driving the streets in this area to figure this out. She said that she was surprised that Amherst and Stoneham aren’t open to 88th, because if everyone drove down their own street, no one would have any problems. As another option to consider, Trustee Pennington proposed opening up both Amherst and Stoneham. She said that if the Board is not willing to open up Stoneham and Amherst, then she does think we need to close off Weldona.
I agree with Trustee Pennington’s thinking, but even before the meeting continued, I knew this idea would be a non-starter. With all the debate that has sprung up around changing things on Weldona, I think it would be nearly impossible to make a similar change on two streets without giving plenty of notice to those residents and allowing them to speak out against it… which many of them would probably do. Again, being open to 88th is partially a matter of preference (for connectivity vs quiet), and the people who live on Stoneham and Amherst bought their homes knowing that they were closed. Presumably, the Amherst / Stoneham homeowners are in a demographic that prefers the quiet to the connectivity, or they wouldn’t have bought their homes there.
Trustee Kevin Ryan praised our community for being such a close-knit town, and said that beyond safety, he thinks it’s incredibly important that we preserve the character of the neighborhood – including allowing civil discourse where neighbors disagree. He challenged Trustee Lacis’ statement that 800 vehicles/day should be the max, noting that our roadway guidelines say “Many studies have shown that residents are satisfied when… tolerable limits are 20mph or 800 vehicles/day.” In fact, we just heard from Transportation Consultant Chris McGranahan two weeks earlier that most towns are reasonably satisfied up until the number of cars approaches 1500 vehicles/day – which is a significantly higher number.
Trustee Ryan went on to say that he supports traffic calming measures, and believes our current speed humps are not high enough to adequately calm traffic. Again, though, I’ll cite the data that came directly from the town – showing that the 85th percentile of traffic is 20mph, which is the slowest speed of any of the locations measured in Rock Creek. Quantitative data should certainly be supplemented by qualitative data (like residents complaining about cars driving dangerously), but I have yet to hear anyone say that the measured data is incorrect, so I don’t understand why we keep talking about speeding.
Trustee Ryan is supportive of as many connections as possible, which will help reduce the number of vehicles on each road. He also would like to see a potential reduction of the speed limit (to 20mph from 25mph), and increased enforcement of the speed limit. Finally, he noted that opening Amherst would significantly change the character of the neighborhood – and so he is not supportive of that.
Trustee Rita Dozal said there are a lot of places in Superior that are poorly planned, and that it’s the result of letting developers make the decisions and focus on getting things done fast instead of right. She agreed with Trustee Lacis, and supported closing Weldona at 88th. Trustee Dozal believes that if 88th and Weldona is closed, traffic at Akron won’t increase because the cut through traffic will be eliminated.
Trustee Chris Hanson does not want to close off Weldona at 88th, and thinks it’s too early for us to move forward with that decision, because we still haven’t seen what will happen with the Town Center. He said that Coal Creek Drive was originally intended to go through, so if we added that connection as designed, and also built Promenade Drive to go from the Town Center to 88th, that would relieve a lot of pressure on Weldona. Trustee Hanson believes that the more connections we have open, the more pressure will be relieved across the neighborhood.
Trustee Sandie Hammerly agrees with Trustee Lacis that this was designed poorly, and is concerned that the Board is pitting neighbor against neighbor by not swiftly resolving this. She believes that safety is the most important factor, and that in her role as Trustee, she pledged to protect the health and safety of residents; therefore, she has to vote to close Weldona.
Mayor Clint Folsom said that he didn’t know going into the Board Meeting which way he was going to vote, and that it was one of the toughest decisions he’s had to make the entire time he has been there. However, he believes that the neighborhood has changed significantly since it was built in 1993; specifically, the opening of Monarch and Avista have significantly changed the character of 88th and, by extension, the neighborhood. So, he believes the appropriate thing to do is fix this by closing Weldona.
Trustee Lacis made a motion to close Weldona at 88th, and Trustee Dozal seconded the motion. Trustees Lacis, Dozal, Hammerly, Pennington, and Folsom voted to approve the motion, while Trustees Ryan and Hanson voted against the motion. The motion passed, and it should be added that Trustee Hanson thanked the Board and all resident attendees for the civil discussion.
Public Hearing for Lanterns Way Development Approval
Next up: the related application for Boulder Creek Neighborhoods (BCN) to develop Lanterns Lane. The cover memo here does a nice job of bringing you up to speed on the history of the property, request for rezoning, and changes to the planned unit development (PUD) and aberrations from standards. Most of that is straightforward; the discussion at the meeting was largely around street connectivity and whether Coal Creek Drive should bisect Lanterns Lane to go to the Superior Town Center, or be capped with a park followed by a walking/biking trail that allows residents to reach the Town Center through non-vehicle access.
Trustee Hanson opened the discussion by saying that he wants to revisit extending Coal Creek Drive through Lanterns Lane and to Town Center. He believes it’s a big mistake to not have Coal Creek Drive go through to Town Center as was originally planned in the design. Given the discussion that just wrapped up on Weldona, Mayor Folsom now agrees that Coal Creek Drive needs to go through – a change from his stance as the previous meeting.
Trustee Pennington asked Town Staff about the designation of Avenue C, which comes out of Village Green Way in Town Center (see the map included in the Toll Brothers cover memo from the July 23 meeting) and would help connect the Town Center to Rock Creek (see the larger map on page 2 of the Toll Brothers concept plan from the July 23 meeting). Town Manager Magley said that Avenue C is planned to have two (opposing) lanes of traffic with bikeways, but no parking; Trustee Pennington pointed out that as most other streets in the Town Center are planned to have two lanes with parking on either side, the fact that Avenue C is different indicates that it was designed to be a through street. Trustee Pennington said that she thinks it is premature to make any decisions around Promenade Drive right now, but if she were pressed to make a decision tonight, she would not vote to extend Promenade to 88th – she thinks the new Board should vote on that when it’s the appropriate time to make that decision.
Trustee Lacis said that during the last two sessions of public comment, the overwhelming majority said that they did not want Coal Creek Drive open. Trustee Lacis wants Promenade Drive to be the southern connection to Town Center, rather than opening Coal Creek. He also points out that even BCN said that they would prefer to not have Coal Creek go through, and he doesn’t see a reason to go against what both the developer and the current residents are asking for.
But Trustee Hanson rebutted this point, and said that if BCN does not want to cut through, then he would oppose the residential development in this area, since it was originally zoned commercial (specifically, as a “regional activity and employment center”) and BCN is asking for a zoning change. This commentary got derailed, as Mayor Folsom pointed out that the Board ought to be asking questions of the developer at this point and not getting into discussion.
The representative from BCN pointed out that their development plan is set up to allow for either a road connection or a trail connection from Lanterns to the Town Center, and noted that they do not want their development to get caught up in the discussions of transportation and connectivity. Although BCN’s preference is for Coal Creek to be terminated at Lanterns with a bike path connecting to Town Center, BCN is flexible in their plans.
The conversation briefly turned to the creation of the new Metro District for the development, which would cost $2.1 million and levy 25 mills upon residents. BCN says that 50 mills is typical, and is what was levied at Steel Ranch in Louisville.
Getting back to the discussion of Coal Creek Drive, Trustee Ryan says that he doesn’t believe the Town Center will be successful if we don’t provide connections to it. He said that he would be amenable to building access around Lanterns instead of through it, if the developer were willing to pay for it. Otherwise, it will cost the town an extra $750,000 to put this in ourselves. Trustee Ryan does not believe that the Town’s General Fund should be spending money to fund downtown Superior, and that connectivity to Town Center should be financed by the developers building in this area.
Trustee Dozal points out that Lanterns is part of Rock Creek Ranch, and not the Town Center – and that we shouldn’t be focusing on connectivity to Town Center as part of the development of a small part of Rock Creek Ranch. However, Trustee Pennington countered that the Board can’t look at things in isolation, and needs to think about the big picture. Furthermore, Trustee Pennington thinks that Coal Creek going all the way to the property line (as originally proposed) will not hurt Lanterns. The BCN representative quickly jumped in to say that BCN is fine with building Coal Creek to the property line, as their current design plans show, and is also fine with building the pocket park to cap off Coal Creek, as was discussed as an alternative in the last Board meeting. Trustee Hammerly noted that she’s very appreciative of the options that BCN has provided.
BCN offered that they could reserve the Coal Creek space as a right of way, but not develop it until a later date. Trustee Ryan did not like the idea of kicking the can down the road, and said he believed the application would be incomplete if this space is not planned and developed.
Trustee Lacis says that the idea of having Promenade paid for by the town is an assumption – but he does not believe that is a valid assumption. He says that if Ranch Capital and Toll Brothers want a connection, they would have to pay for it. However, Trustee Ryan counters that Ranch and Toll Brothers may negotiate their way out of paying for it, and believes that we need to be prepared. Trustee Ryan clarified, though, that he is not trying to hold up the Lanterns application.
Trustee Pennington asked about the responsibilities of the presumed HOA vs the Metro District. BCN clarified that the Metro District will maintain the driveways and landscaping, but that the Metro District is not responsible for maintenance of the home exteriors (e.g., roofs and stucco). It could be the responsibility of the homeowner, or of the Lanterns HOA, but BCN has not yet determined how this will work for Lanterns – they typically decide this closer to when the properties go for sale, so they can better evaluate buyer wants and trends. Trustee Pennington is concerned that if exterior maintenance is not covered by either the Metro District or the HOA, it creates a poor experience for the community that she does not want to approve. The BCN representative offered that BCN is willing to put as a stipulation of the approval that they will implement an HOA that covers exterior maintenance.
The meeting was then reopened for public comment. Most of the residents who spoke were against opening Coal Creek to the Superior Town Center, but there were a few interesting points made. Suzanne Devenny and Elisabeth Nelson, both residents of Amherst, pointed out that Amherst Way vs Amherst Street are distinct and separate neighborhoods because of Coal Creek Drive bisecting the two streets; they believe the same will be the case for Lanterns if Coal Creek goes through. Furthermore, Ms. Devenny said that she believes that spending money on Promenade Drive is exactly what the town should be spending money on, because it affects the character of the neighborhood. Mike Schwartz countered Ms. Devenny and Ms. Nelson that if we don’t connect Rock Creek to Superior Town Center, we’ll be forcing those neighborhoods to be separate.
After public comment, Trustee Lacis noted that he supports a zoning change, but does not want Coal Creek to connect through to Town Center – he believes it will not foster the new community and will destroy the existing community. Instead, he would like Coal Creek to be capped, with a walking/biking path allowing residents to connect to the Town Center via non-vehicular means. He pointed out that opening up Coal Creek is not the residents’ preference, nor is it the developer’s preference, and he believes we are putting the interest of the Town Center developer first by going against these preferences.
Trustee Ryan believes we have spent way too much money supporting the development in Superior Town Center, and pointed out that if we do not have BCN build the connection to downtown, the taxpayers will need to pay for it (or it will not get done at all). Trustee Ryan said that there is so little traffic on Coal Creek Drive today that you don’t even have to look before you cross the street. I don’t live in the neighborhood, but based on the times I’ve run through there, I would concur with that assessment 🙂 In his opinion, adding a few hundred cars a day will not make it impossible for pedestrians to cross; it will just make it slightly busier.
Trustee Dozal said that just because something was in our original plans does not mean it can’t change. I agree with this – I am a big proponent of setting out a plan of action to guide us, but being flexible and open to changes as circumstances to change. Trustee Dozal said that she views Lanterns Lane as the completion of Rock Creek Ranch, not something related to Superior Town Center. Again, that makes sense – but I don’t agree that Rock Creek needs to be entirely separate from our Town Center. Why are we dividing our Town like this? Trustee Dozal said that there will be 3,900 vehicles/day exiting from Superior Town Center to 88th via Promenade Drive; however, it’s not clear how many vehicles/day would exit to Coal Creek Drive if that were fully open.
Trustee Hanson pointed out that Coal Creek Drive was intended to serve as a minor collector and discourage high speed access – and he supports using traffic calming to ensure that it will serve that original purpose. Why would we want to discourage people from going to Town Center, he asked? If we are going to make it inconvenient to access (which we are doing by pushing all traffic to McCaslin), we prevent Town Center from growing and flourishing. Trustee Hanson would like us to approve the development with Coal Creek Drive going up to the edge of the property line, and then continue the road through to Town Center at a later date.
In contrast, Trustee Hammerly believes that if she is going to Town Center, the appropriate way to go is via McCaslin. If an alternate route is needed, she’d like us to consider Campus Drive. In short, Trustee Hammerly would not like us to extend Coal Creek Drive through.
Trustee Pennington points out that while we heard from 14 residents tonight, that’s not by any means a robust amount of public engagement. In comparison, the public process for Weldona has been extremely robust – it has gone on for years and had significant noticing of residents. Trustee Pennington suggested we consider building Coal Creek to the property line, preserving the option for it to be later extended to Town Center. That way, she says, we can engage the new residents that will soon be living in South Superior Town Center and involve them in the decision, and also see what happens now that we have approved the closure of 88th / Weldona (which will likely also significantly impact neighborhood traffic patterns).
This makes sense as a compromise, but I will reiterate the public comment I made at the July 13th Board Meeting where Lanterns was discussed: I think we need to make a determination of whether the connection will be open or closed before anyone buys a home in this area. I think it is simply unfair to leave it as an open question when different people have different preferences for connectivity. Almost in response to what I was thinking, Trustee Pennington noted that she believes we should approve the proposal with a road connection to the boundary, which will serve as a visual reminder to future residents that this option is a possibility, rather than disguising it with a park that might eventually go away. This does help to mitigate my concern, but I still don’t think it fully solves the problem.
Trustee Pennington went on to say that while she doesn’t like the lack of commitments around exterior maintenance, she believes that BCN has built significant trust with the Town and the Board, through both the process of these meetings and their build at Calamante. As a result, she believes BCN demonstrated their commitment to the community and is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they will do things right for the new residents.
Trustee Dozal asked that future Boards to remember the list of design concerns that Trustee Hanson read from the original plan, and implores them to ensure that any connections made from Rock Creek to the Town Center follow these plans. She does not think that what is eventually built will be as nice as what was originally proposed. While I am a proponent of connectivity, I agree with Trustee Dozal that we need to ensure it’s designed and built in a smart, thoughtful way that keeps a great community feel.
Mayor Folsom said that although he has always felt we needed a southern connection to Town Center, he’s changed his opinion on Coal Creek Drive. While he originally thought he was just okay with Coal Creek Drive, he now thinks it is the best option to make a nice experience while building a southern connection. He thinks we can build narrow roads so that people don’t speed (and implied perhaps even narrowing Coal Creek Drive), and take other measures to make it an inviting journey between Town Center and Rock Creek. However, he also noted that he’s open to later replacing the stub with a park.
Getting to decision time: Trustee Lacis made a motion to rezone the property from RAC to residential, which Trustee Dozal seconded – and the motion passed unanimously. Trustee Lacis then made a motion to approve the final plan from Lanterns, with a condition to preserve the right of way for Coal Creek Drive and in the meantime, construct a park at the terminus of Coal Creek. Trustee Dozal seconded this, while Trustee Hanson objected – pointing out that construction of a park will give residents a false sense of something that they may not permanently have. After some discussion, Trustee Lacis called the question, and Trustees Lacis, Dozal, and Hammerly were in favor, while Mayor Folsom and Trustees Ryan, Hanson, and Pennington opposed. This last dissent was somewhat unexpected, as Trustee Lacis’ motion was based on Trustee Pennington’s original idea.
Instead, Mayor Folsom made a new motion to approve the plan as originally written, which was seconded by Trustee Hanson. Trustee Lacis was the first to object to this motion – he believes we are paying lip service to the residents speaking up against the connection. Trustee Pennington countered that the Board is not yet making a decision; they are simply preserving an option for a future Board to connect all the way to Town Center. I have to agree with Trustee Pennington on this. I assume it is far cheaper (for the Town) to build a park where a road used to be than build a road where a park used to be.
Trustees Pennington and Lacis debated what the correct feature would be to give the right impression to future buyers – a park or a road. On this, I agree with Trustee Lacis that we ought to put in whatever we think is most likely to go in for the future. I will reiterate that there are some potential buyers who prefer connectivity and some who prefer community (and by proxy, a park), so I think it is disingenuous to put either one in and then change it later. However, I will note that if elected, I will give serious consideration to what this area should ultimately be and not just assume that the road is a foregone conclusion because of the decision made tonight.
Because ultimately, that is what was decided – Mayor Folsom’s motion passed 4-3, with Mayor Folsom and Trustees Ryan, Hanson, and Pennington in favor, and Trustees Hammerly, Lacis, and Dozal opposed. Finally, the Board passed Mayor Folsom’s motion (seconded by Trustee Hanson) to approve the service plan for the new Metro District 5-2, with Trustees Lacis and Dozal opposed.
Purchase and Sale Agreement of Town 15 by LIVEWELL Foundation
Last topic of the night! Mayor Folsom reminded the room that there was preliminary discussion at the Retreat earlier, and that the Board discussed that there was not an interest in selling the property. With that said, the Board opened the floor for another round of public comment. Several citizens spoke eloquently, all of whom were against the sale.
The final person to speak in the public comment was the applicant himself, Jack Chang. Mr. Chang clarified that his offer is an open offer, and that the Town can counter if they believe the valuation is too low. Mr. Chang also says that he was never given the opportunity to present to the Board like other developers / applicants – a point I will agree with. I think our Town can improve our process for responding to offers, as was discussed in the Retreat earlier in the day, so that it is clear to developers / applicants as well as citizens when items will be put on the agenda. I know from my own experience making a proposal to the Transportation & Safety Committee that it can be frustrating to not know where your proposal stands, and I empathize with Mr. Chang in this respect.
However, Mr. Chang went on to make a grandiose claim, perhaps demonstrating why the Board did not treat him as respectfully as they might another applicant. Mr. Chang repeatedly stated that he had over 1,000 signatures from Superior residents in support of his proposal to buy the land and build a charter school, and he would now like extra time to gather more signatures and increase that to 3,200. He believes that 3,200 signatures would be significant because no candidate in Superior history has received more than 3,200 votes to be elected into office. I did not fact check this assertion, but it’s a great example of what Trustee Hanson later criticizes Mr. Chang for: unnecessarily denigrating the Town Board. During public comment, several residents spoke up that they and their neighbors were bullied by Mr. Chang, and Mr. Chang’s comments at this meeting showed that he seems to have a propensity for resorting to insults rather than facts to make his points.
While I thought Mr. Chang made a valid point that resident Dan Walkes’ survey of 178 residents is not statistically significant, Mr. Walkes’ survey is the broadest scale effort to date to measure resident opinions on what to do with the Town 15. Personally, I am extremely skeptical that Mr. Chang has 1,000 signatures of Superior residents who are supportive.* While again perhaps not a representative sample, sentiment on social media and email listservs toward the proposal has been largely negative. Meanwhile, I sat down with Mr. Chang earlier this summer to talk through his proposal, and listened with an open mind to what he had to say. At this point, there were no numbers behind the proposal, and I did not have nearly enough specific details to weigh in, so I don’t believe I made any negative remarks while sitting down with Mr. Chang – and I was in fact excited about a few of the ideas he proposed for community programming. I would assume that if Mr. Chang had indeed tried to gather signatures, he would have asked me for mine, yet I never heard of this endeavor to gather signatures. (Full disclosure: with the details I have now, I would not sign such a petition.) I would be very surprised if Mr. Chang had more than 100 resident signatures in support of his plan, let alone 1,000.
*Update: Mr. Walkes took the time to clarify that as long as his survey was from an unbiased sample of the population, it would only take 125 respondents to be statistically significant (with a 9% margin of error). Since the survey found that 8% of respondents were in favor, if we apply that to the entire population of registered voters (9,800), and assuming that the survey was off by the entire 9% (so 17% of registered voters were in favor), that would mean there are 1,666 residents who would have been in favor of the LIVEWELL proposal. And, if the petition was biased and carefully worded to make the proposal sound better (as many petitions / surveys are) the number could likely be higher. Thank you so much for Mr. Walkes for this clarification, which helps make the case for doing more surveys of residents to help provide broader insight into Town decisions.
Trustee Ryan clarified that he was the one who believes the offer is under market rate, not Trustee Lacis. (This after Mr. Chang repeatedly accused Trustee Lacis of making this statement.) Furthermore, Trustee Ryan said that he wants the Board to embark upon a robust engagement process next year to determine what to do with the Town 15. He closed by noting that the land is not for sale at this time, and he will oppose Mr. Chang’s proposal.
Trustee Hammerly says that she would never want the Town to sell this piece of land without opening it up for as many offers as possible. She wants to ensure that we are getting the best possible deal for the Town, and the best possible option for what is built on the land.
Trustee Lacis says that he does not know what the fair market value of the land is, and he is glad that we bought it in 2014 for $1.2 million, but that it is now an extremely valuable asset and he does not want to sell it. If someone wants to present an offer, the Town will consider it… or not. (This is a direct quote, and what I meant when I said that I would like to see the Board firm up the process by which we respond to offers, so that applicants know what to expect.) Trustee Lacis also emphasized that the offer was presented in a disrespectful way to the Town and residents, and that would also contribute to his “no” vote.
Trustee Pennington pointed out that the charter school is no longer a viable element of the proposal, based on the statement released by Boulder Valley School District, so the offer does not stand because that was one of the basic premises of the offer. She votes “no” to this proposal, but says that Mr. Chang is welcome to submit another offer with new terms.
Trustee Hanson said he took great offense in the way the proposal was presented, because it cast the board in a negative light and portrayed them as corrupt. He suggested that if Mr. Chang were to submit another offer, he should take an extremely different tack in doing so.
Trustee Dozal said the proposal left too many unanswered questions, and that she does not believe the Board can currently make a fair and reasonable decision due to the amount of volatility and personal attacks.
Mayor Folsom said he had nothing to add to the discussion, but that he agreed with his colleagues that he would vote no. Trustee Ryan made a motion to reject the offer with no counter, and it was seconded by Trustee Lacis. The Board voted unanimously to reject the offer, and the meeting concluded.
Still with me? I’m guessing almost no one took the time to read this entire recap, but I commend those of you who did – and also those brave few who made it through the whole 10+ hour Retreat / Board Meeting in person!
Despite the lengthiness of this session, I am more eager than ever for the opportunity to join the Board of Trustees and help make decisions on future issues. Whether you agree with each of my opinions or not, I hope that I have sufficiently and respectfully communicated my thought processes that go into my decision making. If elected, I promise to continue working to promote transparency around the Board’s actions and my own part in making decisions for our Town.