Town Board Work Session and Meeting: August 13, 201815 min read
TL;DR: The Board approved two permits to rent Purple Park for large events, setting the stage for future discussions around pricing and terms for park rentals (likely in a Board retreat). Boulder Creek Neighborhoods proactively engaged a transportation consultant to evaluate neighborhood impacts of the proposed Lanterns Way, spurring significant public comment asking for Weldona to be closed, as well as Board debate over southern connections to the Superior Town Center. Both of these topics will be on the agenda at the next regularly scheduled Town Board Meeting on Monday August 27th.
This recap has taken me quite some time to put together, and it’s not a short one. Although Mayor Clint Folsom capped the meeting to end around 10:30pm rather than going all night, there was a lot covered in five hours. I’ve done my best to put my recap into logical order (which is not always chronological order), to hopefully make the topics more digestible, and to capture as many of the points on both sides of each topic as possible. Feel free to comment at the bottom of the post with anything I missed, as well as with your opinions!
The evening kicked off with a work session between the Town Board and the Planning Commission, which centered around the Downtown Superior Town Center (STC) design guidelines and how they should be followed / evaluated for development applications. Trustee Sandy Pennington urged all future Board members to get intimately familiar with design guidelines, and I completely agree – if I become Trustee and am going to be responsible for evaluating applicants, one of my most important duties is holding developers accountable for adherence to our guidelines. Planning Commission member Anthony Stewart said that the Planning Commission should note all variances and call them out to the Board (who ultimately decides whether or not to approve an application) as part of the Planning Committee’s recommendation.
There was some discussion over design guidelines that give ranges rather than minimums, which caused some confusion. Several people felt that if something is better than the guidelines (e.g., the guidelines specify a 0-8 foot setback but an applicant proposes a 15 foot setback), it shouldn’t be considered a variance, but Trustee Mark Lacis pointed out that future Boards may interpret this differently. In my opinion, any variation from a range should be considered a variance; however, I also believe that the Board should approve variances if they are favorable. (And furthermore, that we should consider revising any ranges to minimums / maximums so as to make our guidelines more clear.) Trustee Rita Dozal agreed, stating that she only wants variances approved if they are improvements for the town.
Town Attorney Kendra Carberry said that it is okay for the Board to approve variances, but that doing so could set a precedent for future applications. While there is no legal problem with approving a variance, she said that it may surprise future applicants that the Board approves some variances but not others – and even encourage variances rather than taking a hard line. Trustee Sandy Pennington said that while the Board cannot legally weigh in on applications before they are brought to the Board, the Board can provide guidance to staff around the guidelines not specific to an application. Through this guidance, the Board can encourage staff to ask more questions of applicants before a formal application is put together, and hopefully avoid surprises.
There was a quick break after the work session, and then the formal meeting kicked off at 7pm. During reports, Trustee Sandie Hammerly mentioned the First Friday I recapped a few weeks ago, and asked for town staff to investigate potential use of the former Range Rover space (corner of Coalton and Rock Creek Circle) as community space, even if on a temporary basis. I am eager to hear what this inquiry yields!
Also during the reports, Attorney Carberry discussed a memo she had sent to the Board around how meetings are noticed (meaning, when/how they are announced to the public) for CAPS. Trustee Pennington asked for this to be broadened to apply to all Advisory Committees. There was a discussion of whether this is only for meetings where policies are being made (which typically doesn’t happen in Advisory committees, since their role is to make recommendations rather than decide). However, it was decided that since there’s no harm in noticing any gathering, we will err on the side of more notice rather than less.
After reports, Rocky Mountain Fire District Chief Michael Tombolato presented the impacts of the Gallagher Amendment on our fire district, as well as the decision not to bill residents for ambulance costs above the portion that is covered by insurance. I’ll save full discussion of the Gallagher Amendment for another time, and simply include a quick YouTube video that gives a brief overview. To learn more, click here for RMFD’s website with more information.
Onto the consent agenda! With regards to an approval for two permits to rent Purple Park for events, these are often quick “rubber stamp” formalities – but tonight’s generated a lot of discussion. Trustee Pennington came in with a strong opinion about trash cleanup, pointing out that she’s seen the parks left dirty after previous weekend events, and she doesn’t want residents to suffer the loss of facilities as a result. She believes that an event planner has identified our parks as inexpensive sites with beautiful views; as a result, we are attracting larger groups than we originally intended, and they’re not cleaning up trash properly. Trustee Pennington wants groups to take trash out of the property so it’s not filling the bins over a weekend until staff can clean it up on Monday. She also wants groups to wipe down the tables and clean up any accidents before getting their deposit back.
Though not discussed in the Board meeting, I’ll add that this type of cleanup goes both ways, for drop-in residents as well as pre-reserved guests. This morning, resident Sue Ewig noted that she reserved the pavilion at Wildflower Park and arrived to find it a mess from previous users (unknown whether it was from casual users or another reservation). Sue commented in the Superior / Rock Creek Residents Facebook page about this, politely encouraging people to thoroughly clean up the public spaces when they are done using them.
In response to Trustee Pennington’s note about our facilities being underpriced for the value, Trustee Kevin Ryan suggested a retreat agenda item to re-evaluate fees for renting Town property. The two proposed events are bigger than simple graduation parties or something residents typically host, and Trustee Ryan believes that our fees may be less than the fees that comparable facilities in neighboring towns charge. Trustee Ryan would also see like to see us ensure that there is proper parking for the size group that is booking the venue. The two applicants this time were groups of 150 to 200 people who were requesting use for major events, which cut significantly into resident parking and can also have an effect on trash cleanup.
Both events were approved but with added stipulations around parking, timing, and cleanup:
a) All trash must be removed from the premises (not left in trash cans)
b) Facility condition will be left clean, including all tables, concrete, and grass
c) A uniformed officer will be present
d) Applicants will make arrangements for parking so that the surrounding neighborhood is not affected by overflow
For the second application, which was for a wedding reception, there was a lengthy discussion of how late the event should be approved to run. The parks typically close at dusk, and Trustee Dozal was concerned about neighbors dealing with unexpected noise if the event went until the 9pm time requested by the organizers. The Board learned that dusk will be at 7:21pm on that date in September, and decided to approve this with a capped end time for the event at 8:00pm.
Although those topics took a lot of time, the main part of the program (for which there were many residents in attendance) was up next. Mike Cooper presented on behalf of Boulder Creek Neighborhoods (BCN), and began with a design update
Mr. Cooper noted that while BCN heard a desire from residents for a pocket park, BCN didn’t believe their demographic (retirees) would desire this kind of play structure, and instead proposed an informal play area in the form of a green space with some large boulders for climbing. I tend to agree with BCN that a playground wouldn’t fit the specific demographic of Lanterns, and am not surprised that BCN doesn’t want the cost / responsibility for building this. However, I also agree with current Rock Creek residents (including my fellow Trustee candidate Ken Lish, who spoke in public comment) that the broader neighborhood beyond Lanterns ought to have a pocket park with play structures, as is common throughout the rest of the Town.
Getting to the topic of transportation and connectivity, BCN hired a transportation consultant to examine the traffic impacts of adding Lanterns into the existing road structure – and identified three options that contemplate opening / closing various streets in the area. I was impressed that BCN got ahead of public concerns and hired a transportation consultant, as this was clearly a sticking point when they last presented. Chris McGranahan from LSE Transportation Consulting was in attendance to go through the options, including data around expected impact on traffic, in detail.
(There are a ton of documents related to this meeting, but document 20 here has the maps / data that are most relevant to the traffic discussion.)
Option 1 – Coal Creek open to downtown, Weldona open to 88th (as it is now). With this option, Lanterns would only add 45 trips per day to Weldona, since approximately half of the Lanterns traffic would exit through Coal Creek. Of that, the Coal Creek connector to the STC would see 275 trips from Lanterns, and Coal Creek to Rock Creek Parkway would see 135 additional daily trips from Lanterns.
Option 2 – Coal Creek closed to downtown, Weldona open to 88th. Under this option, 225 additional daily trips would go through Weldona, and 230 additional daily trips would exit via Coal Creek to Rock Creek Parkway (roughly a 50/50 split of impact).
Option 3 – Coal Creek closed to downtown, Weldona closed to 88th. With this option, no traffic would go through Weldona, but Coal Creek to Rock Creek Parkway would see an additional 455 daily trips – since all the Lanterns traffic would be exiting that way.
(Trustee Pennington pointed out that there ought to be a 4th option – Coal Creek open to downtown, Weldona closed to 88th.)
During public comment, most residents present expressed support for option 3, with several residents expressing doubt in the numbers that were presented by Mr. McGranahan. A few residents also advocated for option 1, to encourage connectivity to the STC. There were a lot of excellent points made during public comment, which can be heard from 2:16:40 to 2:49:17 on the meeting recording. Shortly after (at 2:51:45 on the recording), civil engineer Jim Brosovich answered questions about the original design for the STC, noting that the Coal Creek connection won’t be easy to build because of the grade.
In evaluating the options, we run into a debate. Should the Board consider Lanterns independently, and decide on the BCN application (and its road connectivity) based on just the impact of those 62 homes? Or should the Board identify a master plan for traffic and then work with each of the relevant developers (Boulder Creek Neighborhoods, Toll Brothers, and Ranch Capital) to approve applications and redirect traffic?
Trustee Pennington did not believe that discussions of Promenade Drive (connecting 88th Street to STC, behind Lanterns – as seen in the picture at left) belong in this application – and was supported by Attorney Carberry in this. She believes that Promenade Drive should be a separate discussion, when whoever is developing an area that wants Promenade brings it up. (Likely Toll Brothers.) In fact, BCN stated that they would prefer to not have Promenade running behind Lanterns – so Trustee Dozal agreed that we shouldn’t be discussing Promenade now, or Coal Creek either, since the developer applicant was not asking for either.
Trustee Ryan disagreed, and encouraged the Board not to kick the can down the road on discussing traffic issues. Right now, we only have three connections to the STC; Trustee Ryan believes we need to have four to five connections, and that now is the time to figure that out, while all development options are open. Trustee Ryan also points out that fiscal responsibility is important, and that the more we approve development without requiring developer applicants to pay for the road, the more likely that the Town would need to pay for those roads instead. Trustee Ryan said that when the STC was first proposed, it was not supposed to cost the taxpayers anything, but it has cost us a lot (e.g., the cost to rebuild Tract H). Trustee Lacis agreed that we should figure out the traffic now, especially since BCN may be willing to pay for some portion of it. BCN clarified that they have to build emergency access from Lanterns to 88th; it’s just a question of whether regular traffic is allowed on it. However, those dollars can’t be pushed somewhere else.
Trustee Ryan also pointed out that STC needs to be easy to get to with a southern connection. Trustee Dozal disagreed with Trustee Ryan, saying that there has never been an overwhelming demand from residents to connect Rock Creek with STC. However, Mayor Folsom agreed with Trustee Ryan that a connection from Rock Creek to STC has always been part of the plans once plans were made to build STC. Trustee Dozal asked that we move forward with the BCN application as-is, with a park at the end of Coal Creek Drive (and bike / pedestrian path to STC), rather than discussing vehicular connectivity to STC at this time; Trustee Lacis concurred, even as he agreed there needs to be a southern connection to STC. But Trustee Chris Hanson pointed out that capping Coal Creek at Lanterns now will limit our options for STC connectivity in the future.
There was some discussion of the traffic on 88th Street, which is particularly prone to backup with school traffic going to/from Monarch. Town Manager Matt Magley said that there are ongoing talks with the Town of Louisville around how to improve this road to improve congestion, and Trustee Pennington asked if it might be possible to widen the bridge to three lanes and then have one lane alternate between northbound and southbound depending on the time of day, like the express lane on I-70.
This got me thinking… one creative solution to the connectivity between Coal Creek Drive and the STC might be allowing traffic in only one direction rather than two. If we only allowed traffic to go northbound from Coal Creek to STC, that would still allow some connectivity and keep the STC a little more accessible for Rock Creek residents, but would relieve some of the incremental traffic to Coal Creek / Weldona. (This was a big topic of discussion in the last ten minutes of the meeting, when Trustees Ryan and Hanson pointed out that closing Weldona will create a drastic increase in traffic on Coal Creek.) And, if Promenade Drive gets built, this could provide an alternate exit to 88th (via Coal Creek / Promenade) for Amherst and Lanterns residents. There would presumably be less of an impact overall to intersection 2 (from the BCN traffic study) if traffic were one way from Lanterns to STC, which might better satisfy residents who live off Coal Creek. It’s not a perfect solution, by any means, but it’s an option that might be better than a full road closure with no motorized vehicle connectivity?
Finally, while the transportation consultant was there, Trustee Lacis asked him what typical traffic would be on a residential road like Weldona, and on a collector with no driveways like Coal Creek. Mr. McGranahan replied that most communities don’t want to see more than 1,500 cars per day on a road with backout driveways like Weldona; for Coal Creek, he believes that up to 7,000 cars a day would work well (even though the neighbors might not like it). Today, Weldona sees 1,200 cars per day, and Coal Creek sees 1,850 cars per day. However, since STC is not yet built, it’s hard to predict what sort of traffic impacts that may have if we open it up from STC to Rock Creek, and residents are understandably concerned about this big unknown.
With the night getting late, Trustee Lacis made a motion to continue the public hearing on Monday August 27th, and also made a motion to add closure of Weldona as a separate agenda item on that day. Both motions passed unanimously. Mayor Folsom ended the meeting by asking town staff to bring in more options for the Weldona discussion – around medians on Coal Creek, a roundabout at Coal Creek and Rock Creek Parkway, etc.
Whew! That was a ton of content, and even after five times watching the meeting, I still left out some salient points in an attempt to make this a recap and not a transcript. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and I look forward to the continuation of the Lanterns / traffic discussions next Monday.