Town Board Meeting: February 25, 201915 min read
Hi neighbors. Last Monday’s Town Board Meeting was a pretty frustrating one for me – I felt like my hands were tied on a number of issues, and wasn’t happy with several outcomes. For each item, I’ll try to cover both what happened objectively as well as my thoughts on the matter. As usual, you may read this post in written form, or scroll to the bottom for a video recap.
Disclaimer: While I do my best to represent an honest and accurate portrayal of meetings and events, the following should be considered an editorial that represents one person’s interpretation of the meetings. For the most unbiased information, I would encourage residents to watch the meeting video itself and draw their own conclusions. EngagedCitizens.us is a fantastic free tool created by one of our own residents, which includes a repository of agendas, documents, and meeting videos, and allows you to search within a video to jump to critical parts. I hope you find it as helpful as I do!
Emails from Residents
First, a report on what residents have been emailing the Board about since we last met. As a reminder, if you are interested in seeing these emails, you may file an open records request with our Town Clerk Phyllis Hardin.
• One resident emailed with concerns around ripping out the buffer zone and putting it back
• One resident emailed with questions about the oil & gas moratorium passed on 1/14
• One resident emailed asking Trustees to sign a letter supporting an omnibus reform bill for oil and gas
• One resident emailed expressing support for hiring consultants to evaluate / solve the airport noise
• One resident emailed with concerns about overlay zoning in Original Town
• One resident emailed with concerns about timeliness of agendas and work paper publication
• One resident emailed with concerns about success metrics for committee projects
• One resident emailed with concerns about Verizon getting a monopoly on 5G with approval of the master licensing agreement
• A Fort Collins resident emailed with multiple concerns about allowing 5G in Superior
• Several residents emailed with questions / concerns about logistics for small cell deployment
Work Session with CAPS
Before the formal meeting, the Board had dinner with the Cultural Arts and Public Spaces (CAPS) Committee. CAPS asked for feedback on whether to go forward with the development of a Master Plan, feedback on a design for the base of the sculpture being erected in the McCaslin / Main Street roundabout, feedback on “The Big Reveal” event for this sculpture and “the Main Events” this summer, and feedback on how to proceed with crosswalk painting.
Agenda and Reports
The Board Meeting kicked off with a few changes to the agenda: I pulled item 3E (a resolution approving participation in the Metro Mortgage Assistance Plus Program) from the consent agenda for discussion, and Trustee Kevin Ryan said he wanted to pull it as well. Trustee Ken Lish also asked to move item 3C (ordinance changes around wireless communications facilities) to be concurrent with item 4 (a master lease agreement with Verizon for small cell facilities).
During reports, Trustee Sandie Hammerly called our attention to the publication of the Evaluation of Potential Impacts of Development of the Zaharias Property on Wildlife and Habitat Values at the Hodgson Harris Reservoir (linked in the blog post).
During initial public comment, we received a question about snow removal in Calamante, a commendation from a JeffCo resident for taking a stand against development on Rocky Flats, a question about outdoor pickleball courts, and two residents expressing support for item 5, an agreement with ABCx2 Consulting for aviation consulting services.
Presentation – Meals on Wheels
Next, the Board heard a presentation from Ana Arias, Director of Community & Latino Engagement, and Mo Kanwischer, Board President of the Coal Creek Meals on Wheels. MoW served more than 38,000 meals in 2018, and this year, has already grown 28% over last year. MoW is considering a second location, and would love that location to be somewhere in Superior.
Ms. Arias and Ms. Kanwischer busted some pervasive myths about Meals on Wheels. For example, MoW doesn’t serve just Jello and mashed potatoes, but nutritious varied meals prepared by a chef. MoW doesn’t only serve seniors, and they don’t only serve those who are financially struggling – anyone can request a meal, and if you’re able to pay the full cost of $7 per meal, that’s great; if not, that’s why MoW fundraises to subsidize the cost, and offers the meals on a sliding scale (or free). Ms. Kanwischer told a great story about a Superior resident who is financially able to afford meals and so didn’t want to take them away from someone who can’t afford to do so, but when he learned that he can order the meals and pay in full for them, he was thrilled to sign up for the regular meal delivery. Our Board agreed that we’d like to help MoW publicize their services so more Superior residents can take advantage of them.
Our modified consent agenda passed unanimously – with approval of meeting minutes and adoption of an ordinance clarifying Town Board and Planning Commission roles in reviewing variances to development plans.
Item 3E – Adoption of a Resolution approving a Delegation and Participation Agreement with the City and County of Denver regarding Metro Mortgage Assistance Plus Program
I pulled this item from the consent agenda for discussion. First, the basics: the Metro Mortgage Assistance Plus Program offers potential homebuyers with a credit score of at least 640 and a maximum household income of $134,850 the ability to receive a zero-interest forgivable second mortgage that would cover their down payment – essentially allowing them to get into a home without any down payment. The second mortgage would then be completely forgiven for homebuyers who make timely payments on their regular mortgage for three years.
Now, here’s why I pulled this from the consent agenda. While I recognize that the high home prices in the Denver and Boulder metro areas can make homeownership a distant dream for many people, I am against 100% mortgages, for two major reasons. First, they have a much higher default rate than traditional mortgages. Second, home buyers end up at much greater risk if the market dips even a little bit – they may quickly owe significantly more than the home value.
This program would apply to those with a credit score of 640 or higher. For those unaware, 640 is rated a “fair” credit score – meaning you’ve had issues in the past making timely payments. For regular conforming mortgages, a down payment usually needs to be 20-25%. While FHA loans offer 3.5% down payments, I am very concerned about making it too easy for people to purchase homes (with all the risks that come with homeownership), without first ensuring their ability to save up an emergency fund and make timely payments.
20% down payments, while potentially prohibitive in our expensive Colorado real estate market, are extremely effective at preventing mortgage defaults. People work hard to avoid defaulting because first, they have considerable equity, and second, they are unlikely to end up underwater even if home prices drop. In my opinion, this program’s 0-5% down mortgages are encouraging people to get into homes they can’t afford.
I also want to note that this particular program doesn’t target first time homebuyers; first time homebuyers have other programs and options, so this program would be more likely to be used by people who already own homes. Speaking with both people in the target demographic (home buyers with credit scores in the 600s) and with lenders, they said this program will make the pool of people competing for homes more competitive – perhaps even driving up prices and making it harder for first time homebuyers to get homes.
While I’m not an expert on mortgages, I am much more inclined to support a program like the one founded earlier this year by the Denver School of Science and Technology, to benefit teachers – who often have steady salary but not a lot of money left over to save. DSST launched a pilot with San Francisco startup Landed, where the homebuyer puts up 10% of the purchase price as a downpayment, and the brokerage puts up 10%. This results in a shared investment, where the home buyer makes absolutely no payments on the down payment support, but upon sale or refinance, Landed gets their 10% back as well as either 25% of the appreciation or the loss – thereby taking on some of the risk for the homeowner. To me, that’s a fantastic example of a program that helps get more people into homeownership while still ensuring that they’re qualified buyers with the ability to save; I’d be much more inclined to support a program of that nature.
The rest of the Board did not agree with me, and the resolution passed 6-1, with me providing the dissenting vote.
Item 3C – Adoption of an Ordinance amending the Superior Municipal Code concerning Wireless Communication Facilities and Item 4 – Adoption of a Resolution Approving a Master Lease Agreement with Verizon for small cell facilities
Network Business Development Manager Debbie Essert attended to answer our Board’s questions about the small cell facilities Verizon is proposing throughout Superior. At our last meeting, our Board had a number of concerns around cost, design, location, and health impacts of the small cells. Since that meeting, I met with representatives of another company that installs small cells to get a better idea of their impact and what protections other towns have taken. I hoped we could take similar protections in Superior; unfortunately, at Monday’s Board Meeting, I was told that most of the stipulations that I wanted to be added were not legally feasible. Our Town Attorney Kendra Carberry clarified that the FCC has put in place a lot of protections for wireless carriers, and as a result, our hands are tied – we can’t restrict their ability to do business. I also had minor concerns that we are moving forward with Verizon and no other carriers (essentially granting them a monopoly on better service), but Town Staff reached out to all the major carriers and Verizon was the only carrier interested in proposing solutions.
In the end, I felt that even if I didn’t love the terms, this was an absolute necessity for Superior. We are a tech-savvy, affluent town whose citizens likely have a higher-than-average use of technology (whether cellular / internet bandwidth or IoT networks), and I think this type of infrastructure is needed for our town to thrive.
Trustee Sandie Hammerly expressed frustration that we have to ask a profit-making business to come in and solve a problem with its customers. As Trustee Kevin Ryan pointed out earlier in the meeting, Verizon can’t currently provide adequate service to the town. Trustee Ryan also added that our Board has been applauded for taking a stand against the Fish and Wildlife Service in the case of Rocky Flats, and applauded for taking a stand against oil & gas. He doesn’t want to take a stand against big telecommunications companies, but he will take a stand against tying our hands and not allowing us to legislate locally.
The ordinance (item 3C) passed unanimously, and the master lease agreement (item 4) passed 5-2, with Trustees Hammerly and Ryan providing the dissenting votes.
Item 5 – Adoption of a Resolution approving an Agreement with ABCx2, LLC for Aviation Consulting Services
Many residents have expressed concerns about the increased traffic and noise from planes flying into and out of Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport. Next on the agenda, the Board reviewed an updated proposal from ABCx2 LLC, an aviation consulting firm, to provide $30,000 of consulting services aimed at working with the airport to create a realistic noise mitigation program. ABCx2 presented an overview of their services at the November 28 Town Board Meeting, and were asked to come back with tangible task orders, timelines, and outcomes for this formal agreement. Unfortunately, several of us were dismayed to find that while a contract had been written up, it didn’t contain more specifics, and we were still very unclear what we were going to get for our money.
Earlier in the month, the Louisville City Council approved an agreement to split the cost of this consulting – so it would only cost Superior $15,000 to move forward. However, Charles Ozaki, Broomfield’s City and County Manager, refused to help split the cost in this – which Trustee Kevin Ryan expressed great frustration with, given that Broomfield takes in $6 million a year in taxes from the airport.
For my part, I was extremely frustrated by the contract and its lack of accountability. I’ve worked as a consultant for ten years, and this type of current state / future state / gap analysis work is something I regularly propose and deliver for my clients. However, at about $200 an hour, this contract was scoped for a maximum of 150 hours – or two people for a week and a half each. I think it would be tough to even put together a comprehensive current state analysis in that time – let alone get to strategy development, remediation, detailed work plans, and community engagement.
In the November Board Meeting, we asked for more details if this project was to move forward, including a detailed timeline – but the workplan still didn’t include a timeline or even a breakdown of how many hours each phase of work would take. This becomes especially problematic when the contract is being sold as time & materials (meaning the consultants bill by the hour) rather than fixed fee (where if they underestimated the hours, we still pay the same fee). ABCx2 stated that they can’t control how long the work would take because of the numerous stakeholders. I would rebut that – I typically sell my consulting projects as fixed fee, because I stand behind my ability to deliver my analysis even if I can’t control the stakeholders from whom I need to get information. With a time & materials contract, plus unrealistic scope expectations, we have no idea which pieces of the contract we’ll be getting for our money – and it’s very likely they’ll come back to us asking for more money in order to finish.
If we have a limited budget, I’d rather see a realistic estimate of what we’ll get for that money, rather than an overpromised body of work where we’ll end up with a few incomplete bits and pieces. Sometimes, being a consultant means delivering a hard message to clients – that your goal isn’t achievable under your ideal time / budget constraints, but here are the options that will work. None of us on the Board are experts in airport noise; we needed the consultants to sell us what we actually need rather than selling a partial solution that we think we want, which won’t achieve our goals.
With so many items on our Board agenda this year, Mayor Clint Folsom said that he wouldn’t consider having ABCx2 come back to a later meeting with more contract revisions; it was now or never. The rest of the Board stated their intention to vote yes on the resolution, and with a lot of misgivings, I reluctantly joined them with the following statement:
“I’m torn. I have no desire to do nothing. But even if it’s “only” $15,000, I don’t think it’s fiscally responsible to spend money when we have no idea where it’s going. Everything I’ve heard, to me, indicates that we’re going to start this plan and then we’re going to need more money to actually get it all done. I will vote for this – not because I like this plan, but because I want the community to know that our Board has heard them and that we want to do something rather than nothing. I do not think this contract is a good use of $15,000, but I think it’s worth $15,000 to let the community know they are being heard. As Trustee Lacis said, I think it’s a low risk with potentially high reward [in the form of a successful airport noise mitigation plan]… and I do hope we get that reward.”
The resolution passed unanimously.
Item 6 – Discussion of Options for the 2019 Street Project
During the 2019 Budget Process, funds were set aside for reconstruction and widening of 88th Street; however, Town Staff now has concerns about proceeding with this before a decision is made later this year on redevelopment of the Zaharias property. Instead, Town Staff recommended using the 2019 funds to improve Coalton Road, which was due for mill / overlay in 2021. Transportation Director Alex Ariniello said that a $2.5 million investment in a mill / overlay would last about 15 years; a $3 million investment in full reconstruction would last 20-25 years. The Board voted unanimously for Staff to move forward with design / preparation of construction documents for improvement to Coalton Road, with solicitation of bids for the Board’s consideration in late spring.
Item 7 – Executive Session to receive legal advice on specific legal questions regarding oil & gas issues; and to receive legal advice on specific legal questions regarding the Land Rover litigation and zoning issues.
Finally, the Board convened an executive session to receive legal advice on oil & gas issues as well as the pending lawsuit on Land Rover zoning issues. We will discuss more on this publicly at our next Board meeting on Monday, March 11th.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read / listen to this recap – I hope it is helpful! Our Board is always open to hearing your comments, questions, and concerns – you may always email your feedback to email@example.com, or to me specifically at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a reminder, any messages sent to a government email are part of the public record and will have your name attached; if you feel the need to write in anonymously, you may always comment at the bottom of my blog post recaps.
Have a great rest of your weekend!