Virtual Town Board Retreat: April 20, 202012 min read
Hi neighbors! Last Monday night, we held our second quarter Board retreat. Ready to find out more on what happened? 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. At the request of my fellow Board members, I am keeping their points anonymous rather than trying to attribute my interpretation to them personally. For the most unbiased and complete information, I would encourage residents to watch the meeting video itself and draw their own conclusions – visit the town website at SuperiorColorado.gov for the official meeting video and meeting minutes. Finally, I’d also encourage you to check out EngagedCitizens.us, which is a fantastic free tool created by one of our own residents. Engaged Citizens 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!
Topics discussed at Monday’s retreat included:
A. Park programming: We talked about potential changes to the application for events that occur in parks, particularly insurance requirements for liquor licenses.
B. Board liaison attendance: We discussed whether Board liaisons should be required to attend committee meetings. As it currently stands, Board members are assigned to various committees and are supposed to attend all meetings to answer questions; however, Board members are not supposed to be active participants or give direction to the committees. Personally, I don’t think it’s the best use of time to attend but be limited in what I can say. Each committee has a Town Staff liaison who attends, and from my own experience, any question that has come up in a meeting has been easily answered by the Town Staff liaison rather than the Board member. Ultimately, however, we decided not to revise our current policy / practice.
C. Short-term rentals: On this topic, we discussed whether any licensing and regulations are needed by the Town to regulate short-term rentals. There was debate about whether we need to add any regulations, since right now it’s being largely policed by the Rock Creek HOA. In my opinion, particularly when it comes to new homes in Downtown Superior where HOAs have not yet been established, I would really like us to set these expectations sooner rather than later, so people know before buying their property what potential limitations there may or may not be on short-term rentals. Otherwise, it seems to me to be unfair to retroactively add restrictions. However, the broader Board direction was to wait and see how other municipalities handle this and use those as best practices rather than deciding for ourselves.
D. Discussion of tobacco ordinance: Here, we discussed potential regulations we could enact as a municipality around tobacco. The first was raising the purchase age to 21 (which we already did last year); the second would be requiring licensing for anyone selling tobacco/nicotine products; the third would be imposing a tax on tobacco/nicotine products (which we could not do until it’s voted on in an election). Boulder County Health has a committee set up to discuss these issues, and we again opted to let that play out rather than Superior proactively doing anything on our own.
E. Boulder County ballot measure for affordable housing: Although not a primary focus right now due to COVID19, Boulder County is considering a ballot measure to help fund affordable housing through either a transportation, property, or sales tax increase. We discussed potential parts of town where affordable housing might be appropriate.
F. Discussion of Louisville Library and what potential changes could be made to the agreement: We briefly discussed our intergovernmental agreement with Louisville Library, where our Superior contribution (of about 20% of the current budget) is tied to property taxes while Louisville’s contribution is tied to sales taxes. As property values rise, and as we build more homes in Superior, our contribution rises, but we still only have one seat on the Library board, and there are very few programming events happening in Superior. But with this year’s planned build out of 1500 Coalton Road and some potential library functions there, plus of course physical space for events, we agreed that there should be additional programming coming to Superior.
G. Street Parking: There have been concerns about vehicles parked on the street for long durations; we also learned that Centennial recently limited street parking to no more than 14 days continuously, and discussed whether Superior might go in a similar direction. We directed Town Staff to look into the possibility of limiting the time duration for vehicles being continuously parked on the street.
H. Environmental/Sustainability Goals: We discussed the Board’s appetite to establish aggressive but realistic goals for sustainability, including to get Town buildings/properties 100% powered by renewables by 2022; to build a community solar array; and to meet all of Superior’s municipal electric needs with 100% carbon-free sources by 2025.
I. Discussion of our town response to COVID19 and what additional things we could do to protect public health, assist businesses, and better communicate with residents: As I’ve written before, I’ve been asking for Board discussion on this topic for five weeks, and at last week’s Board meeting, finally got agreement that we could put it on the Retreat agenda. As the broad topic title indicates, my goal was to have a brainstorming session around all the ways that COVID19 is affecting our community and what we might proactively do to address it in a variety of areas.
Members of the Board had asked me to identify specific policies for this discussion, so three that I proposed were making sidewalks and trails one way (e.g., asking people to always walk / run against the traffic), requiring masks to be worn by customers and staff in all public businesses, and asking Town Staff to focus on virtual events for the rest of the year rather than spending time planning in-person events that may need to be adapted or canceled. Unfortunately, the rest of the Board focused on responding to the specific ideas rather than brainstorming more broadly, which was not how I was hoping the conversation would go.
It’s clear that COVID19 is going to impact nearly everything we do for the next year (at least), and I’d like us to get ahead of that rather than reacting to individual items as they arise, or simply following the leadership of other communities. The point was raised that Superior does not have a public health department, and some members of the Board stated that we should not make local decisions without that kind of expert knowledge. However, with the utmost respect to various public health entities who are quickly assessing the changing situation, I don’t think anyone has all the answers. Just because we don’t have as much information as would be ideal, I don’t think that means we should avoid taking action. I’m an extremely data-driven person, but there are times when leaders need to make decisions when we don’t have all the answers, and I believe it’s worthwhile to try some measures that we believe will protect residents (even without a formal A/B test proving value) if they don’t terribly inconvenience anyone.
To use a specific example, Boulder has put signs up on their trails (which connect to ours) encouraging people to go in one direction if they can. To my knowledge, there is no formal study that proves unidirectional trails are safer, but it seems logical and it isn’t that much of a hassle for people to follow. Again, I don’t think that unidirectional sidewalks and trails are by any means a panacea, but I use that as an example of how we could get creative to identify potential solutions to minimize transmission. Unfortunately, the only other idea that came up outside of my three examples was the need to better limit people hanging out at the skate park. Not quite the broad discussion I was hoping for, but I will continue to push our Board to be more proactive in how we approach the ever-changing situation.
J. Tax relief for 2020: A member of the Board asked us to discuss what we could do for small businesses and homeowners to provide tax relief (e.g., reducing the mill levy). However, a one mill reduction (for example) would make a minimal difference for homeowners but a big difference in the Town budget. We decided to reconsider this during the next budgeting cycle and ask Town Staff to identify potential budget cuts we could make that might allow us to provide some tax relief.
K. Board meeting efficiency options: With several meetings getting cut off by our meeting end time, we discussed whether we may need to start scheduling extra meetings (the general consensus was no) or how we can be more efficient with the time we do have. I suggested that we try to get better at not talking just to be heard (e.g., if we agree with everyone else, we don’t need to make a speech to repeat that); I would much rather we use meetings for actual debate and decisionmaking rather than as a platform for announcements that could be made in other channels. I would also like us to continue trying to have more conversational dialogue rather than giving monologues, particularly when it comes to large agenda items where it’s more efficient for us to all talk about specific topics / aspects before moving on to the next topic.
I asked for us to try to limit the amount of “repeat info” that is presented to us in meetings (i.e., starting each item with a recap of what was in the packet rather than diving into questions/ discussion), but did not get much traction on this. I’ve long been a fan of the “silent meeting” philosophy espoused by Amazon, Square, and LinkedIn, and I think it would work especially well in our Board meetings, where I know that all of us come in fully prepared and having read all the materials. When we spend so much time to rehash what we already know, it’s extremely frustrating that it leaves us short on time for discussion and decisionmaking.
Ultimately, we didn’t really decide on any procedural changes, other than moving individual Board member reports to the beginning of the meeting rather than the end.
L. Economic Incentives: Looking ahead, do we need to start getting serious about offering business incentives? This was part of what I hoped to cover in item I in our broader COVID19 response, but once again, we only had about five minutes of discussion, and concluded that it may be worth considering in the future.
M. Modification of Town Codes with respect to off-leash dogs to increase penalties for repeat offenders: With the dog parks closed, we’ve heard more complaints from residents about off-leash dogs where they shouldn’t be. I experienced this myself with my foster dog, who was not good with other dogs, and we got into an altercation when someone allowed their off-leash dog to run up to us on the sidewalk! Although our Board considered increasing the penalties, the Boulder County sheriff suggested we not update our code to do so, to give them more discretion when it goes to court. However, I will remind everyone that with the dog parks closed, the only place your dog should be off-leash is in your own yard. No matter how well-behaved you believe your dog is, you just don’t know how other dogs (or humans) will react.
Finally, we discussed a few other ad hoc topics that weren’t originally on the agenda:
88th Street construction: BVSD will have home learning through the end of this school year; we discussed beginning the 88th Street construction (approved at our last meeting) as quickly as possible, to maximize the work that can be done with limited traffic on the road.
Meeting remotely vs in person: Governor Polis announced on Monday that the shelter-at-home will likely become a “safer-at-home” this weekend; as such, we discussed the Board appetite for returning to Town Hall. Personally, I am not in favor of moving back to in-person meetings in the near term; to me, this falls under the category of non-essential business, since we’ve been able to meet via Zoom and still engage the community. One sticking point around this topic is that our meetings are all or nothing as far as virtual vs in-person – we can’t have some in person and others calling in. Unless we were to adopt a general non-emergency policy allowing remote public comment (which I have long been a proponent of doing – see previous discussions here and here), I do not want to force any of our residents to go to Town Hall in order to contribute to meetings.
Alternative events: With a likely pivot away from in-person events, a member of the Board brought up hosting drive-in movies in the park as a potential alternative that the Town could sponsor. While I love the creativity, I’m concerned that this would still be encouraging people to be sharing closer proximity than we really should. Even if households are in their cars, it’s likely that everyone will have the windows down (especially in warm weather), and at some point, there will likely be members of the family who will need to get out of the car to go to a public bathroom – again concentrating people in one space. I think we certainly ought to start brainstorming ways to creatively organize events, but I would like us to plan for the worst-case scenario and try to make them fully virtual, rather than spending staff resources planning in-person events with social distancing, which may need to be changed by the time the event date approaches.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or to me specifically at email@example.com. 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.
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