City Council Meeting Minutes – October 16, 2007

City Council Regular Meeting

16 October 2007

Tom Mulvey was absent – he is recovering from by-pass surgery.

 Unscheduled Speakers 

JimDuBose, at the expense of boring the council stiff – turn about is fair play he said – let the public know that they are invited to attend the Greater Littleton Youth Initiative free conference on November 9th.  The conference is at Littleton High School and although it is free you need to register as space is limited.  You can find more information at www.glyi.org

Cathy Jones-Gooding (sp?) representing the Littleton Fire Dispatchers told the council that they were very disappointed in the denial of their request for additional personnel.  The dispatchers are required to work overtime – mandatory overtime.  They do not have enough personnel to cover vacation much less sick time.  They will always be there to answer the calls but they are at their wit’s end. 

The type of job they perform requires some time to recover between shifts and they need the recovery time but with the overtime required it can be difficult. 

Bruce Stahlman asked how much it would cost to fund the 1.5 staffing positions they were asking for and he was told $90,000.

Ostermiller did not think their request was in the original budget request.  He was told that it was submitted.  Cathy told him that their request was dropped when the motion was made and passed not to consider adding any new personnel.

Rebecca Kast said she had been concerned about the fire and police dispatchers for several years.  None of the council members are happy with the budget.  She asked Chief Mullins if he could find the money in his budget for the staffing positions.

Jim Woods said every department has been stretched over the past 3 years and with the sewer rates and TABOR refund he did not have a chance to look into this matter in detail.    He believed there were still areas that needed to be clarified.  He looked into the overtime per employee and found that some employees had only 22 hours of OT and another had 440 hours.  Woods thought there should be some clarification on the protocol for assigning OT.

Woods was also concerned about the $60,000 from the fire partners – having faced their budget committee he knew they would have to show that the hiring of the additional staff would offset the OT paid and it is unclear if there would be a savings.

Are we trying to decrease the OT altogether or half of the OT?  Some people look at the OT as an opportunity.  We need to have clarification for our partners.

Is this a pressing need – as pressing as everything else you (council) looked at?  I don’t know if this is so pressing that we need to fund it.  The message to all the other departments was to do some “work arounds” until the economy gets better.

Cathy said that the employees with a low number of OT are new.  It takes 2 ½ to 3 months to train and during that time the employee is not eligible for OT.  People are allowed to sign up for OT but there are some that prefer to be home with their families rather than work the OT so some employees can accumulate quite a bit more more OT.

Chief Mullins said there was not a harder working group of people and each call into them receives excellent service.  The request for the staffing was not to improve or maintain customer service – it was for our dispatchers.  There is no free solution.

Jim Taylor thought the Woods and his staff should study and try to resolve the problem.  They can always come back and amend the budget.  The council turned down $1 million in personnel requests and who are we to say who is more important – police or fire dispatch.  There has been no decrease in the level of service that we provide and we have been able to get by with what we have.  It is just the bind we are in.  We should ask Woods to study and to continue to have conversations with Cathy.  The source of the money needs to be identified before it is spent.

Bruce Stahlman respectfully disagreed with Taylor.  He said it was not unanimous when the council decided not to fund additional staff.  “We have exposure here.”  People are telling us they are stretched – that is different than administration saying it and I find it more compelling than that.  Stahlman wanted the staff to be charged with identifying the source of the money so the positions could be funded.

Taylor thought they should identify where the money is coming from.

Stahlman said they should be able to find $30,000 to $60,000 in a $50 million dollar budget.

Doug Clark said the problem was that the council did not have a prioritization of which budget requests were more important.  It is really the City Manager’s job to do that.

Woods said he said no to everyone.

Clark said if they are going to look at the fire dispatchers they needed to look at the historic data and all the other personnel requests.

Taylor asked Clark if he objected to having staff look at the issue.

Clark said no – he thought they should be doing that anyway.

Amy Conklin said pressure on personnel is going to take its toll and services will start to decline.  It is coming and we cannot ignore this any longer.

Carol Brzeczek spoke to the council about their budget process.  The 2007 proposed budget is used as a baseline for the 2008 budget.  However, the 2007 budget has been adjusted throughout the year and those accounts that were short the needed funding in 2007 will most likely be short again in 2008 because the adjustments were not taken into account in planning the 2008 budget.  She suggested that the council use actual budget numbers in the planning for the 2008 budget.   

Carol also asked about the PEG money that was transferred from the PEG account to the General Fund.  This money can only be used for equipment for the purpose of Channel 8.  Of the $117,000 transferred less than 50% had been used to update the equipment in the council chambers.  She asked for an accounting of the remainder.

Taylor asked Doug Farmen, Finance Director to comment on what Brzeczek had said.  He said Brzeczek was correct and it is something to consider for next year’s process.  We are constantly learning. 

 Public Hearing 

2008 Mill Levy and budget – Conklin moved to accept the mill levy rate and the 2008 proposed budget.  (I didn’t hear the second.) 

Clark said he would be voting no because the answers to his questions on the EMT fund had not been answered and he thought a meeting with the auditor and council was in order.

John Ostermiller wanted to transfer $3,600 from the city clerk’s office to pay for the cost of hiring contract labor to take minutes at the study sessions.  Ostermiller also questioned whether the city clerk’s office would continue to issue passports.  Julie Bower told council that it would not free up that much time so they will continue to issue passports.

Woods told him that council did not need to approve the transfer – it could be done administratively.

Kast said she thought they agreed to take minutes of the study sessions for a period of time to see how it works out.  

Ostermiller wanted to address Clark’s question on the EMT fund.  There are county standards that don’t mesh with state standards and Larry Berkowitz has looked at it a little bit.  Expenses used to be allocated to the revenues in an equal amount so the balance was always zero.  The auditor’s have requested that they start charging the cost of emergency medical transport to the EMT fund and the revenues were less than the expenditures.  The finance staff has looked at the numbers with the auditor and the auditor has acknowledged that the state constitution does not mesh with Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. (GAAP) How do we comply with GAAP and not violate TABOR? 

Farmen said the auditors will come back with a report for the full council.

Kast asked if other cities have the same problem and Farmen said no because most other cities are not subject to TABOR limits.

Stahlman formally requested that they have a study session within the first quarter of 2008 to come back with a prioritization of staffing positions.

Conklin thought it could be part of the annual workshop and she requested the CBAC be discussed too.

Woods said the retreat has been scheduled for Feb. 8 & 9.

Clark thought it would be a good idea to wait until after the election to determine when to schedule the retreat.

The motion passed on a 5/1 vote with Clark dissenting.

The mill levy passed on a 6/0 vote.

There were other budgets that were up for approval.  The results follow.

 The LFD Enterprise Budget – passed 6/0 

The EMT Enterprise Budget which included an increase in transport fees passed 5/1 with Clark dissenting.

The Sewer Utility Fund Budget passed 6/0.

 Alexan Littleton Station Rezoning and PD Plan   

“Trammell Crow Residential is requesting to rezone property which is located at 5101 S. Rio Grande Street (formerly known as the Electron site), at the southwest corner of West Belleview and Rio Grande.”

“The development is proposed to be a multi-family residential apartment development with a maximum density of 28 dwelling units/acre resulting in a total of 350 units.  The maximum building height for the principal structures is 50 feet with the accessory structures such as the detached garage buildings will be no more than 20 feet in height.  The development will have two accesses from Rio Grande Street and a third access at the end of Prince Street extended.  The stormwater detention pond is proposed at the lower end of the property near the southwest corner.”

The city staff made their presentation and then Trammel Crow made theirs.  The council members then began their comments and questions.

Clark stated that this development is not a TOD (transit oriented development) as was earlier stated.  A TOD is defined as being within a ¼ mile radius of the station.

Kast said it is certainly walkable – it took her 15 minutes to walk from there to the light rail station.  She thought it was a great location for a TOD.

Paul (developer) said ¼ mile is one indication but the quality of the walk can mitigate the distance of the ¾ mile between the TOD and the station.

Clark said the Complan called for a high-quality employment base for that property and the proposal was clearly residential.

Taylor said that’s the purpose of the rezoning.

Clark said rezoning doesn’t change what is in the Complan.

Taylor said every project that comes before council hits the target of the Complan and there are some misses.  We need to justify that they hit enough to rezone the property.

Paul said even though it is outside the boundary of downtown Littleton they had distilled “it” down to 3 design criteria.

            1.  It will be the gateway to downtown Littleton

            2.  Strong suburban site for development

            3.  A diversity of housing and the site plan will not be “cookie cutter.”

Stahlman asked if they had considered removing the 30% of the buildings that butt up against the railroad tracks as opposed to the park.

Chris (developer) said that the railroad has been perceived as a negative but they have done other similar projects with good results.

Stahlman said he had talked to Planning Commissioner Kostoff who said there was a concern with building high priced units so close to the railroad.  Stahlman was having difficultly reconciling the viability of high end housing built next to a railroad.

Kast said Santa Fe Drive and Belleview are noise factors too.

Stahlman said he understood that but the City put their maintenance building next to the track.

Conklin said there are homes next to the tracks too.

Stahlman was just trying to understand the noise issue.

Paul said they are able to mitigate the sounds from the railroad and streets.  They built the project at the Englewood City Center.

There was some discussion of the sidewalk on Rio Grande going south from the project – who would own and maintain them.

Ostermiller asked about the size and rental fees for the units. They will be:

            675 to 835 sq feet for a 1 bedroom and will rent for $859 to $1,150/$1,200

            1050 to 1185 sq feet for a 2 bdrm and will rent for $1,150/$1,200 to $1,500

            1325 sq feet for a 3 bedroom and will rent for $1,700

Stahlman asked about the traffic impact – it will double the number of trips per day on Rio Grande.  They believe most of the traffic will go north on Santa Fe (50%) or east on Belleview (30%).

Kast said she didn’t think it would have any impact on residential streets because there aren’t any.

Stahlman was concerned that there is not enough demand for this product.  Littleton Station is not fully rented.  Paul said their market study indicated that Littleton is under served and hasn’t has a new luxury development for over a decade.  There is demand all the time to create more supply.

Stahlman asked even with the overhanging economy?

Paul said some economists say it is better for rental property in a slow economy.

Stahlman was also concerned with the price points.  Littleton has a good sized senior population – have you “noodled” on lower price points to make it possible for seniors to stay in the community?

Paul said it is not a subsidized property.

Kast moved and Ostermiller seconded the approval of the rezone.  Kast thought it was an excellent project and we are very lucky to have it – think about the site – it would present a great gateway into the city.  I do not want to see the north end of Littleton looking like the south end.  Conditions have changed.  It would be horrid if mobile homes were parked there.  It would revitalize our downtown. 

Clark said he did not think they could have a project more out of compliance with the Complan than this.  Our hired consultant said it was good for retail due to the visibility of the site.  This does not comply with the Complan.  PD Plans have to comply with the Complan.  If you ignore the Complan, and that is what the city wants and we can’t do, we already have a higher percentage of rentals in Littleton than the national average.  This is a pedestrian development with no sidewalks and part of the property without sidewalks belongs to us.  On the south end of Santa Fe we had developers come to us to rezone it residential because it was thought that it would not go as commercial.  We turned them down.  To say this property will never go commercial  – we know that is not true – we have done it before.  This project is out of sync with the Land Use goals in the Complan.

Ostermiller said changing conditions justify this rezone.  The site has been cleaned and is no longer viable for industrial use and he didn’t know if they wanted industrial use as a gateway into Littleton.  This project will improve the streets and pedestrian access.  He lives near the railroad and his house was not constructed to mitigate the noise from the railroad and it hasn’t hurt the housing prices.  If this isn’t rezoned it would be used for storing RVs, boats, and who knows what else.  He can’t think of what else could be done with the piece of property.  Regal Plastic won’t remain and residential would be good use for Regal Plastic in the future.

Stahlman was looking for a compelling argument on either side.  He could get comfortable with changing conditions but he was struggling with high-end apartments wedged into that location.  He is concerned about getting 350 units occupied.  This project doesn’t help our seniors who are looking for attractive price points.  If this was the first project of this type it would pass the test, but with other similar projects he wants to wait and see what the market does with them first.

Kast said she didn’t think that was anything they should take into consideration.

Stahlman said it was an awful big bet to have this much high density.  How big of a down side is there to wait to see if it can be used for commercial purposes?

Kast said we have a transit stop and would rather see high density there rather than at the Sheriff’s building.  It is good to have a TOD – there’s going to be market pressure for this.

Conklin said she had wrestled with Clark’s point about getting rid of commercial property but the Planning Commission voted 7/0. It is not our property.  We can only gently guide.  She thought the developer had done a great job.

Clark said changing conditions is not sufficient reason to change the zoning.  The PD Plan has to comply with the Complan.  It doesn’t matter if we think it is a good entrance or pretty or not.  The Complan clearly calls out for no residential there.

Kast said we could never work then if that were true.  Clark said if you rezone to other categories you do not have to comply with the Complan but any PD Plan is different and is called out to comply with the Complan.

Berkowitz said it is the intent of city council to encourage development consistent with the guidelines (Complan) but they have never been adopted legislatively.

Clark and Berkowitz went back and forth a couple of times and Berkowitz said he must not be appreciating Clark’s statements.  It was Clark’s interpretation.

Conklin amended the motion to include language that described how the project was consistent with the Complan.  Kast seconded her amendment.  It passed 4/2 with Stahlman and Clark dissenting.

Ostermiller said when the Planning Commission looked at this property 10 years ago the only purpose they could see for this land was a big box – a porno super store.  That’s the alternative to this zoning.

Kast asked Berkowitz, for the record, to explain how the city council is to interpret the Complan.  It is not so much legislative as much as we take into consideration the total application.

Berkowitz said the Complan says many things that conflict with each other.

The rezoning passed on a 4/2 vote with Stahlman and Clark dissenting.

 Reports  

There have been some complaints about the 25% late fee on the sewer bill.  (1,300 calls last week!)  The council will discuss a grace period and different penalty structure for the future.

There was a discussion about how to inform the citizens how they can return their TABOR refund to the City.  The council will decide later on what to do about instructing the citizens.

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