Minutes of Council Meeting Jan. 22, 2008

Littleton City Council Study Session         22 January 2008

Jim Taylor was absent.

Doug Clark made a change in the agenda by adding an item to discuss the relationship the City has with the Littleton Leadership Retreat organization.  Kelli Narde had written a memo asking for clarification from the Council.

 

The question is:  should the Littleton Leadership Retreat have a relationship with the City that is different than any other group formed in Littleton?

Tom Kristopiet has served on the steering committee for the retreat for two years and said there were two issues.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1.      <!–[endif]–>The location of the retreat – should it be local and not so expensive to participate.  The group had made their arrangements for the retreat last January and paid a sizeable deposit so were unwilling to relocate the retreat in Littleton.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2.      <!–[endif]–>The relationship between the City and the retreat group.  The City staff has been helpful in determining the topic of the retreat which this year will be to consider the past and frame the future.

 The Retreat has existed for 30 plus years and was started by Gale Christy, former City Manager, and Garrett Ray, former editor of the Littleton Independent.  Kristopiet said most of the work has been done for this year’s retreat and if there is any reconsideration it should be done at a later time.

 Jim Woods reiterated that Narde had sent a memo to council via fax that afternoon.  There were some new wrinkles to be discussed with the addition of the City’s web site.  Historically, the Littleton Leadership Retreat has been publicized in the Littleton Report.  With the new council there might be questions about the use of the web site and the Littleton Report which is taxpayer funded being used by a group not affiliated with the City.  Woods said there wasn’t a lot of cash infusion into the Retreat – it was more staff support.

 Kent Bagley, who attended his first retreat 4 years ago, became very involved 2 years ago.  He said the City “holds” the funds that are collected by the group in the form of entrance fees.  The current balance of that fund is approximately $8,000 to $10,000.  He thought the amount of time spent by the staff was minor – mostly limited to documents prepared by GIS to show what is happening in Littleton.  Staff time was used in discussing the topics to be discussed.

Flo Bullock said they receive minimal support from the City.  Littleton Public Schools provides transportation for the group and prints their brochures.  South Suburban has provided staff time and materials.  The majority of the expenses are carried by the participants.

 

Pavlos Stravolopous wasn’t aware of the subject being on the agenda until just a bit ago.  He thought there was some confusion with the posting on the City’s web site – was it officially sponsored by the City or not.  He is not opposed to citizen’s initiative groups getting support, publicity and promotion on the web site but there should be some guidelines so other groups can have similar support.  He thought the City holding funds for the group was problematic.

Frank Atwood said he has invited city staff to speak at his Economic Discussion Group and he appreciates their willingness to participate and thinks it is a good practice for staff members to participate in these types of groups.

Carol Brzeczek said she thought it wasn’t in the best interests of the Council to get started in publicizing citizen initiatives on the web site.  Doing so opened them up to having to do so for every group in Littleton and that would include the latest citizen led initiative to defeat the zoning for WalMart.  It was not a good use of our tax dollars to get involved in promoting an initiative that was directly opposing a council decision.  If you do this for one group you have to do it for all groups.  Atwood’s group meets in Littleton and is open to anyone who would like to attend at no cost.  This is quite different than the Retreat.

Peggy Cole asked if the council was essentially saying any group can publish on the City’s web site and Littleton Report.  She has attended several of Atwood’s discussion group meetings and asked if staff always needs to respond to every invitation.  How do we set guidelines – not sure we can do that tonight.

Debbie Brinkman appreciated the need for different groups to utilize staff.  It is a good idea to involve the citizens.  She has received dozens of phone calls from citizens with varying degrees of concern if this is a city sponsored event.  She looked at the web site and it does come across as city endorsed.  She totally supports citizen groups but these are tax dollars being spent and maybe that isn’t appropriate.  She thought there should be a lot more discussion before making any policy decisions.  But it does appear that the retreat is a City supported event and it is not.

Kristopiet said there were “too many involved to slap it down” – it is community outreach and it should be left as it is with guidelines coming later.

John Ostermiller said it was a city event going back to 1975.  It was an open to everyone including high school students.  (Open to everyone that can afford the $200 fee – LPS pays for the students to attend.)  Ostermiller said he saw several faces in the audience of people who have attended in years past.  There were several good ideas that came out of the retreats in the past – the railroad depression and entry ways into Littleton.  He was all in favor of continuing the City’s support.

Jose said Littleton has always been community minded and citizens are in a variety of different groups.  He did not like the fact that it was not held in Littleton.  He favored no change at this time – there can’t be any conclusion tonight.

Clark thought they needed to have a study session on how they handle groups in the future and are they going to use the Littleton Report for promoting the groups.  He certainly encourages citizen groups but he has strongly disagreed with some of the conclusions of the retreat in the past.  The retreat is not as inclusive as stated – you have to have money to attend and if you don’t then you have to ask for a scholarship and explain your financial needs.  He has concern when the retreat presents information, a presenter to influence the group and that same speaker shows up as the speaker to the CAC and the Planning Commission.  All of that started with a self appointed group of people.  As for the City holding the money for the group, that just doesn’t pass the smell test.

Tom Mulvey moved that the Retreat should be advertised in the Littleton Report and on the City’s website.  Additionally, a study session should be held at a later time to discuss policy.  Jose Trujillo seconded the motion.

Peggy amended the motion to include in the Littleton Report the salient points regarding the issue.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1.      <!–[endif]–>What the policy will be in allowing other citizen groups to announce meetings on the website and in the Littleton Report?

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2.      <!–[endif]–>What the policy will be to provide funds to the other groups.

 Her motion was not seconded.

Clark offered an amendment to include a disclaimer in the announcements of the retreat.  Brinkman seconded. 

Ostermiller said it wasn’t true the city is involved and has been for 33 years.  It is not the truth.

Clark’s motion failed on a 2/4 vote with Clark, Cole, Mulvey, and Ostermiller dissenting.

The main motion failed on a 4/2 vote with Clark and Brinkman dissenting.

Planning Commission (PC)

Kent Bagley, Chair of Planning Commission, spoke to the council about the history of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) and the process they have used up to this point in time.  The PC did not want to engage in a discussion about the draft of the 2030 Plan until after the election.  In December they began reviewing the document and they hope to have the review final by the end of March.  At that time there will be more public presentations and input.  A 2nd draft will be presented in a more formal setting sometime in the 3rd quarter of the year. 

Jerry Valdes, (PC), said the CAC became of core group of about 10-15 participants and he thought Dennis Swain did a good job of running the group.

Peggy asked Bagley to clarify – did you say that PC shall adopt the plan and the city council has a right to review them?

Bagley read from the City’s Municipal Code, “the commission shall make and adopt comprehensive plans to guide future growth and development within the city which includes, for example, land use, streets and transportation, parks and open space, pedestrian circulation, and urban design. Such comprehensive plans shall be subject to approval by the city council.”

Clark began the questioning – What does the PC think the purpose of the 2030 plan is?  What will it be used for?

Bagley said it was a vision – a target for the future – a slice in time showing where the City is now and how will the data be utilized to assist in making future decisions.  The old plan clearly needed updating.

Clark asked for him to be more specific – there are 130 pages – how will it be used?

Bagley said there was a lot of white space in the way the document is currently formatted.  Once that is removed it is not a big document – others are much more voluminous.

Bagley said it would be used by citizens, staff, developers, city council and the planning commission to provide a general direction of how the city proceeds in the future.  It will provide the PC a general direction in land use issues.  It is not black and white and that is why Small Area Plans (SAP) and community outreach are important – that becomes part of the implementation.

Clark asked if the SAP are part of the Complan.

Bagley said they are an addendum – they are like the current neighborhood plans and require more hard work and specificity.  Something like the ULI study that was done for the Mineral Light Rail Station area that was paid for by RTD and Littleton at a cost of $50,000.  It takes resources and efforts to do a SAP.  (The ULI report is over a year old and had yet to see the light of day in a council meeting.)

Bagley said the SW area of Littleton is not even mentioned in the current neighborhood plans because it did not exist at the time.

Clark asked if a SAP was a replacement for the neighborhood plans or a contradiction.

Bagley said they were the same thing.

Julio Iturreria, PC, said before Bagley digs a hole he can’t get out of he would like to say that the Complan is a roadmap – guidelines for everyone who comes into the city.  It is not absolute, it is not perfect.  There are areas where the Complan hasn’t covered to the intensity that a SAP can.  It is a concept for the PC to use as a guideline in making big decisions.  It doesn’t mean that it will give us the right answers but it pushes us in the right direction.

Don Knight, PC, said there should be a degree of reliance in the Complan for the developers so they can spend some of their money to begin looking at a project without having the rug pulled out from under them.  It can’t be relied upon to the detriment of the developer but there might be some reliance aspect from a SAP. 

Brad Bailey, attny, said it is some planner’s view of Utopia at some given point in time.  If we don’t get there by 2030 we haven’t failed. 

Ostermiller said if the 2030 plan is adopted and approved it becomes the new plan referred to by the zoning codes so there should not be any changing conditions for the first few years. 

Bailey said that would depend on how good your crystal ball is. 

Ostermiller said if it is not adopted we are back to the 1981 Complan with its amendments. 

Bagley said the complan can never be black and white.  There are infill documents and he used the WalMart site as an example.  If they had done a SAP on that site involving the citizens and getting their buy in we may never had the Walmart issue. 

Valdes said that they relied on the Complan when deciding on the Shadycroft area-a decision that would have opened Windermere to the south.  The Marathon Oil site was not addressed in the Complan.  The PC has done a “matrix” on the Norgren property but no developer has bought in to their plan. 

Craig Ciarlelli, PC, said his perspective might be tempered by his short tenure on the PC but he saw the Complan as a message to the council by the community how Littleton should look in 2030.  An election and the retreat are other ways for the citizens to community directly to the council. 

Steve Bockenstedt said that the 2030 plan puts all of Littleton into two categories – an area of change or an area of stability so there still is a component of changing conditions in this plan. 

Kevin Kostoff, PC, asked the council what they thought the plan was for. 

Clark said he agreed with Julio that it be used for zoning decisions.  The Complan should provide guidance and the 2030 does not do that.  It is very different.  There is a section on economic development that suggests an approach very different than the current approach in Littleton – we will have to make a decision about which approach to use.  There are sections on Education and Governance that have nothing to do with land use.  WalMart and the Electron zoning changes were two instances where zoning was changed even though they did not comply with the Complan.  How will the 2030 plan be any different?  When the vision doesn’t match the citizen’s input you create upheaval. 

Bagley said to say that the Complan is a guiding document for land use issues is very simplistic.  When you talk about a vision there are other components that are important.  For example, it didn’t say that the whole Economic Gardening program should be eliminated. 

Clark said what was offered was counter to the current Economic Gardening approach used in Littleton.  If the 2030 Plan is comparable to what other cities have then they must have made some changes in their zoning codes to accommodate. 

Bagley said reading a Complan is like reading the Bible – it will have different meanings depending on who and when it is being read. 

Trujillo asked what was wrong with the old plan.  Bagley said it was outdated and aged.  It should have been updated every 5 years. 

Trujillo said hundreds of people in each district participated in the first draft.  He had confidence in the old plan and thought it should have been revised.  He sees a lot of rhetoric that doesn’t mean much to him.  He asked, when he attended a CAC meeting and before he was elected, if the intent was to scuttle the old plan and he was told yes. 

Valdes said he no longer sees the goals of his neighborhood in the new plan. 

Ostermiller said he had heard both sides – are the old neighborhood plans incorporated into the new 2030 Plan or have they been tossed? 

Bagley said that through the public outreach it became very clear that the current neighborhood plans should not be discarded; they should be an addendum to the 2030 plan.   The old neighborhood plans are still enforceable but some changes might need to be made in some of the neighborhood plans. 

Brinkman said she saw it in the reverse.  The neighborhood plans should be the primary document.  When she moved to Littleton 5 years ago she immediately felt an incredible sense of community and that just doesn’t happen.  It was instant and unique to Littleton.  Neighborhoods are real important.  She described a process Denver has taken in involving citizens in a conversation about their neighborhoods.  Her old neighborhood in Anthmar Park is a very diverse community and responded to Denver’s call for help in determining the future of Denver.  They talked about how to integrate transit and commercial property into their neighborhood.  It’s a very dynamic process and became an incredible community building event.  Council was involved as well as Planning Commission and staff.  She would love to see something like that happen in Littleton. 

Earlier Bagley had commented on the CAC public meetings and how the one at St. Mary’s was well attended.  Brinkman told him she was at that meeting and said it would not have been attended by so many if the WalMart wasn’t an issue.  So there was this incredible turnout to oppose the rezoning for WalMart and 5 months later the zoning change was approved.  There was a huge voice that night but 5 months later it was completely ignored. 

Ciarlelli said the level of involvement Brinkman described in Denver he thought was the same process used by the CAC.  The reality is that a vast majority of people are apathetic and it is unrealistic that she will get the input she wants – it is not going to happen.  The 2030 Plan can never address all the land use issues we are going to face.  Changes have impact on the issues.  If a vision document is what it is supposed to be we have a good start. 

Knight said they talked about the neighborhood plans and including them as an addendum was done for expediency.  He was not sure why they didn’t look at the old neighborhood plans but it would be a monumental task.  But, if that needs to be done – let’s do it.  To say we can keep something relevant that is 27 years old is not realistic. 

Brinkman asked what the big rush was to have this done.  She disagreed with Ciarlelli on the level of involvement of the citizens if they were to tackle the neighborhood plans.  We have seen citizens tell us they want a voice – they are out there.  The Complan is used all the time and she did not want to spend all the time on it if it was not going to be a document that could be used.  She questioned the need to have a plan that goes all the way out to 2030 – do we need to out that far – we might come up with a more powerful document if we shorten our horizon.  She thought there were components of the old plan that needed to survive. 

Ciarlelli thought it was a good idea to go out that far to provide direction for PC and future councils. 

Bagley said he has been involved in the Small Neighborhood Plans (SNP) in other cities and they are significant to do in terms of time and money.  Denver’s “Blueprint” did not take away anything from the SNP and the 2030 Plan is more like Denver’s “Blueprint.” 

Bagley said other areas needed to be planned such as South Bridge and Wolhurst Landing and that might be the first SAP to be created. 

Julio, during his tenure on the PC, said there were many times that projects needed immediate attention and he looked to the Complan as a guidance tool for possible policy and goals.  There are new concepts in today’s projects and trying to get his arms around the new concepts and the old plan that didn’t address the changing times was difficult.

There’s a void and this new plan is trying to bridge the void. 

Cole asked how a plan gets outdated.  There are little changes here and there – for example the light rail – but people still want their neighborhoods as they are.  Cole thinks the 2030 Plan may be looking too far out and there isn’t a good track record looking out that far. 

Bagley said the different environment, Centennial, the redevelopment of South Glenn, Highlands Ranch, the redevelopment in Sheridan on Santa Fe and Hampden are examples of what makes our Complan outdated.  We need to understand the impact of all that on Littleton and what’s required to keep the neighborhoods the same since they are defined as areas of stability.  There are changes happening on Broadway and the PC did a matrix evaluation on Marathon, Littleton Blvd. and Santa Fe.  Look at what’s happening at the Gates site and in Sheridan.  That affects us in Littleton. 

Bagley presented an example – what would we do if LPS closed Heritage High School – that action may spawn a new SAP for that neighborhood. 

Brinkman said when she looked at the map in the plan and the areas of stability are all located right next to an area of change and any change in the one area will impact the area of stability right next to it.  There’s a ripple effect and there needs to be consideration for those stable areas. 

Bockenstedt said the plan states that any area of stability is protected from activity in the area of change but there is nothing to protect the housing in the area of change.

Brinkman said then there are no areas of stability – all of Littleton is an area of change it is just a matter of degree. 

Brinkman thought the definition of an area of change or stability was very subjective.  She lives very close to Hudson Gardens and she never hears the concerts on Sunday night.  However, people that live 3 miles away have to deal with whether or not they want to hear the concert or stay in the house every Sunday night. 

Kostoff said Brinkman assumed all change is bad. 

Brinkman said she did not say that. 

Kostoff was very pleased the neighborhood where he owns property has been labeled an area of change. 

Brinkman said, for the record, change is not bad. 

Knight asked the council if the PC was wasting time with this plan.  We need a new plan – there’s a lot of change in this town.  Broadway south of Belleview needs change.  The sales tax is woefully low.  Like it or not, South Glenn and Sheridan are growing and changing and Littletonites will leave Littleton to go shop there and the city’s ability to provide services will diminish. 

A lot of time has been and will be spent o the 2030 Plan – but if it meets resistance – tell us now.  We need direction so we can spend our time productively.

Valdes agrees with Knight – they want direction. 

Clark said the issue brought up tonight – are neighborhoods stable or not.  What kind of document do you want to create?  If it is a vision document then the neighborhoods are not stable.  I don’t think you know what you want the report to be used for – land use or a vision document.  If it is a vision document you have left out a lot of the city.  The BIAAC report talks about 2 Littletons and the PC is telling us we have stable neighborhoods.  I look at the document and there’s a whole lot of nothing to do with land use.  Should it include what Littleton is facing – or the neighborhoods – if it is the neighborhoods then the other stuff needs to come out. 

Woods said the workshop to be held on Feb. 8 and 9 will provide the time for the council to discuss the 2030 Plan.  The dialog tonight has provided a whole series of questions.  Is the document about land use or a strategic document and that should be put on the front burner? 

Ostermiller asked what the required state standards are for communities to comply when creating a Complan. 

Bailey will provide the council with the statute. 

Bagley said maybe that’s what needs to be done – we have a 2 headed monster but it is doable if managed properly. 

Clark said the PC has sat through zoning hearings and have they considered what the citizens will do with the loose language of this document regarding areas of change and stability.  I just keep coming back to what both of us have to do to make zoning changes and I think that’s the motivation for changing the Complan. 

Brinkman read from Linda Knufinke’s input on the 2030 Plan. 

“First, the concepts under “Areas of Activity”, “Areas of Change” and “Areas of Stability” are so broad and so encompassing that any proposed development or requested rezone/s will be consistent with the Comp Plan and therefore difficult for citizens to challenge.  Second, the proposed Comp Plan designates most areas of Littleton slated for development as “Areas of Change”.  The concept of the “Areas of Change” effectively invalidates City Code Section 10-12-1 and takes away a key provision for citizens to question a rezone because a rezone must be 1) consistent with the goals and policies of the Comp Plan and 2) promote the general welfare of the community.  If it is not consistent with the Comp Plan, the Plan cannot be approved unless there are “changed or changing conditions”.  Since any new developments will be designated by the proposed Comp Plan as “Areas of Change”, all developments will satisfy the “changed or changing conditions” provision from 10-12-1.  As a result there will be no effective way for someone to argue against a development.” 

Bagley said he knows that it is an issue – there are Ordinances required in the minds of Linda, Steve and Brinkman.  But, from a planner’s perspective the issue of changing conditions and areas of change are not the same.  He needs to provide evidence why. 

Brinkman said the document will out live all of them and needs to be clear. 

Ostermiller said he spent 20 years on PC and the changing infrastructure creates changing conditions.  (Light Rail, Aspen Grove, and Historic Downtown are examples)  The new plan should be comprehensive enough that changing conditions as a reason for granting a rezoning will go away for several years. 

Knight asked to get a short answer from each council member as to whether or not the PC should continue with the process. 

Cole said she didn’t see how they could respond until after the workshop. She has not seen a copy since last summer. 

Clark said the answer will come out of the workshop. 

Bagley said they would set the 2030 Plan aside until after the workshop and further direction from the council. 

Yolanda McAllister, PC, told the council that it was not the PC that wrote the 2030 Plan so any changes to it would be making changes to the citizen’s input. 

Bockenstedt said he respected the work of the CAC but it was a small group of 23 citizens.  Anyone of us could come up with different opinions from 23 other citizens and he doesn’t agree it is what everyone wants. 

Delayed Start of the February 5th Meeting

Clark moved that the council delay the start of the February 5th meeting so members could participate in their caucus meetings.  The meeting will begin at 8:30.  Ostermiller seconded and motion passed 6/0.

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