City Council Meeting Minutes February 5, 2008

Littleton City Council Meeting

February 5, 2008

 

All council members were in attendance.

 

Elwood Johnsen spoke to the council about his concerns for the safety of workers on his street that he refers to as Fremont Freeway.  He notified Jim Woods on Thursday about his concern and on Friday there was more police presence which provided more safety.

 

Pavlos Stavropoulos made some comments on the draft for the attorney profile.  He thanked Doug Clark for providing the draft to the public for comments.  He appreciated the references to open and transparent government in the document.  Pavlos pointed out several errors, grammatical and otherwise, that would make the document better.  He asked about the involvement of citizens in the process.

 

Clark told Stavropoulos  that the process had not been determined – the subcommittee would make recommendations to the council and council would make the final decisions about the process to be used in hiring a new attorney.

 

Rhonda Hackett, Meals on Wheels, thanked the council for the support given to Meals on Wheels.  The group serves 270 meals a day to low-income, home bound, and the elderly.  They never turn anyone away.  Each day they average 3 new people to their program – there is an increasing demand for their service.  The average age of their volunteers is 70 years of age!

 Dale Shields was addressing the council because of what he learned at the last regular council meeting.  The interlocking nature of the Littleton Leadership Retreat, the Planning Commission and the CAC was surprising but put things into perspective.  As an interlocking group they set the agenda for the 2030 Plan.  He did not know that the speaker at the LLR was the same speaker that spoke to the public at the public CAC meetings.  He said she took ½ of the meeting to set the constraints on how the public could give input.  The 2030 Plan was flawed and should be rejected.  He suggested that the Neighborhoods Plans should be used – that is what he heard the citizens say.  A member of the Planning Commission said that the citizens were apathetic – Shields didn’t agree.  Just look at the last election.  He thought the citizens deserved a plan that was not toothless but one that provides a direction and a basis of how to go forward. 

John Brackney, South Metro Chamber of Commerce, spoke to the council about what the Chamber will do for the Council.  He said Littleton is healthy and vibrant and Chamber wants to know Council’s wishes.  Pretty much anything they ask of the Chamber – the answer will be Yes!

 

Bob Davis thought Peggy Cole’s request for some signage that would direct people into Historic Downtown Littleton would help people going through Littleton find our downtown. 

 

Carol Brzeczek addressed the Council on the Littleton Leadership Retreat’s involvement with the City.  At the Council meeting two weeks ago it was clear that members of the Council had differing views on whether or not the LLR had ties with the City.  John Ostermiller was fairly adamant that the two were connected.  Kent Bagley told the council that the City held their funds for the group.  If they are associated with the City then they are a local public body and subject to the requirements of the Open Meetings Law.  Brzeczek had heard about a steering committee meeting for the LLR but there was no public notice of the meeting posted.  She looked for their minutes on the City’s web site and did not find any.  If the LLR is connected with the City they should be held to the same standards as the other Boards and Commissions in Littleton and follow the law.

 Action

The contract with the Sough Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce was approved.

 

2690 West Main Street Historic Designation – Quoted from Council Communication – The request to include 2690 W. Main Street in the Main Street Historic District is unusual in that the structure is less than 40 years old and individually has no known historic significance.”

 This discussion got very difficult to follow because of all the references to sections of the code.  I am quoting from the Council Communication before I go into the discussion in an attempt to help you follow the discussion. Criteria AnalysisHistoric Significance Criteria for Historic Landmark District requestsSection 4-6-6 (A) and (B) for the Littleton Historic Preservation Code (HPC) states the criteria in which the board shall consider in reviewing nominations of properties for inclusion in a historic district. Section 4-6-6- (A)  Any property receiving historic designation must be forty years old. This application meets this criterion, because the property has been a part of the historic development pattern of Littleton’s commercial core since at least 1928.  Section 4-6-6 (A), HPC also requires that th4e application meet at least one of 15 criteria stated in the section.  The application meets at least two of the criteria:4-6-6 (A) 6     Represents a built environment of a group of people in an era of history.4-6-6 (A) 7     Represents a pattern or grouping of elements representing at least one of the above criteria.  These criteria are addressed below. Section 4-6-6 (B), HPC requires that applications for historic landmark districts meet at least one of three criteria stated in the section.  The application meets at least one of the criteria: 4-6-6 (B)         A district is related by a pattern of either physical elements or social activities.  Significance is determined by applying criteria to the pattern(s) and unifying elements(S).                        The following two criteria of Section 4-6-6 (A) are used to address the pattern of physical elements and social activities related to this application:                        4-6- (A) 6        Represents a built environment of a group of people in an era of history.4-6-6 (A) 7     Represents a pattern or grouping of elements representing at least one of the above criteria.    Now for the discussion. 

Rick Acres, owner of the old Littleton Electric Building, addressed the Council giving a description of his building.  The building is 31 years old but the interior, he believes, predates 1976.  The building used to be a gas station several years ago and the oil-  changing bays are still under the floor.

 

John Ostermiller asked him what his plans were for the building.  Acres wants to lease the ground floor for retail and the upstairs for office space.

 

Ostermiller asked him if he would keep the exterior as is.  Acres is working with a designer about color schemes and the possibility of doing something about the shake shingle look.  He has pictures of the building when it was a gas station that they are working with to help with the plans.

 

Tom Mulvey asked if the gas tanks were still underground and they are.  They will be removed soon.

 

Debbie Brinkman asked Acres why he wanted to opt in to the Historic District. 

 

Acres thought it was important to maintain the character of the downtown area and the building has established itself already as lending to the character of the area.  Brinkman asked him how it has leaded to the character of downtown and Acres said through its existence.

 

Peggy Cole asked about constraints, if any, placed on changing the exterior and Acres said he would have to conform to the Preservation Board’s standards and prove it takes it back to a point in time that’s relevant.  Cole asked if it would have to be approved by the Design Review Committee and Woods said it would not.

 

Clark said the building is in the TIZ (Transit Impact Overlay Zone) – that is within ½ mile from light rail. 

 

Mary Roberts, Director of community Development, explained further that if there were an additional 500 square feet or more added to the building then there would be a PDO (Planned Development Overlay) that would have to be approved by the Planning Commission.  The architectural changes would have to be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Board (HPB).

 

Jose said the building is 31 years old and the criteria for designation states that the building must be 40 years old.  He thought the reduced parking requirements might be the reason for opting into the HPD.  Acres said he had 16 parking places and parking was not an issue for him.

 

Trujillo was bothered by the fact that the building was not 40 years old and he disapproved of the reduced parking saying it did not benefit the City to reduce parking and he would vote no on the request. 

 

Bill Hopping, HPB, member, said he understood Trujillo’s concerns.  Hopping believed that the standard was that the majority of the buildings have to be more than 40 years old and the exception was intentional.  It is inevitable that some buildings won’t be 40 years old.  This beauty of the designation gives shape to the district and a sense of place.  If Mr. Acres redevelops the property he wants the assistance of the HPB.  They have already helped with the Main Street Tavern and the third floor addition to the Ancient Arts Healing Center.  (If you remember the Main Street Tavern was designated by the previous Council only to be torn down. Clark summed up the action by saying what the Council was really doing was declaring the dirt historic.)

 

Hopping said the parking reduction was not something that the HPB did on their own – the criterion was developed by a large group of people.  Trujillo asked who they were and Hopping said 200 people participated in round table discussions over a 2 year period – people on all sides of the issue thought the parking reduction was a proper incentive to enhance Main Street and it is working.  Since then numerous businesses have moved into Littleton specifically because historic districts attract good, quality investments.

 

Trujillo said most have joined the district to get the parking reduction.  Hopping said it is an incentive and only occurs if there is a change in a business.  The original 19 members did not benefit by the reduction because they did not have a change in business when they opted into the district.  The parking lot reduction only happens when there is a change in the business.  Main Street is becoming vibrant.

 

Debbie Brinkman asked Hopping to explain what “4-6-6 (A) 6 Represents a built environment of a group of people in an era of history” means.

 

Hopping said that refers to a continuous evolution of Main Street over the long-term.  It is a street of cottage industries – no franchises or large buildings – a boutique type of atmosphere.

 

Brinkman then read from her backup material, “Represents a pattern or grouping of elements representing at least one of the above criteria.”  The above criteria is what?

 

Hopping said he did not have the criteria in front of him.  While staff went to find the criteria Bill Hopping said they discussed this on their board because the building was not a crown jewel of downtown Littleton.  He offered two other examples – Bega Park was put into the HD to specifically define and preserve the place where so much has happened, and the redevelopment of Main Street Tavern.  We have two architects on the board that will work with the owners to evolve a design and scale to make it fit with the surrounding businesses and be compatible which helps create the synergy.

 

Hopping said the building is less than 40 years old however it does represent a group of people who built the building and have used it over a period of time in that boutique type of environment.

 

Brinkman said the application states that the applicant meets at least two of the criteria and lists those criteria as the criteria.  (This is not double-speak but a reasonable interpretation of the council communication.)

 

Taylor said the applicant only met one criterion.  Ostermiller said isn’t 4-6-6(A) 6 & 7 the criteria met.  Mimnaugh said yes, and the above criteria are actually addressed below.

 

Brinkman said it was clear as mud and it seemed it was talking in circles – era of history – you met two criteria – not one of the above criteria – is it two or one?

 

Cole thought she could clarify for Brinkman.  4-6-6 (B) talks about how you identify the significance of something and the two items in the middle are justifying the significance but you only need one criteria for the above list for one part so you need the two to explain the significance of the built environment piece but you only need one but the two in the middle are the significant evidence.  Is that right?

 

Andrea Mimnaugh said that was close.  The way she understands it is there are fifteen criteria to determine the historic significance in architectural integrity.  You are required to meet one of those but it actually meets two; 4-6-6-(A) 6 and 4-6-6 (A) 7.  In addition because it is to be included in the application for historic district the property has to meet one of the three criteria relative to the Preservation Board which is 4-6-6 (B).  The confusion is that the criterion requires you to jump back to the original section. 

 

Brinkman asked how does “a pattern of either physical or social elements” and “unifying elements” apply to this property.

 

Mimnaugh said it is a property in a group or grouping of properties along Main Street and together the group is a pattern of elements and related to a group of social activities through time that are significant to the community.

 

Hopping said the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Littleton’s district is unique – what they call a Swiss cheese district because not all the properties are in the district.  He sited Pearl Street as an example – some buildings do not have the great allure as others but the sum total draws people in.

 

Clark said the façade could be changed, an additional floor could be added or an addition be made – what criteria is used to determine if it is historically accurate.

 

Hopping said there are no hard criteria.  The HPB goes through continuous training – attends conferences and hears from architects and experts in the different fields along with Certificates of Appropriateness.  They have two historically trained architects on their board to help owners through the experience of a new design to ensure it is compatible with Main Street.

 

Clark said he heard Hopping say that the building could be torn down and rebuilt as something unrelated as long as it was compatible with the other properties on Main Street.

 

Hopping said yes as long as it is complementary, the design elements are compatible, and the historic code is met so a sense of place is maintained.  We don’t want a Walgreen’s type building or McDonald’s architecture.  The bottom line is that you have to rely on the expertise of the people on the HPB.

 

Clark said what you are saying is that you are not really preserving a historical building but creating a look for downtown that may or may not match what exists or existed.

 

Hoping said if Acres wants to redevelop he can do so as long as he meets the standards.

 Public Hearing

Dave Randall opposes the request.  He thinks comments made earlier were right on the mark.  At a Planning Commission meeting last year Hopping said that the 50% parking reduction was the only thing driving designations.  He doesn’t mind the incentive for a building with historical or architectural significance but to draw one in that is not historically or architecturally significant and not 40 years old was preposterous and an abuse.  What you are going to get is a building being torn down with a 50% parking reduction to further aggravate the parking problem in downtown Littleton.  Drive a stake through the heart of this request.  He wasn’t even sure the Council had any authority to address the request because the Ordinance says it must be heard within 60 days and that time had been exceeded.  It doesn’t have historic significance. 

 

Randall couldn’t agree more with Brinkman about the flaky set of criteria to be applied under 4-6-6 whatever.  Please tell me if you understand what the “property represents a built environment of a group of people in an era of history” means.  Everything happens in an “era of history” so that adds nothing to delineate the group whether it meets it or not.  A “built environment” is defined as any man-made surrounding that provides the setting for human activity.  That’s anything and everything.  Anything would meet the criteria except a virgin wilderness.

 

A “group of people” – the only thing that that does not apply to is a hermit that goes out and does something on his own where he is not a group of people.  The criteria is so mushy and overly broad – so vague that they should be rejected as standards and not be in the code at all.

 

He agrees with Brinkman that 4-6-6 (A) 7 is double counted – it is more gibberish to draw anything they want into the district which is what they want to do.  It is a Swiss cheese affair.  If this was truly labeled it would not be a request for historic preservation by a request for a 50% parking reduction for that property.  It is a bad deal and should be rejected.

 

Pavlos Stavropoulos had a number of concerns about some of the arguments he had heard.  He recalled Hopping saying that the code did not say that the building had to be 40 years old but when he read the council communication 4-6-6-(A) states that any property receiving historic designation must be at least forty years old.  That seemed fairly clear cut to him.

 

Stavropoulos said 4-6-6 (A) 7 indicates as long as the district is historic and built by people it can be included – this only dilutes the meaning of the historic district.  The building is les than 40 years old and has no known historical significance.

 

Stavropoulos also noted that the original application had the address listed as 5708 S. Rapp Street but on a later application document the address was listed as 2690 W. Main Street.  When did the address change take place?  Is 2690 W. Main a valid historical address of the building?

 

Stavropoulos urged the council to look at this carefully; allowing for a building that was not 40 years old to be included had the potential for setting a precedent especially with the comments that have been made.

 

Mimnaugh said the address change was requested during the application process.

 

Brinkman asked Acres how long he had owned the property and was told since September.  It is currently for lease with 1,000 square feet downstairs and 1200 square feet upstairs.  It has been empty since last spring.

 

The public hearing was closed on a 7/0 vote.

 

Taylor moved to approved the historic designation and Cole seconded the motion.

 

Taylor said he could see why the building might have two addresses since it had two doors facing two streets.  The parking issue should not be used in making this decision but on the merits of the application.  In fact, studies show that there is not a parking problem in downtown Littleton.  At first it was bothersome that the building was not 40 years old but he agreed with Hopping that not all the building in a district will be 40 years old and to have one or two that is not doesn’t bother him. 

 

To get down to brass tacks Taylor said the building could be torn down to the foundation and then it would qualify with a foundation from 1850.  Maybe he is going to tear it down – I don’t know what he is going to do with it.

 

Ostermiller agrees with Taylor – it is a personal property rights issue for him.  We do not have a mandatory district – owners opt in.  He’s the owner and if he wished to opt in it benefits the City in the long run.  We will have more control over the entry way into our City.  He encouraged people to read the 2004 parking study – it states that there is plenty of parking in downtown Littleton.  We set up the incentive when we passed the HPD Ordinance.  He will support the request – it is good for downtown and the community.

 

Jose has read all the parking studies and has never agreed with them.  If you had a business in downtown then you would realize it.

 

Clark said he say the issue from a lot of different sides.  Acres is a valuable member of the community.  We have a mish-mash of a number of different objectives occurring within the HP code and unfortunately we have created a district that is really an architectural design group that determines what the buildings should look like.  It doesn’t have a lot to do with history.  It may be that some of the designations are historic but that is not why they are included.  Bega Park doesn’t have a building on it at all and there is no criterion for how it is to be used or what changes will be allowed.  The Main Street Tavern was torn down but designated historic.

 

If we had a district of architectural control then Acres could opt in and give up the ability to change in a way other than for the common good.  We are faced with a code related around “historicness” and we have specific criteria and I don’t think this property meets any of it.

 

4-6-6 (A) 6 – is meaningless because everything applies.  4-6-6 (A) 7 a distinct pattern of small narrow lots that face Main Street is meaningful but this building is not narrow, doesn’t face Main Street. and doesn’t meet the criteria.  We can bend the criteria to meet any situation which we can come up with which is what we are doing here.  If the Main Street property owners want to join together for architectural control for their mutual benefit it is possible to create a whole new district that doesn’t have anything to do with history without having to pretend we are conforming to the criteria.

 

Cole said she struggled with this but for her the issue is the difference between the words “property” and “building.”  She hates the look of the building and thinks it should be preserved based on its important location.

 

Mulvey said he was confused by the whole thing and he knows the address is on Rapp Street.  The application does not read very well.

 

Motion failed 3/4 with Brinkman, Clark, Trujillo and Mulvey dissenting.

 Attorney Job DescriptionThe council will be hiring a new city attorney and a subcommittee of the council has been working with a consultant about qualifications for the attorney.  I am going to be brief in what I report about this discussion.  This is already too long!  The document the council discussed is also on the Blog as “Find Out What the City is Looking For in a New City Attorney.” 

It was the opinion among the council members that the attorney has 5 years of experience. 

 

The other sticking point was whether or not the attorney should be required to live within the city limits of Littleton. 

 

Clark thought if the applicant lived in the metro area it would be a disincentive to have to move a few miles to relocate into Littleton.  That might eliminate a great candidate.

 

Mulvey thought if the candidate did want the job he/she would make the move.  All department heads should live in Littleton.  He made a motion saying so.  Brinkman seconded it.

 

Taylor thought it would greatly limit the number of candidates that apply.

 

Ostermiller thought the department heads ought to be encouraged to live in Littleton but it should not be a requirement.  Do we offer a wide enough range of housing?  The attorney is not in a policy making position and doesn’t have that much to do with what is happening in Littleton. 

 

Brinkman disagreed.  The attorney has a large influence on the city and the city can have a large influence on the people that serve the community.  The attorney is number threee on the organization chart and carries a lot of responsibility.  She did not think it was a penalty to have to live in Littleton.  It is a privilege to live in Littleton and if they want the job they will make the move. 

 

Cole thought the requirement was a problem.  There are a whopping number of employees that don’t live in the city but they serve the city well.  In today’s housing market they may not be able to find a home quickly.

 

Brinkman asked to clarify Cole’s translation of Brinkman’s earlier comment.  Brinkman was not insinuating that those employees that do not live in Littleton are not properly serving Littleton.  This is a top position – 3rd level of the organization chart.  We are required to live here and Brinkman did not think it was unfair to require to have the attorney live in Littleton.  Brinkman was not referring to any other employee in the organization.

 

Clark said there were lots of benefits of having senior staff live in Littleton.  Their neighbors would be affected by their decisions and service and they would be integrated.  It may take a longer process however it is important to have them live in the city.

 

Cole said the Charter states that those that live within the city or practice within the city would be given preference.

 

Clark thought that was an excellent point.

 

Mulvey’s motion failed 5/2 with Brinkman voting with him.

 

Brinkman asked that “strongly encourage them” would be used in the job description.

 

Brinkman also talked to the consultant about having citizens meet the final candidates in a public forum.  The consultant said it was doable and that they have done it before.

 

Cole made a motion to make the reference to the 2030 Complan more general.  Brinkman seconded and the motion passed 7/0.

 

Clark made a motion to approve the document with the corrections they just made.  Motion passed 7/0.

 

The agenda item on Ethics was postponed until February 19th.

 Reports

Jim Woods, in reference to a grant the Fire Department was awarded on a Wellness Program, said the Human Resources Department has some questions that are still unresolved.  Acceptance of the grant will take action from the council.

 

Cole asked about signage to direct people to downtown Littleton.  Woods said signage on Santa Fe Drive is an arduous project since it is a state highway.  Cole suggested signage on Church.  Woods will provide the council with some background information.

 

Jose said some of his constituents are asking for a flash signal to control auto speed at Prentice and Huron for the east/west traffic.

 Woods said the flash signs are effective. 

Brinkman said the Fine Arts “Eye of the Camera” show was a great success.  Twice as many showed up as they thought and they ran out of food.  The show runs through March 2.  Brinkman is working with the group to get more information on the web site including calls for entries.

 

Brinkman is also representing Littleton on the South Platte Working Group.  She said they are an incredible group of people and Littleton is the hub of activity.

 

Ostermiller congratulated Phil Cortese, Mary Roberts and Andrea Mimnaugh for the Bemis House grant.  The WWW Board is very excited.  They will need matching funds and will come back to council on the 19th.

 

Clark said they will be in the community room at their meeting next week and everyone is to arrive 15 minutes early to learn how to use the new microphones.  Fifty-seven people applied for boards and commissions and one night will not be enough to interview all 57. 

 

Clark asked staff to give him a report on all funds the city is holding for others and how it has been spent from 2005 on.

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