Littleton City Council Meeting – Citizen Minutes December 1, 2009

Citizen Minutes

Regular Meeting of City Council

City of Littleton, Colorado

7:30p.m. Tuesday
December 1, 2009

 

a) Guest Citizens – 2010 Littleton Calendar and Annual Report photography contest winners – Calendars are now available and are free.  Pick one up at Bemis or the City Center!

 

c) Unscheduled public appearances* (limited to 4 minutes)

 – Carol Brzeczek addressed the Council stating: 

At last weeks’ special meeting Jim Taylor ended the meeting by informing the rest of the Council that he had asked staff to review the financials for Sterling Ranch.

 Since then I emailed Jim to get further clarification because I wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly.   But I did hear him correctly which leads me to ask about this decision to have staff review the financials for Sterling Ranch. 

Just to review – at any Council meeting the City Manager is always asking if there are four council members that support a given direction and if there aren’t four of you in support the idea dies.  The decision to review the Sterling Ranch financials, to my knowledge, was never discussed in an open meeting and since last week’s meeting was the first for both Bruce and Phil I would venture to say if it was discussed it was discussed outside of a public meeting. 

Was there a meeting before Bruce and Phil were sworn in?  If so then the decision should not stand since they weren’t official council members.  Was there a meeting after they were sworn in?  If so when?  If there wasn’t a meeting why is the staff taking direction from one Council member – particularly on something that is of such great interest to many of us in the community? 

This is not the first time we have seen the staff respond to the request of one Council member – we saw it when one member made a request which lead to Charlie going out and photographing different intersections in Denver, Golden and places in between.  All after the Council voted the whole idea down. 

I have two concerns – one – staff responding to one council member’s request that is made outside of a public meeting that would have a financial or otherwise major impact on the City and citizens of Littleton.  Either staff needs the support of four council members or not – which is it? 

My second concern is if there was a decision made among four members of this Council it is a bad omen for the rest of the four years if this behavior continues.  The Open Meetings law is very explicit – you are to conduct the public’s business in public and four of you agreeing to take a look at Sterling Ranch and directing the City Manager to do so is, at worst, a violation of the OML, and at best a violation of the spirit of the law. 

I was surprised that there wasn’t any comment made by any other council member on Jim’s direction to staff.  Is that because you already knew about it or because you support the action?  Or was it because it was a late meeting and mentioned just as everyone was ready to adjourn?  In any case if there are four of you that support the review of the financials for Sterling Ranch then I believe the public has the right to know when the four of you decided to move forward and who the four are. 

I am requesting that Mayor Clark make a motion tonight to ask the City Manager to take a look at the Sterling Ranch financials so we can have the decision on the public record.  I would also the Mayor to respond to my questions and to please let me know if I have misunderstood any activity leading to Mr. Taylor’s request of staff. 

Peggy Cole responded that she had included this topic in her agenda item about study session minutes.

7. Consent Agenda Items 

 

a) Ordinance on First Reading Repealing Section 3-2-10(B)(2) and (3) of the Littleton City Code related to permits to consume liquor  – Passed 7/0 
b) Ordinance on first reading pertaining to Art Gallery Liquor Permits Passed 7/0
   
c) Ordinance on first reading amending Title 3 Sections 3-2-5 and 3-2-9 of the Municipal Code concerning Liquor License Fees and Related Fees  – Jose expressed concern over the fee as being excessive.  Doug Clark would prefer the fee be changed through a resolution and not an Ordinance.– Passed 4/3 with Jose, Bruce Stahlman, and Clark dissenting 
d) Resolution to Approve Banking Services with JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. for CIGNA Healthcare Funding Passed 7/0.
e) Approval of the Olde Town Littleton Market – Clark preferred to give the merchants notice before approving this item in order to give the opposition an opportunity to comment.  Peggy Cooper, Details owner, said they really needed this approved ASAP in order to get the vendors they desire to commit to their market.  She thought to have one merchant be the deciding factor was unacceptable.  The one merchant doesn’t participate in any of the downtown activities. 

Phil Cernanec asked if a merchant could elect not to have a tent in front of their store and is there any allowance made for parking.

 Charlie Blosten said there is a 2 hour parking limit on Main Street and on some of the side streets.  There are 70 spots in the Reinke lot and an officer is available if there are any parking problems.  The merchants that do not want a tent in front of their store will not have a tent in front of their store.  If the Council wants us to change the parking limits for the one day we can do that but at a cost. 

Debbie Brinkman had a concern over leasing the public sidewalk and who collects the money.  Blosten said the City will get the sales tax revenue but the organization gets the leasing fees. 

Clark moved to postpone the decision to the December 15th meeting.  Brinkman seconded.  Jose asked Cooper if the decision could wait until the 15th and Cooper said she would prefer to settle it now. 

Clark did not think the consent agenda was the proper way to handle the decision as it did not give merchants the opportunity to speak. 

Peggy Cole moved to have sales tax revenue figures for the last year compared to the same time the year before to see the impact on business – if available.  Motion died for lack of a second. 

Main motion to delay the decision failed ¾ with Cernanec, Taylor, Stahlman and Jose dissenting. 

Taylor moved to approve the Olde Towne Market.  Jose seconded.  Cole moved to amend the motion to include a means for Vendors to have their booth removed if not properly set up.  Motion died for a lack of a second. 

Main motion to approve passed 5/2 with Clark and Cole dissenting.

 

f) Motion to Approve Use of Elati Street for Soap Box Derby Passed 7/0.

 

g) Resolution Approving a Contract with DRCOG for the Purchase of Traffic Signal Cabinets Passed 7/0

 

h) Motion Approving Aspen Grove Business Improvement District’s Petition for Appointment of New Board Members Passed 7/0

 

i) Resolution Approving Intergovernmental Agreement with the Regional Transportation District (RTD) for Shopping Cart funding Passed 7/0

 

8. Second and Final Reading on Ordinances and Public Hearings

 

a) Ordinance approving the rezoning of 3811 W. Bowles Avenue from A-1 to PD-C and the Wynetka Decentralization Station PD Plan – The area at the NW corner of Platte Canyon and Bowles that currently houses some office and storage for Denver Water will be rebuilt as the existing buildings are 100 years old.  Cole moved to approve and Cernanec seconded the motion which passed 7/0.

 

b) Ordinance amending City Code Sections 10-1-2 and 10-8-4 relating to the requirements for conditional use applications Passed 7/0

 

  8c – Trailmark

(Council agreed to move this item from 9a to 8c so citizens could speak to the Council.)  This is an item that was scheduled for an executive session but Brinkman asked that it be held in public.  She said she has met with the people in TrailMark on a few occasions and she was hoping that the Council might be able to help clarify the process for the residents.  The City owns a piece of property in TrailMark dedicated for a school and any plans for the property would require a rezoning.  The TrailMark Metro District would like to build a rec center on the property and has polled the citizens but is a misunderstanding about the results of the polls taken.  The Metro District is getting one message and the citizens are concerned about the increased fees.  Brinkman moved to direct staff not to enter into the negotiations with TrailMark on the site until after the Metro District holds an election on the use of the property and the ballot language be supported by City staff.  Doug Clark seconded. 

Cole mentioned a July 24th email stating that the only control Littleton had was over the use of the land which would involve zoning issues.  It did not sound to her that any negotiations were involved. 

Suzanne Staiert said since the City is the property owner there would be negotiations.  The City doesn’t have jurisdiction over the election and no right to intervene but would be involved in discussion about the property. 

Taylor said he preferred to stay out of the fight – there is no upside for us to be involved – they need to make their own decisions. 

Staiert said there may be a time when they would grant a letter of authorization and how far down the road do you want us to go?  It is an arduous process and if Council doesn’t have any interest in negotiations we don’t want to go down that road.  Staiert had conversations with both sides of the issue and believe that both sides would welcome another election to get a clear understanding of the desires of the community.

While serving on the South Suburban Board Cernanec heard the Metro District say that if they didn’t get the support there would not be any construction.  The real issue is trust.  Why do we have to ask the questions again – asking again will not lead to any assurance in understanding? 

Woods told the Council that they as land owners have to approve a PD plan and if 4 of you have heard enough and there aren’t any circumstances that you would amend the PD plan then the answer is no and we would not process the request.  Brinkman is asking for clarity.  

Cole was concerned with the City’s involvement in a Metro District that was approved by the Council and getting involved in determining the language of their ballot question. 

Brinkman said it may be unconventional to intervene but there is a trust issue.  There is a great divide in what people think they are saying and what the people hear.  She thought it would be responsible to provide a neutral voice for the ballot issue stating that if the issue comes back to them she wants to have an authentic vote to work from.

Cernanec suggested the group use other resources than city staff. 

Clark said he did not want to get in the middle of the community and what they are going to do and does not want to be involved in developing a ballot question.  Until a specific proposal comes to the Council they should not enter into any negotiations. 

Clark has several concerns.  He may not be on Council when and if this ever comes back.  He is not inclined to initiate negotiations when he doesn’t know if the community supports it.  Whoever proposes this project needs to come in with evidence that the community supports it. 

Brinkman said there was concern with the citizens and the fees collected by the Metro District.  Clark said he did not want to get involved and if the District is not spending the money wisely the citizens have a process to deal with that. 

Kathryn LeClaire (?) spoke as a resident of TrailMark saying that the Council had covered most of her points.  She said the first ballot question stated that the District had secured an agreement with the City and Jefferson County on this property and she understands that there was no formal agreement.  The District told South Suburban that if they did not get the approval of the community the rec center would not be built.  The Metro District used false information in communicating with the citizens and she asked the Council to hold approval until after a new Metro Board is seated.  If we must vote again we need good information and if you can help us we would appreciate your help.

Stahlman asked Kathryn if the two groups ever sat down and tried to hash out the differences.  Kathryn said the citizens are limited to 5 minutes in the meetings.  We speak then they discuss.  They have over collected $900,000 and continue to over collect. 

Kim McMann said it is a trust issue – we said no and they are moving ahead.  She said the Metro District has not reached out to talk with them. 

Tim Strunk, President of the Metro Board, said the District did not spend any money until after the first election.  If there was no interest the project would have died.  The District has talked with Jefferson County Schools about the use of the property.  They are trying to do what the community wants them to do.  Their financials are on-line for all to see.  It costs 40% less to live in TrailMark today than it did four years ago.  The 5A group is well organized.  The District’s information was inaccurate as stated but he believes there is a quiet majority and a very loud minority that has opposed this from the beginning. 

Stahlman asked him what was the “agreement” they had with the City. 

Strunk said they could have used better words – it was not our intent to imply that it was a done deal but an agreement in principle. 

Woods said a conceptual review went to the DRC and that is what Strunk was referring to. 

Stahlman told Strunk that he is wasting his time if he doesn’t get the trust issue resolved. 

Citizen Rick Handley said the 5A ballot went down by 71% and yet the District has spent $80,000 preparing. 

Karen W. said she sat on both the HOA and Metro District boards and has tried to get both sides to talk then someone puts down their fist and the talking stops. 

Dave Loggins said there was minimal interest in a rec center and asked Council to turn down any proposal that came before them.  

Motion failed 2/5 with Brinkman and Jose the only two in support. 

Clark asked Woods if he had heard enough on the subject to have the direction he needed. 

9. General Business

 

a) Motion to authorize final design of South Campus parking lot

 – Passed 7/0

b) Discussion of TrailMark school site

–         Moved to 8c

  9(b) Study Session Minutes

– This was Cole’s agenda item and she expressed her concern about Taylor’s comments at the end of the study session the previous week.  It was the first time she had heard that someone directed staff.  There were two issues for her.  We don’t take detailed minutes of study sessions since we are only recording action and the need for four council votes to direct staff to take a look at the Sterling Ranch financials which had not been addressed by the Council.  Cole moved that any significant request of staff be recorded in public meetings with Council voting in a majority to support the action.  Jose seconded.   

Taylor said he needed to defend himself.  He thought there were examples from the past where requests were made of staff that took significant time.  Any developer has a right to approach staff to review their project.  His request was a courtesy so staff could do the analysis – he wanted an unbiased opinion.  Sterling Ranch indicated they wanted to file information with the City after the first of the year.  He was just informing Woods that this would occur. 

Cole said if Sterling Ranch approaches staff that’s one thing but this was a Council person.  Cole said she has met with Woods on several occasions and Woods has reminded her that she needs four votes of support and she has always accepted that.  This is not about developers or external organizations.  The citizens deserve a public record and there are no written minutes that recorded this request. 

Clark said his understanding is that it takes four votes.  We operate on Ordinances, Resolutions and Motions.  However, the intent and desire is to be public and transparent as possible.  There are all sorts of circumstances where Council will go to staff to sort out questions.  All council people try to be cognizant not to give direction without approval and if so staff needs to ask if there are four votes.  Occasionally everyone makes mistakes.  If Jim Woods and Suzanne Staiert do not think you have four they need to tell you to go back and get three votes and we need to accept that.  Generally we work very well.  You have to expect a period of time to adjust to the process.  Cole’s motion reflects normal policy.  The system works if we all recognize that and we try not to put staff in a difficult position.

Cernanec asked what was significant.

Clark said it ends up being a judgment call and we all help each other and so does staff.  The “requestee” determines if the request is significant. 

Taylor moved to table the discussion until Feb. 9.  Clark seconded and motion passed 5/2 with Stahlman and Jose dissenting. 

9d.  (Added item) – Clark moved to start the first special meeting of each month at 7:00 pm. Brinkman seconded.  (This meeting was starting at 7:30 to accommodate John Ostermiller’s schedule.)  Cernanec asked if it was a Special Meeting or a Study Session – could someone clarify?   Motion passed 7/0. 

13. Comments / Reports

 

c) Council Members

–         Jose moved that no new business be taken up after 10:30 pm.  When your butt is dead so is your brain.  Cernanec secondedMotion failed 1/6 with Jose the only Aye.

Meeting adjourned at 10:36.

Notes:  Regarding Sterling Ranch – Since I addressed the Council I have spoken to Suzanne Staiert, Doug Clark and Bruce Stahlman.  I have learned that Jim Taylor went into to see Jim Woods with another councilmember with the request that he review and analyze the financials for Sterling Ranch.  Bruce indicated that he was not part of the request to Jim Woods.   In fact, if the numbers are available Bruce wants to study them, rather than staff, as that is what he does for a living.

 I have asked Phil Cernanec if he was in support of staff looking at the financials for Sterling Ranch and have not had a response yet.  If and when I get one I will update this post. 

Regarding Special Meetings and Study Sessions – Phil has a reason to be confused.  The current rules for Council are contradictory.  They state that “study sessions shall be deemed regularly scheduled special meetings” resulting in eliminating study sessions altogether for Council.  Past Councils have not understood this contradiction.  The previous Council and the current Council does understand the contradiction.  In fact, Peggy Cole tried to get this contradiction corrected several months ago but was unable to get the majority of the Council to agree with making the changes.   Cole had offered multiple changes to their Legislative Rules and Procedures and was turned down flat.  If an attempt was made to make individual corrections and changes it might have been supported but to introduce sweeping changes was just too much for the Council at that time – in my opinion.

 

 

   
   
   
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