2013 April 23, 2013 Littleton City Council Meeting Citizen Minutes

Citizen Minutes

Littleton City Council Study Session – April 22, 2013

Tom Wooten, one of the five members of a task force, reported their findings to the council.  I am linking his report so you can take a look at it.  (Please note: this was the work product of a Think Tank that council approved but did not make the appointments.  There were five members – one of whom was Jessica Alizadeh who presented the Littleton Commons rezone and the Nevada Place II rezone.  What is stricking is she has been removed from the report as it will be presented to the council on May 7th.  We asked two different council members if they knew she was a member of the Think Tank – they did not.) I will not try to summarize but to say that the overall finding is that the economic balance in Littleton is out of alignment. After Mr. Wooten completed his presentation he asked the council to adopt the plan the 5-member task force laid out for Littleton saying it would provide the opportunity for the staff to open the discussions.  Here’s the link.Econ Development Think Tank

Here’s the discussion that followed the Economic Development Plan presentation.

Peggy Cole asked Wooten how he saw the recent approvals for development in Littleton contributing to the direction where we want to go.  He thought they were very positive steps but it takes time to build momentum and earn a reputation or to change a reputation.

Cole expressed her concern over the loss of tax revenue through internet shopping.  Wooten thought the demise of brick and mortar retail is premature and that big box stores will not go away.  People are social beings and they like to go out to shop for the experience that you cannot get online.

Phil Cernanec asked if the committee looked at the major corridor plans.  Wooten said they looked at the potential but not the constraints of the plans.  Wooten said Littleton needs to actively convey their interest in retail and we need to change the perception that is out there and he doesn’t think it is known that Littleton wants retail.  Cernanec mentioned the “tool chest” which includes incentives, tax incremental funding, public/private partnerships and other ways of offsetting expenses of bringing business to Littleton and asked where the money would come from for all the giving that was in the “tool chest. “  Wooten said it will have to be done project by project.  Littleton needs a real business plan – what are the tools, how and where you want to use them identified.  It has not been done and takes a fair amount of work but is worth doing.

Bruce Stahlman said a fair amount of work was done 6 years ago with the Broadway corridor plan and north of Littleton Blvd but what advice could he give that would help to bring the different land owners together to make something happen.  Wooten said the city has to be the catalyst.  Stahlman asked how does someone go to under utilized shopping centers to get things changed when the owners are content with their property.

Wooten said answers will be different for each and it is important to understand what can happen at each location – you don’t want multi-use in every in-fill project.  He stressed that the first step is to approve the plan he presented to signal that Littleton is open.

Bruce Beckman asked if they talked about why high density is the response and not commercial projects.  Wooten said there is a justification for high density and not to look at it in a vacuum.  It can encourage adjacent reinvestment, increase adjacent property values and reduce traffic in a mixed-use environment.  You need the city to be sustainable and to do that you need to increase density.

Debbie Brinkman said to increase density where it makes sense.

Jerry Valdes commented on how long the updating process for the Complan has been on-going and asked for suggestion to get the job done.  Wooten said the next logical step, if council agrees, it to go through the “tools” and sites and determine where the tools will be appropriately used.

Valdes asked for comments on a statement (page 6) that Littleton needs to rejuvenate its image.  Wooten said that over the last decade Littleton has earned the reputation of being a difficult place to do business and development.  When developers are looking they might think that they can’t get creative in Littleton; Littleton will only work with the existing entitlements.  We have lowered the bar on what can be achieved in Littleton.  So, developers would rather than put their money in a good design than an arduous process to get approval.

Valdes referred to page 8 of the report stating that density puts demands on a City, Wooten said we need a balance of density with retail so it will be self sustaining.  A sustaining development will adapt over time and will repurpose over time.

Cole said she did not think Littleton was typical, as she has encountered several older citizens who want to remain in their homes and what we needed was more transportation to get people to places within the city.  That would make us more dynamic.  Wooten agreed but said you need money to deliver those services.

Brinkman directed the staff to put the plan, as presented, on a future agenda.  Cole asked that the report also include notes on what is already being done in Littleton.

Civic Canopy Presentation

This was the third and final presentation by this group.  They told the council that there were so many different streams converging in Littleton –economic development, Complan, the surveys and the council has a vision and they need to act and have courage for leadership.  Brinkman they have been dealing with a budget that has extreme demands and they haven’t seen the revenue they would like to see.  She hears continuously that people do not want Littleton to change.  We honor that but we need balance.  Without change we cannot support the center of Littleton.  The map that was drawn by the Civic Canopy group represented a number of layers of policy for the council and for her it was starting to take on more meaning.

The facilitator told them it was a difficult task but they have a clarity of vision and now there is work to do.  Unity of vision does not translate to unity of action.  Conflict can drive the community apart – that’s the challenge of leadership.  How do you stay focused?  They have to engage in the divisive issues and need to understand why people are on edge and disagree on the pathway to the unified goal.  Then the discussion turned to how the brain works.

Briefly, the prefrontal cortex of the brain is where the rational activity takes place and it can be overwhelmed easily leaving the person without access to that portion of the brain when it is most needed.  The brain is constantly scanning for threats and rewards and sees physical and emotional threats the same.  He described what he called SCARF.

S – status – brain scanning for threats and rewards – who has the power

C – Certainty – the second queue the brain picks up on

A – Autonomy – give people control of their own decisions

R – Relatedness – humans quickly determine who in a group to trust

F – Fairness – humans are always looking for fairness in the process and if it is not fair they are resistance to the outcomes.

So, where do you stand with the citizens in Littleton?

Taylor said they put us on a pedestal – facilitator agreed that they had higher status than the citizens and you engender fears because of your status.  The decisions you make will limit other’s autonomy.  You have to keep your distance.  People don’t trust government.  You have everything against you.  You need to elevate the role of the citizens in Littleton.  Provide them with what is known.  Give people reasonable choices in acceptable boundaries.  Build a coalition.  Be transparent, open and fair.  People will be more innocent in their responses – it is how the brain works.

Cernanec said the chemistry in a room changes when they enter the room.  If you want people to use their prefrontal cortex you need to make sure the other areas of their brain are not firing.

A movie based on a colony of penguins was shown – their iceberg was melting and something had to be done before it was too late.  (Based on the book, Our Iceberg is Melting)

Part III of the presentation – Challenge to get to your vision.  Here are the steps as laid out by the penguins!

  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Creating the guiding coalition
  3. Developing a changing vision
  4. Communicating the vision for buy in
  5. Empowering broad based action
  6. Generalizing short term wins
  7. Never letting up
  8. Incorporating changes into the culture.

The plan is the bridge to the future!  How do you build a sense of urgency in Littleton?

Brinkman said you just provide the facts – can’t create a panic because you want something to change.

Cole said people needed to get emotionally connected to the problem.

Stahlman said that they are minimizing the negative problems and that can mask the problems down the road.

Brinkman said the penguins shared the information but didn’t get help until they had a solution.  Cernanec said they did not have the solution but the recognized that change was needed.

Brinkman said none of this was easy – they can only do the best they can do and the more they learn the better job they will do.

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