2013 May 7, Littleton City Council Reg Meeting – Citizen Minutes

Citizen Minutes

Littleton City Council Meeting

7 May 2013

Scheduled Appearances

Scott Ranville asked the council for their support for the Human Life Project that would create an educational opportunity and raise scholarship money.  The support would allow Ranville to use the city’s name and include a council meeting for the winning designs.

JohnWatson presented, on behalf of several citizens, a moratorium on future multi family rezoning projects in Littleton until impact fees had been determined and implemented in the city.  (Impact fees are fees imposed on developers to help defray the cost of infrastructure changes that need to be made to accommodate the project such as curb cuts, changes in the road, sidewalks.  It also covers the impact of the new development on police and fire and in a rezoning from commercial/retail to residential the impact on the city for the lost sales tax revenue.  A very cursory explanation!)  Watson cited a feasibility report that the taxpayers have paid for ($6,200) that has been sitting on the City Manger’s desk while the taxpayer’s are left holding the bag while rezonings from commercial to residential are being approved.  He said that Littleton does not need more apartments – there are significant vacancies in apartment buildings in Littleton now.  Property values suffer.  There has to be a plan – Littleton needs a viable tax base.

Watson also asked for a Transient Oriented District plan for both of Littleton’s light rail stations.

David Mitchell asked the council to take a step back and take a look at what is happening.  There are over 2,000 apartment units up for consideration.  Zoning is a commitment, a statement, a guideline and a promise to the citizens in Littleton that certain parcels of land are zoned in such a way and they can be somewhat assured of what might happen on any parcel of land in the future.  He asked the council to keep the commitment, statement, guideline and promise to the citizens in the current zonings

Sorry – I did not get this citizen’s last name but his first name is Dave.  He thought the idea of the moratorium was a good idea but was suspicious of people who like to stop development.  He asked the council to table any action on the moratorium.

Frank Atwood said he will be meeting with the Election Commission to discuss approval voting and he hoped to see it on the November ballot.  He also said that citizens do not want surprises and rezoning is a surprise.  He commented on the public/private partnerships mentioned in the Economic Plan and said Littleton has had a wonderful two decades with Riverfront.  He asked for a report on Riverfront.  (For those of you that haven’t been around for many years Riverfront, now Echostar, at Santa Fe and Bowles, was developed as a high end retail center that was built after the city condemned the property and took land through eminent domain.  The project did not last – one of those build it and they will come but they didn’t come and the taxpayers of Littleton were left holding the bag.)

Gary Johnson asked for a station area plan around the light rail stations in Littleton.  Take a proactive approach to growth – don’t react to growth.  What are the long-term and short-term desires economically speaking.  What is the infrastructure impact in 5 years, 10 years, and 20 years?  How do you define the quality of life?

Stew Meagher, realtor broker, spoke to the reason why high density apartments are the project du jour.  The Homeowner’s Protection Act that brought class action suits against developers that are difficult to win and difficult to defend making apartments the projects for developers to develop.

Nancy Berg said there is a new dynamic in muilti- family housing.  Vacancy rates are at an all time low and there is a wave of senior citizens seeking to downsize.  College graduates that want to rent.  Multi-family housing has a positive impact on property values.

Marty Bolt asked the council to cease and desist and study the impact fees.  What you don’t get from the developers you will have to get from the citizens.  Citizens have never asked for high density apartments so why are we getting them?  We have twice as many apartments as Centennial and they have twice the population of Littleton.  We have our fair share of apartments in Littleton.  We also have more subsidized government housing in Littleton than the surrounding areas.  We need to look at the money going down the drain in lost impact fees.  He asked the council how they would like living next to a project that was the size of Alexan but compressed down to the foot print of the lot for Broadstone?  He asked them to protect our tax base and have a dedicated examination of the situation.

Carolyn Bradish, real estate agent, said the moratorium is a negative concept in terms of development.  It is a step backwards – vote no.

David Schwan commented on the recent City Report Card that was distributed to the citizens asking why there was nothing about traffic mentioned.  He thought a report card with just the good grades was not representative of reality.  In a survey the 10 worst communities were downgraded because of high density, congestion and traffic.  We need the moratorium.

Cindy Christensen thought the moratorium was a signal that Littleton was not open for business.  Multi family for sale projects are not feasible so apartments are being built.  Moratorium is bad.  Seniors need a variety of housing.  Quality retail follows the roof tops.

Jack Randall said the moratorium should be used to give the council time – it is a financial situation and not a building situation.  We have the infrastructure and a high quality of life.  A study was done in December on impact fees but it is sitting on the shelf.  Find out how much to charge for impact fees.

Norm Strucker from the Littleton Business Coalition said the moratorium is dangerous and sends a disturbing message.  He wants a community that reflects the values of Littleton and the changing needs – the world is going to be more dense – do we want to be something unnatural?

John Brackney, Chamber of Commerce, the moratorium is bad for business and to act on it would be at their own peril.  He thought there were legitimate points made by those asking for the moratorium.

Kay Watson, real estate agent, opposed the moratorium.  Littleton will not stay the way it is – it will change

Pam Chadbourne spoke – I will try to get her power point and let you see for yourself what she had to say.  Here it is:2013 05.07.2013 Pam Chadbourne LCCmoratorium130507

Norm Brown asked the council how many of them knew about the 5 story apartment building that has been approved just east of the McDonald’s and the multi story building that has been approved at the corner of Prince and Berry?  Neither of these projects were mentioned in the context of the Nevada Place hearing and they should be considered.

Natalia, a 5th generation Littletonite, asked the council to take the time to consider impact fees and do it right the first time.

Patrick ?, a public policy coordinator, did not support the moratorium.

Marty Brzeczek thanked Wendy Heffner for the revised addendum to the Economic Plan to be discussed later.  The Economic Development plan called for continued study of impact fees therefore the moratorium would provide the time to approve impact fees.  He commented on all the new taxes and fees that have been suggested in the Economic Plan that will have a real impact on the citizens – including a soft drink and candy tax.

Susan Thornton told the council that she has been watching and thinks the council works very well together and she sees real progress.  Why jeopardize that effort?  Change is inevitable.

Linda Knufinke asked the council to stop and consider the bigger picture.

Betty Harris said, as a senior citizen, she bought a home with a yard and they do not know everything that senior citizens want.  To rezone retail to residential is short-sighted.  Once apartments are built there is no “do overs.”  Allowing development without impact fees is poor planning.

Jose Trujillo, former councilmember and downtown business owner, talked about the lack of foresight over the years in resolving the parking problem downtown.  Parking is a problem and impact fees, if enacted in prior years, might have gone a long way in solving the problem.

Leah Burkett said that “moratorium” is a bit of a negative concept – how about “time-out.”  Time to be thoughtful and acknowledge that we have some holes.  She thought requiring a 2/3 majority for approval, as stated in State law, should be required for controversial projects.  On the Economic Plan she suggested that it should be tabled to allow public input.  There are TOD concerns to be addressed.

Carol Brzeczek told the council that she is submitting to the City Clerk two statements of intent, as required by law, to petition the citizens for two changes to the City Charter.  The first would require, as in state law, a 2/3 majority for any zoning change if those living around the property to be rezoned presented a protest to the city clerk at least 24 hours prior to the public hearing, or if the matter does not get a favorable approval by the Planning Board.  The second change would be to limit the reasons why the council can convene into an executive session to two.  The first being to discuss matters required to be confidential by federal and state law and the second to discuss any legal matter that is current with the case number being cited and any decision on the legal matter is to be made in public.

On the first charter change – this will give citizens a little more clout in rezoning matters.  If the law had been applicable to Littleton we would never have had the Walmart fight and Nevada Place II would not have been approved.  Citizens generally are disadvantaged in these matters and this change would benefit citizens.

On the second change – there are several reasons for this change but one of the primary reasons is that every time the council goes into an executive session the result can be money out of the taxpayer’s pocket.  Citizens have the right to know how every nickel of their money is being spent and the only way to know is to insist that most of the business of the city takes place in full view of the citizens.  Boulder has eliminated all executive sessions and if Boulder can do it certainly Littleton can and this change would not be a total elimination of executive sessions.

Brzeczek also commented on the Economic Plan and how similar it was to the Planning Board’s Complan draft and how could that be knowing that they were two very different groups that developed the different plans.  But, in the discussion on Monday night it was mentioned that Tom Wootten, the same Tom Wootten that developed the Economic Plan as part of the Think Tank, spent time with the Planning Board in a workshop.  So it seems that there is someone behind the curtain making sure that the desired outcome is achieved.   She also mentioned that one member of the Think Tank was missing from the biographies and that particular person was the same person that presented the Nevada Place II and Littleton Commons projects to council and that the plan just might be biased towards high density living in Littleton

Paul Bingham said he liked the term “time-out.”  He thought it could be a short period of time and asked that it be put on the consent agenda and studied.

Al Clerihue spoke saying he had lived in the same home for 40 years and asked the council, “what’s in this for us?”

Resolution for Conduit Financing for the Arapahoe Douglas Mental Health Network passed 7/0.

Economic Development Plan Adoption

Debbie Brinkman said the plan is a culmination of 1.5 years of work and that a great deal of study, research and outreach went into the plan.  However, it is a very standard plan.  It is really a tool kit – it will put more tools in our tool box.  It is more than Economic Gardening.  Littleton is the best kept secret because we haven’t had an economic plan.

Any substance has to come through council – a plan with potential to compete and provide a thriving growing community.

Michael Penny emphasized that the document is a policy statement and that no ordinance modification has been made.  He said he attempted to get the 5th person’s bio into the think tank report but never got the bio.  Any new tax would require a vote of the citizens.

Bruce Beckman said he was not comfortable with all of the Economic Plan but it was better than not having anything in place.  It is a tool box – we could table it but the plane is flying and we need to provide direction the city can take.  Two years ago there was no strategic plan and not to do something is less favorable.

Phil Cernanec said Littleton needs to be proactive – we have limited tools to encourage the economic side.  This will allow the staff and citizens to reach into the box – things will get evaluated and voted on – this will allow us to be proactive.

Jim Taylor said the city has done quite well without an economic plan.  Successful cities start with a “yes” attitude – Littleton has to do more.

Jerry Valdes said the council causes their own problems by not moving forward.  We haven’t approved the Complan.  The Economic Plan is not perfect but if we wait for another revised Complan………..he would rather get it on the table.  However, he did not like the tax increases.

Bruce Stahlman said it is not perfect – it never can be.

Peggy Cole was disappointed.  She had asked for examples to indicate that Littleton was not stagnant.  One of the lessons of “Our Iceberg is Melting” is when what the penguins valued was no longer available they had to move and people in Littleton will move.  We need to keep doing what we are doing and anything we are not doing needs to come before city council.

The Economic Plan was approved 7/0.

The council also approved endorsement of the Human Life Project 7/0.

Moratorium

The deputy city attorney said there was a procedural issue – the item needed to be on the agenda to give everyone an opportunity to speak to the matter – it was an issue of fairness.  She preferred to address the council in an executive session about property rights, vested rights, impact fees and due process concerns.  If a moratorium was desired by council she preferred that staff write one that is narrowly tailored and time limited.

Valdes asked why in an executive session and she said she did not want to layout the playbook for developers.

Penny agreed with the attorney.  Where are we?  What have we done?  What’s on the books?  We do have impact fees for single family housing.  We lack a long range strategic plan and long range capital improvements.  We need a plan looking at public investments and assets so we know what our long range needs are.

He contracted with Ford Brick for a feasibility study but it is not a legal nexus study.  Is it worth going through one?  On January 17th Ford Brick presented their report and he decided to go forward but “life gets in the way.”  He expects to have an impact fee study by July 9th.

Taylor moved not to consider the moratorium. Cernanec seconded.  We have spent two years trying to tell developers we are open for business – roof tops is what pays and a one day moratorium will spread like wildfire and revenue will go out the window.  If we reject the moratorium we will reinforce the message that we invite you to come to Littleton.

Cernanec said the impact fees are the major conern.  The moratorium is not a positive direction.  We need to be proactive with the state legislature or through Colorado Municipal League (CML) in dealing with construction defects and the market impact.

Stahlman respected the fact that people came before them with a variety of opinions and appreciated the emphasis on impact fees.  We need to get it in place.

Valdes was not willing to “go there” but said there were valid issues raised that needed to be addressed.

Beckman said it was like a bucket of cold water had been thrown on them and it is very important to know how the citizens feel…..community values were expressed and council has to keep them in the forefront of their discussions.  He did not think the moratorium was appropriate

Cole agreed with Valdes, Beckman and Stahlman but asked the council to consider an ordinance on the super majority for rezones so Littleton has the same standard as the state.

Brinkman said she appreciated the community input and the business community input.  She did not support the moratorium – a moratorium would shut the gates.  Staff needs to work on impact fees.  The Planning Board has a great plan and we have an Economic Plan and guess what – we get to say yes or no – we don’t have to do everything thrown at us.  We will work together with the community.  Motion passed 7/0 to not consider the moratorium.

Taylor said he did not want to consider the super majority – he was not interested in an ordinance.  He preferred to get away from the state rules since we are a home rule city.

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