LITTLETON CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING – 5 APRIL 2016

Littleton City Council Regular Meeting – 5 April 2016             Citizen Minutes

Public Comment on Consent Agenda and General Business

Jim Rees, Exec Director of LIFT (Urban Renewal Authority in Littleton) – asked the council not to pass on first reading the ordinance to abolish LIFT in lieu of a joint work session to discuss the issues. He said their main job is to prevent and cure blight and urban renewal works well in other sites in Colorado. UR is a way to upgrade the infrastructure and save tax payers money (the money LIFT would spend on any infrastructure or project comes from the tax payers) and a way to provide “gap” financing for projects in under performing areas. Littleton’s areas are less than two years old – we can grow the area, increase the population and grow the economy.

John Watson thanked the council for undertaking the abolishment of LIFT.   It is not a viable authority without a project – we need an idea first. He objected to LIFT picking the winners and losers. Council’s action is courageous and appropriate.

Don Bruns offered a special thanks to Jerry Valdes and the other four members of council that voted to bring the ordinance forward. His remarks, as usual, were so good that I am posting them separately – please take the time to read them.

Patrick Fitzgerald talked about the availability of council records saying that everything after 1/05/2016 is not available. He asked for transparency to be restored.

Kent Bagley told the council that he knows council thinks the city is open for business but if they abolish urban renewal you are not open. To throw away one of the tools for economic development is a mistake. There may be problems with the LIFT board and he probably would not disagree with any of the comments that have been made. Rather than removing LIFT it might be much better to step back and do some things that Jim Rees talked about. He suggested smaller areas.

Paul Bingham thanked the council for their vote on March 15 to bring forth the ordinance to unravel LIFT. It is wise to do so. LIFT has worked well in other places but LIFT on the other hand has not worked well in Littleton. We have had 30 years of urban renewal in Littleton and we have nothing to show for it – it has been a miserable failure in Littleton.

Pam Chadbourne told the council that the meeting of March 15 was the best council meeting she has ever seen. Thank you!

Regarding the $200,000 for the streetscape study she would like for an amendment to be made about the rationale of the study.

She suggested that Economic Gardening could be revitalized with the repealing of LIFT. Identify specific sites that are really in need of urban renewal. How long should the Schomp site sit vacant?   She thinks we need a city-wide historic preservation board to promote restoration.

She asked them to stop the expensive modernization of rebranding.

Jeanie Erickson congratulated the council for bringing forward the ordinance to abolish LIFT. The economy drives what should and should not be built. TIF is not a wise choice. Development is happening in Littleton and will continue when the right fit happens. Do not divert tax dollars for 25 years. She ended with, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter, “ as spoken by Martin Luther King who died 48 years ago yesterday.

Carol Fey said one reason to disband LIFT might be because they are not taking their responsibility all that seriously. Money has fraudulently disappeared from their checking account and they decided not to have an audit.

First Reading

A) Ordinance known as the Annual Appropriation Bill for all municipal purposes for the fiscal year beginning Jan. 1, 2016 and ending Dec. 31, 2016 was pulled by Jerry Valdes. He wanted to be certain that they were just approving the funds and not a contract with Charlier for the streetscape study. Bruce Beckman said there was a printing problem in the newspaper and this could not be brought back for a second reading until May 3, 2016. A contract will come at that time too.

Doug Clark expressed his concern that this was a single source contract that he continues to think is in violation of the Charter that says any capital item in excess of $5,000 has to be bid. He thought staff was going through a lot of effort not to follow the process. He expressed concern about the study – we just rebuilt Littleton Blvd and widened the sidewalks. We have a recent Pedestrian and Bike plan that covered the entire area.   Beckman moved and Valdes seconded. Motion passed 6/1 with Clark dissenting.

B) Ordinance abolishing the Littleton Invests for Tomorrow Urban Renewal Authority pursuant to C.R.S. 31-25-115(2) and repealing the city’s urban renewal plans. Debbie Brinkman pulled this item saying she did not want to discuss the merits or sins of urban renewal. She wanted more conversation as a council including our LIFT Board and Planning Board, regarding the goals and intentions. We spent three years of planning, preparation, learning, presentations, researching, etc. etc. on urban renewal. Most of us have sat up here and taken heavy fire including staff and the LIFT board. I get it – it is exhausting. We spent three years – it was good for Littleton. All the reasons are still valid. All the speeches and comments are still true. Nothing has changed except the pressure being applied – the threats are personal and real and that’s sad because we were elected to make decisions.

The rumor is that there are 4 votes up here to kill this tonight and move this to a 2nd reading (Bill Hopping told the LIFT board at their last meeting that he received a call in January that there were four votes on council to abolish LIFT) but I am hoping there are 4 votes here tonight in favor of moving this to a study session so we can converse with our appointed boards, legal advisors and experts to discuss the appropriate steps to review our options so we do what is best for our community and not what is just best for us. We are criticized for rushing decisions – why are we rushing this decision. We have spent no time in conversation to change urban renewal. The motion was made on March 15 and now we have the first reading. We have spent more time on issues of less importance.

Brinkman moved ordinance 3-2016 abolishing the LIFT board pursuant to CRS 31-25-115(2) and repealing the cities urban renewal plans be tabled for 60 days during which time council will conduct meetings with our appointed urban renewal authority, planning board and other pertinent entities as appropriate in order to learn and explore all sides of the issues and determine in open meetings whether or not the abolishment of LIFT and the cities urban renewal plans are in the best interests of our citizens. Bill Hopping seconded.

Beckman asked if she intended to table until a date certain? After much discussion Brinkman changed her motion by adding tabled until June 7th. Hopping accepted her change.

Peggy Cole asked if Brinkman intended to meet with the Planning Board and LIFT at a joint meeting or separately? Brinkman said it was intentionally left open.

Phil Cernanec said he was not satisfied with the way the ordinance came up without any analysis (he voted in favor at that time) and he thought there would be more substance brought forward. None of the items mentioned on March 15 by Hopping were included in the report. He wanted to have the discussion with the appointed individuals on the urban renewal and planning boards.

Hopping agreed with Brinkman. It doesn’t mean that it won’t go away. We have heard nothing positive about urban renewal since I have been on council. We haven’t looked at the other side. (Hopping was not on council for the three years that Brinkman referred to earlier about all the study sessions with experts about urban renewal.) Urban renewal is a significant tool and has been used satisfactorily all around us. It has had a rough start. It was misused in the 50’s and has been refined a lot and he would like to learn more. He just learned that the money doesn’t have to be used on the specific site – it can be used for sewer, infrastructure and higher quality structures. If used properly it can be an effective tool. Are there administration problems that we can fix? This deserves more consideration.

Beckman said they could schedule April 26 for their study session.

Valdes said he is willing to discuss this but sooner than later. He wants to know what it takes to remove and will be ready to discuss in more depth what action to take next.

Clark said there had been multiple council meetings when plans were discussed for hours. Mailers were sent and a meeting at ACC. To say no one knows the benefits is a little sketchy. He referred to Hopping just learning that the money can be used to improve streets but the streets were excluded from all the plans with the exception of the Santa Fe plan when the streets were added back to help fight the county for the inclusion of agricultural land. Clark read from the plans “except all streets, alleys and roadways” – that is a very real example of the problem, the LIFT board doesn’t even know they have been excluded and the council liaison doesn’t know the streets are not included.

Clark did not know what could come out that hasn’t already come out. The benefits and problems with urban renewal should be clear.

Cole said she was interested in hearing from the city manager a comparison with urban renewal and gap financing. Is that different than economic incentives? The incentives that council has given were both done almost after the fact. We want to attract business that will thrive and she wants to know the options of the two different approaches.

Hopping told Clark that he spoke with an attorney and asked the attorney if all the benefit has to go to the site and the attorney said it can be used on the streets. That’s part of the urban renewal law. (Hopping is right – any increment collected can be spent any where within that plan area. It is one of the reasons why the consultant said King Soopers and Breckenridge Brewery needed to be included in their respective plans because they would be the cash cows. But if the streets and roads are not in the area boundary the money can’t be spent on them.) He believes without urban renewal Littleton will not be open for business.

Valdes verified with the city manager that the planning department was swamped; Littleton is not closed for business.

Brinkman said the intention here is not to replace. Not to do anything other than spend 30 minutes or more discussing the issue of going without an urban renewal authority. I think some of the things that Clark brought up – what does this really mean and what are the real realities and what are the real realities of LIFT. We are hearing about a lot of information out there and it is time to get in a room with the experts and the boards and have a conversation and make a big decision one way or the other.

Clark said the idea that council doesn’t know what will happen without urban renewal – we have been doing without urban renewal for 20 years!

MOTION PASSED 5/2 WITH CLARK AND  BECKMAN DISSENTING.

C) Certification of the Minutes – Motion passed 6/1 with Clark dissenting.

6A) Neighborhood Plans – Does the council support an update of the neighborhood plans for the Centennial, Goddard, Heritage, Ketring Park, Progress Park, South, and Sterne Park neighborhoods, as an amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan?

Dennis Swain said this is mostly clean up – language removed because the action was completed, changing conditions made some action no longer feasible, or streets had been constructed. There were no new goals or policies. Boundaries have been updated.

Valdes expressed concern about the residents east of Broadway – they are not included. He pushed for another Broadway Corridor Plan and did not want it put on the back burner and was not comfortable supporting this yet.

Swain said that the station area plans were funded so they started there. Cernanec said it was reasonable to meet with the Planning Board about the sequencing of the small area plans.

Hopping mentioned the Goddard neighborhood – Columbine Square is right in the middle. He wanted that neighborhood moved up in the sequence. Swain said there are other issues with the Goddard plan as the direction has changed.

Valdes wants the Planning Board to add a narrative and Swain told him they did not want to do that without a public process.

Jason Reynolds offered general support for the plans with one caveat – the plans are outdated and need a full discussion. Modern transportation is not addressed.

Pam Chadbourne thought the approval should be postponed to review with the Planning Board. Three neighborhoods have fundamental changes. If you include them the staff will move and act without public knowledge. She thought any item completed should not be deleted but just noted as completed so there was a “trail” of information.

Brinkman moved approval and Cernanec seconded.

Hopping amended the motion to move the Goddard neighborhood up in priority. Clark seconded. Motion failed 3/4 with Clark, Hopping and Cole in favor.

Clark said it was the responsibility of the council to determine the priority for the updates on the neighborhood plans. Cernanec suggested they do so at a study session next week. Main motion passed 7/0.

Public Comment

Marty Brzeczek asked the same question as was asked on March 15. The Subdivision Exemption code was used to approve The Grove. So far all responses from the staff have not answered the question. The policy is quoted and it is stated that The Grove met the requirements. So, to restate the question, what parcel was divided into two for The Grove to qualify for the Subdivision Exemption thereby avoiding a public process?

Carol Brzeczek suggested a money saving feature used by the City of Ft. Collins. Ft. Collins has an open email system that any citizen can log on to their site and read emails from and to council members. If Littleton adopted this process it would save hours in time and money responding to Colorado Open Records Act requests. She provided the council with copies of the rationale for this system as posted online by Ft. Collins. It is all about transparency!

Jeanie Erickson talked about all the meetings she attended on urban renewal that have taken place in study sessions, information meetings with Ann Ricker, and the community meeting at ACC. She attended because she wanted to be informed. Columbine Square is self-inflicted blight and the owner wants to use urban renewal money for redevelop. That is not what the money should be used for. The people of Littleton have already spoken with the passage of 300.

Carol Porter – Thank you council for the opportunity to speak. Councilwoman Brinkman’s motion that passed earlier this evening and in the motion she specifically mentioned meeting with experts, professionals and boards and I humbly remind Councilmember Brinkman and the rest of the council, that the will of the citizens requires consideration of greater weight than that of the opinions and points of view of experts, professionals and boards.

Kent Bagley told council he did not think former councilmembers and board and commission members should be disqualified from serving at this time. There is a limited pool of people interested in serving. (Each year the council interviews more applicants than they have openings.)

Reports

Clark asked how they come up with the topics for study sessions and Beckman said any council member can make a suggestion.

Valdes asked about the fraudulent withdrawals from the LIFT checking account and then agreed not to have an audit. He was also concerned about the fact that the LIFT board held an electronic meeting. Rees said the problem was brought to their attorney by city staff. Wells Fargo is addressing and making the account whole. Rees said the audit is not necessary if you do less than $100,000 in a year. Valdes cautioned Rees about doing business electronically. Rees told him that they had to have a contract approved and the attorney advised them to decide over email and then ratify the decision at their next meeting.

Valdes then mentioned “acceptable conduct” suggesting that council members review their own protocols. He was referring to an incident at the last council meeting where one member made an insulting comment to another.

Hopping said he hopes people are open at the study session on urban renewal. He is anxious to see how it is put together. He reported that he and Cole are on the housing committee and they have a rough outline for an RFP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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