City Council Study Session – 12 December 2017 – Mineral Station Master Plan & Preliminary Project Plan

Littleton City Council Study Session               12 December 2017.     Citizen Minutes

All council members were present.

Id#-17-345    Overview of Mineral Light Rail Station Area Planning Project

In 2013 Littleton received a grant from RTD, DRCOG and the Federal Transit Admin for the Station Area Master Plans for the Mineral Light Rail Station and the Downtown Light Rail Station. (Littleton contributed a portion of the coss for the market analysis of what might work in the way of development in the two areas – all options were to be transit oriented development (TOD) or high density.)

 PUMA was hired in 2015 to do the study and in 2016 a market assessment was completed and presented to the community.

Jocelyn Mills, Community Development Director, reported that the main themes of the community included:

  • Traffic and parking were major concerns (traffic congestion at the Mineral and Santa Fe intersection and the lack of parking for light rail).
  • Connections to the Mary Carter Greenway and South Platte Park are important for the community – connecting to the river from east of the railroad tracks.
  • There were differences of opinions on the future land uses and density.

In 2017 RTD underwent an audit of the grant program and there were problems and their contractual procedures had to be revised. Their Intergovernmental Agreement must be rewritten without federal funds.   There are a lot of details about this and individual council members can talk to the city attorney for more information.

Concerns regarding this area and any future project make it difficult to proceed at this time. There are a lot of questions around the future solution for traffic. The PEL (Preliminary Environmental and Linkage) study has just begun and will have a big impact – they don’t know what the design will be but it will impact the RTD property. The extension of light rail to Lucent is also an issue – it will impact the parking for light rail. The location of light rail to our outdoor amenities presents different opportunities and the market assessment shows there are not any market pressures to redevelop that area now. Design criteria and objectives are in place to ensure the character is protected.

Staff believes it is premature to act at this time. Two options were presented to council.

  1.  Do not pursue the Mineral Station Area Master Plan
  2. Direct staff to work on a draft plan that provides direction for future decision making in the areas of transportation, recreation, parks, open space, land use, character and design. The plan would use community input as a basis and address both short-term and long-term steps for the future development of this area.

Staff would use January through March to get this work completed.  Karina Elrod wanted to know how this could become part of the Complan. Mills said it would not be a master plan but a framework that can help influence the future.

Elrod said we have lots of studies that do not have any teeth and she would like all the past studies to be put together to create a vision of a master plan without being specific.

Kyle Schlachter said he isn’t concerned about what it is called as much as what is in it – it is a framework and not written in stone.

Peggy Cole said thirty years ago this area was “planned” and now they are looking at planning for the next thirty years. Are we doing things to make us feel good? The Planning Commission should be the ones to really dig into this.

Elrod wanted to know more about the lack of market pressure – what does that mean. Mills said developers presented with the market assessment indicated the lack of desire this cycle to develop Mineral Station. Elrod wanted to be ready rather than be in a position to react to the market. Mills said it is hard – there are too many unknowns. Traffic and parking need to be better understood.

Relph said they have had to rethink this. Last Spring CDOT came and talked about the PEL – CDOT will start next year and it will take two years. The PEL will drive a lot of the decisions in this corridor and will have a significant impact – where’s all the traffic coming from and where is it going? Traffic patterns, the number of lanes. The PEL will heavily impact our Complan – the interchange will affect the RTD property and a possible taking.

Carol Fey thought the time frame was pretty quick…. who will do the plan and how much will it cost? Cole wanted to know how much land might get gobbled up.

Brinkman said they are 20 years behind. We don’t have a lot of say in what gets built because most of the land belongs to others. She did not believe RTD would ever build a parking structure there or pave the over flow lot.

Valdes wants all the studies to be pulled out and looked at and determine what they need to keep. Relph said the PEL will identify what can be built then funding has to be identified. Relph said we have not saved up for this and it will be a challenge.

Brinkman asked the rest of council if option 2 was what they supported and no one said otherwise.

Back to the RTD problem with their process – an extension would have to be filed to do the downtown plan. Valdes asked if they really wanted to do that. Mills said to move forward on the downtown plan would be premature and the money being held would be relinquished. Elrod wanted to know what has changed to say that this is no longer necessary with all the growth in the downtown area. Mills said it was important to put the Complan in place first along with a new public engagement process. The downtown standards and design guidelines are important to get in place before you have another plan.

Relph said the staff is working on how a vision process would work – there are steps to follow – vision, vision feeds into the Complan, update the Complan and update the Code. Elrod said a Citywide Plan had been done but it did not go deep enough – there’s probably room for improvement. Elrod supported moving forward on the Downtown Station Master Plan. Fey asked for the one reason why they should not move forward at this time with the study. Mills said they needed to reaffirm the vision first.   Brinkman asked Fey if she supports the staff renewing the contract.

Fey said she supported Mills’ recommendation (premature to do this now).   Valdes said he supported Mills’ as well – we have to put spokes in the wheel before we start it turning. Schlachter said sure – either way. Pat Driscoll and Cole agreed with Mills’ recommendation. Elrod said even if we are not moving forward with this now it needs to become a high priority as there was support for this being a high priority a couple of years ago.

ID#-17-349   Study Session on Proposed Zoning Code Amendment to Add Preliminary Project Plan

Adding this to the code would allow developers to come in a pitch their development to the Planning Commission and the City Council for their input prior to submitting a formal application. Steve Kemp, city attorney, said this is a process used throughout the Denver area and it makes sense. It gives the council an early look and council can provide the staff guidance with their questions before the application is submitted. The developer can address any real concerns expressed. Valdes asked if this delayed the process and Kemp said it really doesn’t – it allows the developers time to regroup and it allows the council and the community to get involved early. Fey said she did not see the “community” in the process. Kemp said the community gets to be involved by being in the audience and they can let their council members know – your constituents will let you know. Driscoll said it was long over due and a no brainer. Fey wanted to know what keeps the last minute surprises from happening. Mills said they could happen but most likely not. Fey said assuming planning and council stay consistent.

The developer would not be presenting – it would be the staff presenting only the facts. Fey asked how it would be different from how the staff presents a plan in front of planning. Mills said the staff would not be making a recommendation.

City Manger and City Attorney Corner (New item for study sessions)

Kemp said he would be bringing some ordinances forward to council without prior discussion at a study session. One they would be seeing is getting all the fees in one document rather than spread throughout the code.   Another item will be the relinquishment of property easements – easements that are not in use and the land is taken off the property tax rolls and should be returned to the property owner.

Relph will be asking council to approve the transfer of the fire prevention group to the Mineral Street building. They will also be discussing a new process for interviewing board and commission applicants.

Brinkman said there is a better way to do this. Thinking about having a couple of council members working with certain boards and bring back recommendations to the whole council. We would all be involved but not all involved in every interview.

We are also thinking about dropping off the third choice for applicants.

Jerry Valdes asked about a city employee that sits on a board – he thought that person was to resign and he heard that this person wants to be reappointed. Valdes did not think the Charter addressed having employees on their boards or commissions.

Kemp said some cities allow employees on the non quasi-judicial boards as they are only advisory to council   He did not recommend employees serving on quasi-judicial boards. Valdes asked Elrod and Schlachter about their positions on the LIFT board. Elrod said she would be resigning and Schlachter said there were only four members of LIFT and they couldn’t function as a four-member board. (At this point in time there has been one resignation on LIFT and Elrod stated she would be resigning – there are five members of LIFT remaining not the four Schlachter stated. And, LIFT can function with four members, as four constitutes a quorum.) Schlachter has determined to stay on as Chair and control the checkbook.

This item will be added to the General Business of the next council meeting and perhaps move up the appointments of the LIFT board. Elrod suggested contacting applicants from last year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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