City Council Regular Meeting 2/7/2017 – Littleton Crossing

City Council Regular Meeting         7 February 2017                Citizen Minutes

Debbie Brinkman was absent.

Public Comment Continue reading

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City Council Study Session 24 Jan. 2017 – Citizen Minutes

Citizen Minutes          City Council Study Session        24 Jan 2017

Jerry Valdes and Bill Hopping were not present

Littleton Crossing/Summit Housing Group

Background: Littleton Crossing is a project proposed for downtown Littleton on Nevada Street where the old St. Mary’s church and school stood years ago. It is a vacant lot now.   In 2013 the property was rezoned from R-5/PDO to PD-R to increase the density to 72 multi family residential units. (The previous zoning allowed 37 units so the density was almost doubled.)

The rezoning was approved on a 4/3 vote with Jerry Valdes, Peggy Cole, and Bruce Beckman opposing. Debbie Brinkman, Bruce Stahlman, Jim Taylor and Phil Cernanec voted for the rezoning. (Doug Clark was not on council at the time.) But the approval came with requirements. The developer had to prepare an evaluation of on-street parking in the R-5 zone area in the Old Downtown Neighborhood as described in the Downtown Neighborhood Plan. The plan would need to address the conditions of parking before construction and after the project is fully occupied.   If the parking was impacted by the new construction the city will implement a residential parking permit district to restrict on street parking. The staff was responsible for approving the parking consultant and the parameters of the evaluation. A building permit would not be issued until the study had been submitted to the city and a surety bond for the study to be done after the project was fully occupied. Another condition placed on the rezone requires the second phase to be built to the same standards as Nevada Place Phase 1.

The actual motion and amendment to the motion follows:

TO APPROVE THE ORDINANCE REZONING THE PROPERTY KNOWN AS 5591 S. NEVADA STREET FROM R-5 MULTIPLE-FAMILY RESIDENTIAL TO PD-R PLANNED DEVELOPMENT RESIDENTIAL AND THE RESIDENCES AT NEVADA PLACE-PHASE 2 PLANNED DEVELOPMENT PLAN was moved by COUNCIL MEMBER TAYLOR and seconded by MAYOR PRO TEM STAHLMAN.

The motion was amended to add: THE ARCHITECTURE FOR PHASE II SHALL BE SIMILAR TO THE DESIGN AND QUALITY AS PHASE I was moved by COUNCIL MEMBER CERNANEC and seconded by MAYOR PRO TEM STAHLMAN.

The amendment passed 7/0 and the main motion passed 4/3 with Bruce Beckman, Peggy Cole and Jerry Valdes voting no. Debbie Brinkman, Bruce Stahlman, Jim Taylor and Phil Cernanec voted to approve.

So, to the meeting! Tasha from the Colorado Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) was invited to address the council in a study session about their organization and the approval of the low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) project approved for the Nevada Street site.

CHFA’s mission is to strengthen Colorado by investing in housing and community development. They do this by assisting in home ownership, affordable rental housing and business finance. The business finance programs include the tax credit program. (This is a program where the developer/investor is granted tax credits in order to build a low income housing project. The tax credits are dollar for dollar credit on their federal tax return. In this instance, Summit was awarded $12,000,000 in tax credits to build this project. It will have to be low income housing for 40 years.)

Tasha explained the application process, which is revised annually.   The Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) guidelines consider the geographic locations, project type, different populations, and four priorities. The “priorities are created to incent development of projects that are more difficult to develop. 2016 priorities included:

  1. projects serving homeless
  2. projects serving persons with special needs
  3. projects in counties with less than 175,000 in population
  4. project in counties impacted by natural disaster.

Projects are not required to meet a priority to receive an award of credits.”

The criteria used to approve projects are:

Market conditions

Readiness to proceed

Financial feasibility and viability

Experience/track record of project team

Proximity to other LIHTC projects

Site suitability

Project costs

The staff reviews the applications, applicants present their projects to the TCAC (tax credit allocation committee), staff presents the projects to TCAC, TCAC deliberates and votes, the executive director has final approval and then it goes to the Governor for approval.

Doug Clark was the first to ask questions and he asked about enforcement over the life of the project. Tasha said CHFA monitors the project and for the first 15 years and reports non-compliance issues to the IRS. After the first 15 years CHFA continues to monitor but she admitted that CHFA has never sued to enforce compliance. There have only been a couple of situations where the owner just did not cooperate and they (CHFA) “dropped it.”

Debbie Brinkman asked if the developers were random developers or developers that focus on working with tax credits.

Tasha said most of the developers they work with have this as their primary business model.

Phil Cernanec asked if they took in to account the number of low income housing in the surrounding area. Tasha said they look at other LIHTC projects only but there is an incredible pent up need for this type of housing.   They also consider the overall vacancy rate.

Bruce Beckman asked when the jurisdication is notified. Tasha said about 2 to 3 weeks after the application is approved. They sent a letter to Michael Penny (former city manager) on August 1, 2016 and sent to the Director of the Littleton Housing Authority aka South Metro Housing Options (SMHO). (The timing is not right as Michael Penny was fired in mid June. The letter referred to later written by Jocelyn Mills was dated May 31, 2016. So something is not right about the Aug. 1st date mentioned.)

Peggy Cole stated that Littleton has a policy of disbursing low income housing throughout the city so there is not a concentration of them in one neighborhood. Tasha said she was not aware of Littleton’s policy and if the council wanted to provide input into the process it would be considered.

Clark asked if the city responded. Tasha said they did not get a letter from the city but the developer received a letter from the city saying that the project was not inconsistent with city code.

Mark Relph, acting city manager, said a letter signed by Jocelyn Mills to the developer was not intended to be a letter of support. (This is the letter dated May 31, 2016.)

Tasha said one of the questions that has come up is did the opposition letters and emails submitted to CHFA get to the board making the decision. She said they were all shared with the committee (this is contradictory to what the citizens were told). In fact she said the volume of letters was unprecedented. However they were not required to get public approval. Instead they looked at the nature of the comments and the primary concern was parking and the developer has agreed to meet the parking requirements in code. Other concerns related to the increase in crime as well as property values decreasing. CHFA does not believe that’s the outcome – when we build affordable housing in communities it has a positive impact.

Clark asked whose tax money was being used for the tax credits. Response – Federal tax money. Clark explained his problem with their process. We are a home rule city and we like to think we are in charge of our long range planning including affordable housing. Now we have a federal agency making decisions of where we have affordable housing and where affordable housing is located does have an impact on the community. He was unhappy with the fact that there was not city involvement in the process. Tasha said if the city has a housing plan they like to have it – we saw a very good opportunity for a beautiful site. It is important to us that there is no discrimination. If the city or city council has concerns we will consider them but we did not receive any.

Clark mentioned the concerns from the citizens related to crime and frankly police calls are related to the income level of housing.   We have our own housing authority. He told them their process was messed up and the city screwed up.

Bruce Beckman asked if there was any requirement to make the developer build to a higher standard. For instance the developer across the street from this project built to a higher standard.

Tasha said she wasn’t sure – it is different than a market rate project. The look at cost reasonableness – it is a balancing act – it is a federal project. There are no hard and fast rules but it is a competitive process.

Beckman asked which of the four priorities did this project meet. Tasha said none.

Phil Cernanec asked how they knew the project was in conformance with the neighborhood. Tasha said the take a look and it appears to be fitting in and makes sense for the neighborhood.

Peggy Cole asked if there was anything that could be done. Tasha said they would have to make that determination but they stand by their decision. Cole asked if they (council) could take a position and share it with her. Tashsa said she could share anything she wanted to share but she wasn’t sure what to do with it.

Debbie Brinkman asked Tasha what sort of response do they typically get from a city. She said it varies – could be that it meets the zoning requirements, a letter of support but it is rare to get a letter of non support – only has happened once.

Beckman asked about background checks for tenants – Tasha said it will be the responsibility of the landlord.

Tasha was done and council was left to discuss what to do next. Brinkman said their options were very limited. We have an attorney communication that clearly outlines our options. Beckman agreed that the communication was intended to address all questions and there’s significant jeopardy to stand in the way of this process. Housing Act, Civil Rights Act, and court cases – there just doesn’t seem to be a place to go once the rezoning decision was made.

Clark talked about the zoning decision – it was made before Jocelyn Mills and Mark Relph were on staff and he was having a hard time understanding how the zoning was approved when it did not meet the size requirement set out in code. It was too small to qualify for a rezoning. (Code minimum is just over 4 acres and this property is less than 1 acre.) Unless he was missing something in the code there was a manifest error in zoning. And the attorney memo did not address this issue – he may not be aware of this issue. Clark expressed concern that two different legal opinions on vested property rights were 180 degrees from each other. He suggested getting the former city attorney (Larry Berkowitz) to come in and discuss this with the acting city attorney. We have a property that was illegally rezoned and he suggested it unwise to approve the site development plan until this is resolved – it could lead to increased liability on their part. He also mentioned another property owner in Littleton that cannot get his property rezoned because it does not meet the minimum size – so how could this be one way in one part of the city and another in another part of the city?

Mark Relph said this is the type of feedback they are looking for and they would respond in a timely manner. He thought Clark’s questions were fair. He did say the project is so far down the road that they are about a week away from a site development plan (SDP) and the building permit takes about 3 to 8 weeks for review.

Cernanec said they needed to see if there were flaws in the rezoning and perhaps talk to the Governor since CHFA is accountable to the Governor. He thought CHFAs analysis was troubling.

Clark said he recognized the great need for affordable housing but it needed to be integrated with their long range planning and economic plan for the city.

Brinkman said this should be a great learning experience and their “bad.” (She was mayor at the time of the rezoning and Michael Penny was city manager.) She thought this would be a missed opportunity if they don’t have some things on their agenda. We need to be more proactive – we spend too much time on the little stuff and she wasn’t going to do that anymore.

Cole said if this goes forward she wants good materials to be used – it is facing a high quality building and she did not see any reason why it can be built of high quality materials.

Beckman said they needed an immediate response and it illustrates why the zoning code needs to be fixed. (This is not a code problem but a problem of following code.)

Clark wanted to know how to fix the problem – does the zoning revert back?

Relph said there’s a lot of concern in downtown in general. You (council) will see staff suggestions in the update of council priorities and how we engage our citizens downtown.

Beckman said the federal tax money was a huge impact on a certain area – it doesn’t take into account what the community wants. It is not an issue of socio-economic class – concern is about the ability to create a viable downtown. We have more rental property in Littleton than other south metro areas.

Chatfield Water

The “Chatfield Reallocation discussion brings forward a rare opportunity to collaborate with other governmental and non-governmental entities to purchase shares in the Environmental Pool as a means to address low/no flow periods in the South Platte River. In addition to Littleton, other South Platte Working Group partners are also considering purchasing shares too. If council wants to participate in the purchase of shares there is approximately $220,000 of unallocated City Open Space funds available for 2017.” (from the staff report)

City Manger Search Process

Eric Won Savage (HR) asked the council for salary parameters for a new city manager. There are a number of considerations – market conditions, longevity pay, housing, car allowance, moving allowance. The Charter limits severance pay – we could look at another “vehicle” to provide this.

Clark said he was not ready to make this decision – he had no idea what cities Eric used in putting the comparison table together. He did not think the citizens of Littleton would stand for $180,000 in salary and another $18,000 for a car allowance. The offer will be predicated on the choice.

Relph said whatever time council needs is OK.

Brinkman wasn’t sure $180,000 was the right place to start. The offer needs to be based on experience.

Cole thought the question was in terms of experience – do they have experience running a city with their own police and fire, how many department heads have they managed.

Brinkman said to pay a fair wage and a fair severance so they can by a house and a car. Beckman said he didn’t want anything to interfere with the Charter. (This is in reference to Michael Penny’s longevity pay that was determined what some believe to be in violation of our Charter that restricts severance pay. Beckman voted against this provision for Michael Penny.)

Relph told council that two others had dropped out but they have two additional candidates. Relph had called the council members to get their approval to continue with the small pool of candidates.

Council Priorities

Relph passed out a listing of items and level of priority for council to consider.

  1. Zoning use table and code reformat study session with planning board, zoning steering committee and Clarion. Medium Priority
  2. Mineral Avenue Light Rail Master Plan. Medium Priority
  3. Review Romancing the Bean Lease (expires 6/28/17) Medium Priority
  4. Updated traffic Calming Program. Low Priority
  5. Amplified Sound Permit –process and related policies. Medium Priority
  6. Expenditure & Revenue review – trends and options. High Priority
  7. State’s strategic plan on ageing. Low Priority
  8. Open Space and City Park regulation for pet waste. Medium Priority
  9. Discussion of the L/E Wastewater Treatment Plan joint meeting report. High Priority
  10. City’s recycling and waste pickup strategies. Medium Priority
  11. City council priorities. High Priority
  12. Pavement preservation schedule for 2017 – projects & 5 year forecast. High Priority
  13. Update on the CDOT PEL process for Santa Fe Avenue. Medium Priority
  14. Update to the Americans with Disability Ace (ADA) transition plan (buildings & public right-of-way). Medium Priority.

The list is just for review and council can provide input.