Providing Input on Public Recreation Needs


by John Kiljan

Dear neighbors,

If you attended the open house held by the City of Arvada and the Apex Park & Recreation District at Fitzmorris on the 26th, you and about 140 other people have already had an opportunity to fill out survey forms and talk with those who will actually be designing the pool and recreational facility at the Fitzmorris park and school. But what if you weren’t able to attend, or if you are still thinking about what features you’d like to see included in the design? Or, if you have neighbors with their own ideas about what the needs at Fitzmorris are? Or, if you have even more thoughts about the merits of the five other recreational facilities being planned across Arvada as a part of the same bond renewal proposal in May?

It’s not too late to provide input, but it’s a good idea to act promptly – by Monday if you can – as the two public agencies are now tabulating their survey results. Here’s a picture of a sample completed Fitzmorris survey form:

Sample completed form

Sample completed form

Sample Fitz park, pool, rec center comment card

Sample Fitz park, pool, rec center comment card

But your own thoughts might be much different than this respondent’s. So, if you want to have your own thoughts considered, here is a link to a Fitzmorris Center survey form that you can fill out online.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1gQ-mXAbAjkRT07tiU-w25ysVB9Qj5ZYXRhiXtFsW10E/viewform

Or, you can go this City link and click on the “Take the Survey” icon.

http://arvada.org/explore/sports-recreation/ralston-neighborhood-recreation-center-and-pool

Or, if you have a friend or relative who is not internet connected, here is a link to a PDF file that you can print out and mail to either public agency – or just carry it down to City Hall and leave it at the at the City Manager’s desk on the third floor.

BllankFitzSurveyForm

The place to mail a marked-up City of Arvada Fitzmorris SURVEY & COMMENT CARD is to

Sarah Washburn
Senior Landscape Architect
c/o City of Arvada
P.O. Box 8101
Arvada, CO 80001-8101
swashburn@arvada.org

Or, you can wait till Monday and just call and ask to talk with Ms Washburn. Her number is 720-898-7391.

But are more ways to provide recreation input in the coming month. Apex also has an online survey for all six of its proposed recreational projects scattered across the city. But you probably won’t want to comment on those until you’ve at least looked at their concept plans. You can see a complete list of the proposed Apex projects, with lots of illustrations, by clicking on this link:

http://apexprd.org/apex-prd-board-considers-ballot-issue-renew-bond-buildrenovate-facilities

That web page has other useful links including this one to their online survey that polls your overall support for the proposed recreational projects:

http://apexprd.org/bond-issue-public-input-survey

Again, if you know someone who does not have internet access, you can print out the Apex six-project survey form for them and then mail the marked-up form to Apex at this address.

Lauri Dannemiller
Executive Director
c/o Apex PRD
13150 W 72nd Avenue
Arvada, CO 80005
303-431-7382
laurid@apexprd.org

And here’s the link to print out the actual Apex six-project survey form:

Apex Bond Issue Public Input Survey

We’re not done. There are still more ways to let the City and Apex know about what you’d like to see in these facilities. On February 8th, the Apex Board of Directors will be making a presentation to the Arvada City Council at an evening workshop in the Council Chambers at Arvada City Hall. These kinds of workshops usually start at 6:00 pm, and normally do not include an opportunity for public input, but you can be sure the Council members will be interested in hearing your thoughts on Apex’s presentation, either before or afterward. You can contact any City Council member by using the contact information found on the second page of any recent Arvada Report mailed to City residents.

And there is even more opportunity for input. On February 18th, the full Apex Board of Directors will meet to decide on the language that goes on the May ballot.   That’s important because it could be very definitive about what kind of features these facilities will have. Also, the Apex board will be allowing public comment on what the actual bond language should look like at that meeting. This meeting hasn’t been formally announced yet, but normally Apex meetings are held in the Randal Room of the Apex Center at 13150 W 72nd Avenue at 6:30 pm.

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community is an independent neighborhood association representing the neighborhoods adjacent to Ralston Road from the Wadsworth Bypass to the Kipling Parkway.

LogoYou can read all of our articles on our main website at http://www.RalstonCommunity.org or you can read even more posts on our Facebook page at “CLRC – Citizens for a Liveable Ralston Community”. You can write to us, call us or email us at

 

CLRC
c/o John Kiljan, Secretary
6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO 80004

303-423-9875
jpkiljan@yahoo.com

January 30, 2016

 

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Help Design a New Pool & Rec Center – Open House on January 26th


by John Kiljan

Dear neighbors,

Yes, it’s true! A much sought-after public swimming pool for central Arvada is in the works. Both the City of Arvada and the Apex Park & Recreation District are looking for community input on what features the pool and adjoining recreation center should have. Apex plans to put the new center – along with five other city-wide recreation projects – on the ballot for a vote in May. Ballots should be arriving for all voters living in the recreation district (which includes most of the City of Arvada) in only three months’ time.

In the meantime, should the bond measure pass, both public agencies want to know what features you most want to see in the new center which is planned for Fitzmorris Park right next to the elementary school.

ColorFlyerFitzmorrisNeighborhoodPoolRecreationCenterOfficialThere are four reasons for locating a recreation facility at Fitzmorris: The first is that it is close to the former site of the popular Fisher Pool (aka, the North Jeffco Pool) that was closed down by the recreation district nearly a decade ago. That’s where the demand for a new pool seems to be the highest. The second is that Fitzmorris already has safe kid-friendly connections to the adjacent neighborhoods and to the Ralston Creek Trail which is well used by adults, kids, cyclists and pedestrians living both east and west of the facility. The bike-friendly trail runs beside the creek through much of Arvada. Fitzmorris lies less than three blocks north of Ralston Cove Park on this trail.

Image of the former Fisher Pook (aka, the North Jeffco Pool) located in Ralston Central Park

Image of the former Fisher Pook (aka, the North Jeffco Pool) located in Ralston Central Park

The third is that pool and recreation facility users can share the school’s parking lot in the summer when it is mostly unused. And finally, both the Jefferson Public School District and the City of Arvada are willing to provide the land needed for its construction without cost to the recreation district. I can think of many other locations for this facility, but each has its own development problem and this is just about the only underused public land left available in the area for this kind of project.

And there is even more going on at this open house.   Your input is also needed for park and school ground improvements near the center. As a part of the proposal for the center, the City of Arvada would like to upgrade the Fitzmorris Park’s facilities – particularly the park’s walkways – and to make other improvements to the rundown baseball field on the east side of Fitzmorris Elementary School.

Possible school grounds and park improvements -- click to enlarge

Possible school grounds and park improvements — click to enlarge

So what features should be included in the pool, the recreation rooms, the park and the school yard? That’s why this meeting is important. This is your chance to find out what is being considered now and to voice your views on what could be happening at this site.

The open house will be held on Tuesday, January 26th at the Fitzmorris Elementary School gymnasium at 6250 Independence Street, between 6:30 pm and 8:00 pm. There may be a short introductory talk shortly after 6:30 pm, but come as you are (and bring the kids) at any time during that period. If you can’t make the open house, look at the WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE section below for a place to send your comments via email.

Meeting site at Fitzmorris Elementary

Meeting site at Fitzmorris Elementary

Does this mean we can have anything most of us ask for? That would be nice. But no we can’t. The project is constrained by its overall $4.8 million budget. With the City’s cash contribution and the available funding from Apex’s bond renewal, that’s all that can be allocated to the center. If we say we want something such as more of a workout room, we will probably get a smaller pool – or vice versa.

Well, I shouldn’t say there is absolutely no way to get more funding, but a bigger budget is definitely not what’s in the cards for this May. Apex could increase its bond request on the May ballot, but that would mean an INCREASE in the property taxes assessed by Apex, and that could easily cause the bond proposal to fail. Right now, Apex is only planning to ask for a renewal of its existing bonds WITHOUT any increase in existing taxes.

The City of Arvada could contribute even more than the $3.1 million it is now planning to put into this project as a part of its partnership with Apex. But that already amounts to 2/3rds of the cost of the project’s total cost – not counting the value of the donated land. And for the City to increase its contribution would likely mean some cutbacks in other City park services, or even in other City-provided services such as street maintenance.

2013 recreational survey form

Sample 2013 recreational survey form

And why not just a pool? Isn’t that what most people were asking for in the recreation survey done in 2013? Well, yes it was, but that’s not how things work. Although indoor or outdoor pools were the most popular choices when the City/CLRC recreation survey was taken that spring, other important recreation needs were identified as well. On the top of the list of other recreational needs were a workout facility and senior-oriented recreation. But it is more than just the survey results. An outdoor pool (which is the least expensive kind to build) can only operate for a few months of the year in the summer. But providing recreational opportunities for both adults and youngsters is a year-round community need.

Q3And please don’t think Apex is not carrying its share with 2/3rds of the construction costs being picked up by the City. Small outdoor pools are not very expensive to build, but they can be expensive to run. Apex will probably be suffering an annual operating loss keeping this facility going in the future. Even with the user fees to swim there, the pool is not likely to pay for its own operational expenses and annual upkeep. The most practical way to offset that operational loss is with an added recreational facility that will run year-round and should pay its own way in user fees. Not only will that be where a good part of your Apex property tax money be going, but It will also contribute to at least some of the other recreational needs identified in the 2013 recreation survey.

FitzmorrisCenterBuilding2015In case you are wondering, of course, an indoor pool can be operated year-round. However, they are a lot more expensive to build and maintain. They require special ventilation, corrosion-resistant roofing and structural supports, and they cost more to operate, keep heated, and to fix major maintenance problems that come up as the pool building ages. And they are just not as much fun in the summer.

The indoor Meyers Pool near 80th and Carr has suffered major structural damage from decades of dampness and chlorine fumes that may end up closing that pool in the coming decade. Some are estimating as much as $25 million will be needed to rebuild that facility a decade from now.

There’s more. 24 hour fitness had been hoped to build an adults-only fitness center at the site of the old Safeway building three blocks away from Fitzmorris. That deal seems to have collapsed about a month ago, and it now seems unlikely that there will be a commercial fitness center operating at the site of the old Safeway. This increases the potential demand for a workout facility at Fitzmorris. Moreover, there is a risk that if Apex does not build a large enough recreation center on the Fitzmorris site to attract users during the colder months, the recreation district will decide to close it down in the winter for lack of use. That’s not a good thing.

All of this leads to the likelihood that a balanced facility that meets the needs of all its potential users is going to be the most viable option for Apex in this bond proposal.

So what’s next? The City and Apex are tentatively planning to come back with a more definite design proposal – based upon what they hear from potential users on January 26th – for further public comment sometime in February. When the date for that second public meeting is set, you will find the information on our RalstonCommunity.org web page, as well as on the City’s and Apex’s own websites.

Another possible site plan

Another possible site plan

And here’s an important note: As nice as all these sketches and drawings look, they are just early concepts provided by Apex’s design consultant on pretty short notice. They are very likely to change based upon public input received at this meeting and the need to keep within the project’s overall budget.

FitzmorrisConceptPublicBirdsEye8Jan2016So what kinds of comments are the City and Apex looking for in this meeting? The short answer is what is the most useful to you and your family and what you are most likely to use in the park, the rec facility, pool, and in the school playground. As a way of helping, here are the comments I plan to make myself. These are just examples. What is more important is what the younger families with children want to see in the center as their children grow up in this neighborhood, and for seniors who have difficulty travelling to recreation facilities farther away. Please feel free to disagree with me if I’ve got something wrong – I promise won’t be offended.

Entry View Mid Cent Mod 010716

Yet another site concept plan

Yet another site concept plan

* * *

Dear City of Arvada and the Apex Parks & Recreation District,

Thank you for what you are doing! These are my own thoughts on what should be included as design elements in the Fitzmorris pool and recreation center, and in the adjacent park:

  • Build a pool with a deep end. Apex itself and its first pool in Ralston Central Park were created back in the 1950s when the city had no pools and someone who hadn’t learned to swim drowned. The need to learn to survive in deep water is still there. A pool where kids can safely learn to tread deep water and swim is the biggest safety benefit this pool can offer to the families that will be using it.
  • Put in at least one diving board for the pool. Again, it’s for the kids. A diving board is not only fun, but it teaches growing kids how to develop confidence in their own abilities.
  • Not so much emphasis on swimming lanes, please. The Wheat Ridge pools and the Apex Center on 72nd will always have better facilities for those who enjoy getting exercise by doing laps, even if they have to drive to get to them.
  • Please design the pool and the recreation building with the thought that either may be expanded in the future. No one knows how popular this facility will be – the pool in particular. The Fisher Pool always seemed pretty crowded to me. If the facility is ‘loved to death’ and always overcrowded, then there will be a demand to make it bigger in the future. We should plan for that possible expansion when designing it now.
  • Put in a small concession stand for the pool users – or at least some vending machines with some pool-safe foods and drinks. Parents may be dropping their kids off for a day of swimming fun and it will be three blocks to the nearest retail outlets where they can get a small sandwich or a snack.
  • Make the restrooms available to all the adjacent park users year-round – whether they are using the pool or rec facility or not. This will go a long way toward encouraging people to make the best use of Fitzmorris Park. It will also take some of the pressure off the nearby Ralston Central Park where the open restroom is a blessing to parents with small children who don’t want to use a park port-a-potty.
  • Use the rec center’s water tap to put in a park drinking fountain. Picnicking families with kids with ketchup-sticky hands will thank you for years to come.
  • Put a small covered pavilion in Fitzmorris Park and allow reservations for things like birthday and graduation parties. In Ralston Central Park, I see people squabbling over picnic table or hauling in their own tables and tents. Clearly the demand is for more picnicking facilities, and Fitzmorris Park can easily meet some of that need.
  • If the demand is indeed there in the park, it makes sense to do a layout that plans for a place to add more picnic tables in the future if needed.
  • Please put a weatherproof 15-amp GFI-protected electrical outlet in the pavilion with a re-settable circuit breaker. There are many good uses that could be put to.
  • The park could use more walkways, particularly to the part that is cut off by the canal on the north side.
  • The park could also use a small playground facility like some of the ones we have at Ralston Cove Park nearby.
  • For the schoolground improvements, my first thoughts are to ask the kids at Fitzmorris and their parents what they want to see there. My hope for a decent baseball diamond may not be what the students themselves would most likely want to see.
  • Think of senior citizens as well when designing the workout/aerobics part of the rec center. We are starting to get a lot of young families moving back into the area looking for starter homes, but there are still plenty of seniors who might not want to drive to a place to get a little exercise.
  • Is there a way to cover the pool after the summer season to use it as a pickleball court? Could we design it to accommodate that use if that senior-oriented sport takes off locally?
  • A small basketball court? There was one in Ralston Central Park that was used pretty often, but it was taken out when the park was rebuilt. We are only talking about a small court where kids can shoot some hoops with their moms and dads – just like they did at RCP. That empty corner in Ralston Cove Park where Brooks Drive takes a sharp turn at Holland might be as good a place as well.

Sincerely,

John Kiljan, a local resident

* * *

Picnic reservation sign at the Ralston Central Park pavilion

Picnic reservation sign at the Ralston Central Park pavilion

Ralston Cove Park just south of the Fitzmorris park and school

Ralston Cove Park just south of the Fitzmorris park and school

I hope we will see every interested resident showing up at this open house a week from today.

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
If you can’t make the public input meeting on the 26th, you can still comment on the proposal, by calling the City of Arvada’s Parks, Golf and Hospitality Department at 720-898-7400. You can also email your thoughts by emailing or writing to the parks department’s representative for this proposal. Sarah Washburn, at swashburn@arvada.org.

If you are not already on it, you can also add your name to the CLRC’s own recreation e-mailing list that was set up in 2013 survey. You can do that in two ways: the first is by signing up on the CLRC sign-up sheets at the meeting on the 26th, or you can just email the CLRC secretary at jpkiljan@yahoo.com (that’s me) and ask to be added to our iContact recreation mailing list. But watch out! We may ask you to put up a yard sign if you support the final design concept at Fitzmorris.

LogoThe Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community is an independent neighborhood association representing the neighborhoods adjacent to Ralston Road from the Wadsworth Bypass to the Kipling Parkway.

You can read all of our articles on our main website at http://www.RalstonCommunity.org or you can read even more posts on our Facebook page at “CLRC – Citizens for a Liveable Ralston Community”. You can write to us, call us or email us at

CLRC
c/o John Kiljan, Secretary
6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO 80004

303-423-9875
jpkiljan@yahoo.com

January 19, 2016

 

 

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Citizen Survey Report of 2015


by John Kiljan

Dear CLRC members and friends,

Finally! The October 2015 Citizen Survey report is out. The biennial survey was conducted last summer with about 2300 residents receiving a lengthy mail-in survey that probably took an hour to fill out properly. Thankfully, I haven’t received one of those surveys in well over a decade, but I still remember what a pain it was to fill out when I first got one. Here’s special thanks to the 785 Arvada residents (34% of those asked) who did receive the survey and took the time to do all that work!

I haven’t read the whole report yet. It’s well over a hundred pages with lots of numbers. But here are a few quotes that jumped out at me during my first read through:

“Arvada residents experienced a high quality of life.”

“Evaluations for 22 of the 23 City-provided services listed on the survey could be compared to 2013 ratings and most remained stable. However, street maintenance, ease of car travel, sidewalk maintenance, new street construction and expansion, ease of bicycle travel, government-assisted affordable housing, building inspection, and City outreach services received lower ratings in 2015 compared to 2013 ratings.”

Half or more of residents reported being ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with 14 of the 23 services with the most favorable ratings going to City parks, drinking water quality, police services, maintenance of City parks, water services, sewer services, and cultural activities at the Arvada Center.”

“When asked how much of a problem, if at all, a list of 12 different potential problems were in Arvada, respondents reported that the biggest problems facing Arvada were growth (27% ‘major’ or ‘extreme’ problem) and lack of entry-level housing (23%).”

“City of Arvada government performance and City employees were rated highly by residents.”

“Aspects of traffic were seen as more of a problem in 2015 compared to past years.”

“Residents voiced concerns about growth and housing in the community.”

“When asked about rates of various types of growth, concerns about residential growth being too fast have increased from 2013 to 2015 (38% versus 65%, respectively).”

You can download and read the full report with lots of graphics/bar charts/percentages/trends and conclusions at

http://arvada.org/source/Citizen%20Survey/Arvada%20Citizen%20Survey%20Report%202015%20FINAL.pdf

and there is a web page with links that include citizen surveys done in the past at this link

http://arvada.org/city-hall/transparency/citizens-survey

2015 Satisfaction vs Importance

2015 Satisfaction vs Importance — click to enlarge

What I look for in the surveys is the overall trends. Typically, there is very little difference in the survey results from every-other-year to every-other-year. But over many years, some trends are obvious. I think that’s what the Council looks for as well.

2013 Satisfaction vs Importance

2013 Satisfaction vs Importance — click to enlarge

But they also look for the rarer sudden jumps in service ratings. Street repair is an example in this report. Compare the position of the “street maintenance/street repair” marks on the 2015 report to the 2013 report. That’s a big jump for two years and it is certain to add fuel to the fire when the Council considers what to do about street maintenance in the coming year. As reported earlier, City Staff is recommending over a hundred million dollars increase in road repair funding over the next ten years. Divided into the population of Arvada, that works out to about $400 a year for a family of four over ten years. And that number doesn’t include needed road widening and intersection improvements to relieve congestion.

The Council is expected to meet for a workshop on 25th of January to discuss the survey. The public is invited to sit in and listen to their discussion.

Your views are pretty important to them. If you have thoughts you’d like to share about the survey results, they would probably be glad to hear them. If you do call, be nice, but be warned. They may want to ask you some awkward questions in return, such as, “How much are you willing to pay for better road maintenance?” or “Should we be using more City revenues to subsidize entry-level housing if it means inviting even more people to move into Arvada and fewer public services for us all?”

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
If you want to talk with your Council members (don’t be afraid, they don’t bite!), you can find a listing of their email addresses and phone numbers on the second page of every issue of the Arvada Report. If for some reason you don’t have a copy, you can view it online at this address:

http://arvada.org/source/arvada%20report%2012-2015-1-2016%2032pg.pdf

The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community is an independent neighborhood association representing the neighborhoods adjacent to Ralston Road from the Wadsworth Bypass to the Kipling Parkway.

You can read all of our articles on our main website at http://www.RalstonCommunity.org or you can read even more posts on our Facebook page at “CLRC – Citizens for a Liveable Ralston Community”. You can write to us, call us or email us at

CLRC
c/o John Kiljan, Secretary
6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO 80004

303-423-9875
jpkiljan@yahoo.com

January 13, 2016

 

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Looking Forward to 2016 in Central Arvada


by John Kiljan

Dear CLRC members and friends,

Happy New Year neighbors! About this time last year I did a shorter update on what had been happening to the neighborhoods in central Arvada and what developments seemed most likely in the coming year. It was a popular article, so I thought I’d try to do a similar one for 2016 and cover more developments. Overall, things are looking pretty good for this part of “old” Arvada that most of our members and friends live in, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things to be worried about.

Buckle your seatbelts! There is a lot happening in central Arvada and this is a pretty long review for a CLRC article.

WALMART
Despite what you see happening at what used to be Arvada Plaza, Walmart hasn’t yet started construction at the old Arvada Plaza site. And, according to the most recent reports, it does not plan to start construction until early April. Construction is still expected to take a year, which means an opening in the spring of 2017 for the discount retailer – if not later. Walmart itself has not announced any firm dates for the start of construction or when they expect to open their new Supercenter.   There has already been a year-and-a half delay in the start of construction, and the developer’s agreement with the City will let Walmart delay its start by even longer if they choose to do so.

The demolition at the site is not being done by Walmart but instead by the developer’s contractor. And, though the buildings have been pulled down, that work seems to be going more slowly than expected. In addition to pulling down the buildings and removing the asphalt paving, the developer has to dig out their foundations so the site can be regraded prior to construction. Right now they are working in a lot of mud. It will be nice not to have to follow all those large trucks used for hauling demolition debris down Ralston Road when the demolition is finally complete.

Arvada Plaza demolition at the old movie theater

Arvada Plaza demolition at the old movie theater

RALSTON CREEK NORTH AND THE OLD SAFEWAY BUILDING
Across the street, things are looking more interesting for 2016. Urban renewal now has a signed development contract (called a Development Distribution Agreement, DDA) with the Boulder-based developer, Loftus Development LLC, who will be rebuilding the Arvada Square shopping center which runs from Garrison Street to Independence Street on the north side of Ralston Road. The work is now expected to begin in June and will be done in two phases. Arvada Square is being renamed Ralston Creek North, but it is unclear when the signs with that name will start appearing.

The first phase will be the properties between Holland Street (where that traffic light next to the emergency room is) and Independence Street. The two remaining businesses there, Triangle Liquors and the check-cashing business, have already been given their vacation notices. They must be out by the end of May. But the liquor store may decide to leave early based on the difficulty of keeping the store fully stocked if they are going to relocate. These two sites will be used for new retail shops and restaurants, with work beginning on those by the end of 2016, but more likely, as soon as this June.

Lights out for Triangle Liquors by the end of May

Lights out for Triangle Liquors by the end of May

The Ralston Road Café is staying but the property will eventually be owned by the developer. Urban renewal (AURA) was to have closed on the purchase of the Ralston Road Café in December. The café’s owners had put the property up for sale on the open market in late 2015. AURA’s purchase offer included a very favorable lease-back rate to keep the business going. The owners now plan to stay on at the site and keep operating the café. That part of Ralston Creek North will not be redeveloped until the café’s owners decide to leave. AURA did not buy the business itself.

Ralston Road Cafe to stay in Arvada Square

Ralston Road Cafe to stay in Arvada Square

Which businesses will be moving into the remainder of Phase One? That’s hard to say. Even the developer doesn’t seem to know that yet. New rents will be priced at market rates and in line with what is currently being charged in Olde Town and in the shopping center where the Target on Kipling Street is located. But those are still much higher rates than what the tenants are currently paying for their store fronts in Arvada Square.

24 Hour Fitness’ move into the old Safeway building had been described as being more than 90% certain after six months of negotiations with the developer to work out a pre-contract letter-of-intent (LOI) with detailed contract provisions. Not anymore. 24 Hour Fitness may not have been negotiating in good faith. Their move into the building was recently described as being 90% UNLIKELY by the developer after 24 Hour Fitness declined to execute the agreement worked out in the non-binding LOI. The initial offer by 24 Hour Fitness to move into the building was unsolicited, and it was made over a year ago when AURA had already announced it was planning to pull the old building down. It’s unclear why 24 Hour Fitness balked at going ahead with their agreement.

The developer, Loftus, seems to be in no mood to continue negotiations, and is now openly looking for other tenants for the building. But Loftus has other options which include pulling down the old building and using the site for new retail. Another option is to move some of the 250 housing units planned for Thase Two of the development project onto the building’s site.

Vacant Safeway building in Arvada Square

Vacant Safeway building in Arvada Square

Phase Two of Ralston Creek North includes that part of the strip mall that hosts Chuck E Cheese. It backs onto Ralston Creek but it does not include the UC Health emergency room, nor does it include the Panetta repair shop and gas station on the northwest corner of Garrison and Ralston Road. Currently, 250 new housing units are planned for the site. That’s down from previous proposals of 350 units or more. The housing units are expected to include both owner-occupied units and for-rent units. The remainder of the property is expected to be used for retail and professional businesses and they will be built closer to Ralston Road, leaving the residential units to be build next to Ralston Creek on the north.

Strip mall in Arvada Square

Strip mall in Arvada Square

Since vacation notices have to be given to the existing tenants, no development is likely in Phase Two until early 2017. Neither AURA nor Loftus currently own the property. But urban renewal will exercise an option to buy the strip mall in July of 2016. Small relocation incentives (basically, two months free rent) are planned to help some of the existing businesses there to relocate, either to a new Phase One storefront or to relocate elsewhere.

What does Loftus get out this development agreement? Basically, the answer to that question is that they get a lot of land that is free. Well, not quite free. Loftus still has to pay $2 million up front for Arvada Square, but the property is worth much more than that.

Loftus also gets to keep whatever City sales tax (actually, a public-improvement-fee-in-lieu-of-a-City-sales-tax) they can get out of the small section of land that had the Big O tire shop, liquor store and check-cashing business in it. Basically, that’s the small triangle-shaped bit of land where Ralston Road used to cut across that corner long ago. It’s sometimes referred to as Independence Plaza. That sales tax income will come in over the next 12 years. No one knows how much that amount will be. But the amount will be capped at $4.1 million in any event. And just doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation, I think the real number will probably be less than a million dollars over that time period.

As with the Walmart development across the street, there is no tax-increment financing (TIF) available for this redevelopment. Why? Because, like Arvada Plaza across the street, this area has sunk below its base-line property-tax valuation established when the City included it into a designated urban renewal area in 2003. There is no TIF being offered to the developer simply because there is no property-tax increment available to offer them.

For more information about TIFs and how they work to clean up urban blight, try this link:

http://arvada.org/business/development/aura

But there is no such thing as a free lunch, nor a free shopping center: Loftus, on its part, has to invest many millions before they can own the land outright. In addition to footing the cost of building a new shopping center and putting up new housing, they also have to pull down the old buildings, remove any hazardous waste on the site, fix the remaining flood control problems, put in quite a bit of landscaping, and build a couple of new streets.

What does Arvada get out of this development? To answer that question, the urban renewal authority’s staff put together an interesting financial summary of the benefits of the Ralston Creek North will bring to the City, to the County, and to State as a whole. To read that summary, click on this link to read the entire PDF presentation:

Ralston Creek North

In summary, the 250 residential developments in Ralston Creek North (Arvada Square) are expected to generate $2.8 million in sales tax revenue being spent just in Arvada over the next 12 years. And the 25,000 square foot retail element of development is expected to generate $11 million in sales taxes through the same period. Why 12 years? The Arvada Urban Renewal Authority only gets 25 years to improve the Triangle. The clock on their ability to sponsor new urban renewal projects in that location has already half run out. It expires in 2028.

Ralston Creek North_6

Keep in mind that, although the numbers for State sales taxes spending by new residents are pretty impressive, almost all of the amounts generated for the State of Colorado would still be spent somewhere else in the State if not here. So this is not new revenue for the State. The real benefits are the local ones where the money being spent and taxes generated are returned to the City of Arvada and to Jefferson County, and where new residents’ incomes are being spent locally, providing new jobs and support for local businesses.

And we haven’t even talked about the increased property taxes the County and other special districts will be realizing from the new developments.

Colorado’s population has been growing for some time with new residents moving in from outside the state. It’s nice to see Arvada high on the list of desirable places to live in the metro area, and to see the benefits of some of that growth being used to help clean up its blighted areas, and to bring prosperity to the City as a whole.

KING SOOPERS AND KMART
This is something to worry about. Some analysts believe Kmart may be doomed – with or without Walmart arriving in Arvada Plaza – as the company continues to lose a lot of money. Although our local outlet seems to be holding its own, what was once the envy of Sam Walton is now in sad financial shape, and its future looks grim.

Kmart on 58th with Arvada House in the background

Kmart on 58th with the Arvada House in the background

There are lots of investment articles on the internet about the problems Sears/Kmart face. With some analysts saying that the sales figures from the December shopping season will decide if the company can hang on for a few more years, it may be time to think about what this part of Arvada will be like without a Kmart, and for the City and urban renewal to think about what we should do to plan for that. Here’s an article from earlier in the year that sums up the company’s problems:

http://money.cnn.com/2015/06/08/investing/kmart-sales-decline-sears-eddie-lampert/

The adjacent King Soopers needs an upgrade. Without any nearby competition, the store has plenty of shoppers in a small space, and the layouts are looking pretty limited and shopworn. There have been rumors for months that Kings is planning a store upgrade in time for the nearby Walmart opening, but there’s nothing definite yet.

King Soopers at 58th Avenue and Independence

King Soopers at 58th Avenue and Independence

There are also rumors that if Kmart leaves, King Soopers may expand onto part of their lot. That’s a lot to hope for. Much of Kmart/Sears stock value is based on the properties they own or have long-term leases on. And that property is collateral for the company’s increasing debt. Kmart is supposed to have recently renewed its long-term lease on its 58th Avenue site. In other Denver-area locations where they have closed down underperforming stores, Kmart has let the property sit empty for years before selling its rights to a new developer.

PARK PLACE AND SOLANA
Moving back to Olde Town, Park Place at the corner of the Bypass and Ralston Road has been moving at a breakneck pace toward completion. The parkside construction fences are down, and they are now hoping to get a final certificate-of-occupancy from the City as early as the middle of January. About 30 new residents have already moved into the south end of the building. And the warm evening lights from the rooms with people actually living in them should extend to the whole building around the end of January.

Park Place Olde Town apartments nearing completion

Park Place Olde Town apartments nearing completion

Rents are high in these apartments – unless you are comparing them to similar developments in Denver – but so is the demand. It seems that about a third of the units have been pre-leased even before their construction was finished and all the common-area amenities are available for use. It looks like Olde Town is becoming a more popular place to live in.

Site clearance for the Solana apartments on 56th Avenue east of Wads Bypass

Site clearance for the Solana apartments on 56th Avenue east of Wads Bypass

Solana Olde Town Station lies just east of the mini-storage on the Wadsworth Bypass. Although there is certainly a lot of working going on, it is proceeding at a more stately pace. Much of the work so far on these new for-rent-only, high-end apartments has been in clearing the land and pulling down old industrial buildings. At last report, the work on cleaning up underground chemical contamination and regrading the land is just beginning. This development is more than twice the size of Park Place, and construction should extend right through 2016. The developer plans to open up the first of its 350+ units for lease in spring of 2017. These apartments won’t have the same nice views as Park Place, but they will be roomier and built to higher standards that could let them be converted to owner-occupied condos many years from now.

View on 56th Avenue near the mini-storage

Solana site view on 56th Avenue near the mini-storage

THE HILTON GARDEN INN HOTEL
Demolition of the old Brooklyn’s/Mile High Vineyard building is well underway, and construction of the five-story Hilton Garden Inn hotel is expected to start shortly after that work is complete. Construction should also run through 2016. So far, the overflow parking lot just off the street on Olde Wads Boulevard is still available for public use. Despite the nice City parking sign out front, the hotel now owns the lot outright and it may not stay open much longer, since the space is needed as a staging area when the site is regraded so construction can begin on the actual hotel. Arvada’s first modern hotel is now expected to be open for business sometime in first quarter of 2017.

Demolition for the construction of the Hilton Garden Inn on Olde Wadsworth

Demolition for the construction of the Hilton Garden Inn on Olde Wadsworth

THE GOLD LINE STATION AND THE NINE ACRE SITE
Urban renewal has entered into a formal development agreement with Trammel Crow to redevelop the nine acres of land just east of Vance Street where the RTD Park & Ride sits now. But not much work on the site is expected in 2016 since the construction of the Olde Town Gold Line rail station and the adjacent parking structure/bus station are holding back work on this urban renewal area. However, some construction should begin on the Nine Acre Site when the transit station work is finished in the fall of 2016 (maybe) and the Gold Line has opened up.

There have been cost overruns and delays on the parking structure part of the Olde Town transit station. And despite efforts to accelerate the work, it might be early next year before that part of the work is substantially complete. That kind of delay will, in turn, delay work on the adjacent Nine Acre Site. But the Gold Line itself is still expected to be open for paying passengers sometime this October.

Nine Acre Site east of Vance development concept with housing (yellow), retail (red), and grocery (orange)

Nine Acre Site east of Vance development concept with housing (yellow), retail (red), and grocery (orange)

I haven’t looked at the details of the Trammel Crow development agreement yet, but it looks like the Nine Acre Site will follow the pattern of similar developments in Olde Town with several plots of land being sold to the developer for only $30 (basically for free) and it will be further supported by property tax-increment financing over a number of years.

Currently, the nine-acre developer is planning a combination of residential housing and new commercial space for the site. Reportedly, they have been talking to a couple of niche grocers of the type that customers living in Olde Town would most likely patronize, but I’m not going to name possible candidates yet. A lot can happen in a year and there is no point in getting hopes up until there is something more definite.

Niche market grocery store in Boulder

A small niche-market grocery store located in Boulder

BIKE AND PED TRAILS
Two projects are underway near the Triangle. The one on 57th Avenue running from Balsam to Independence consists mostly of widening the sidewalks along the north side of 57th Avenue. The $600 thousand-plus project was paid for mostly with a federal grant and it should allow safer access for pedestrians and cyclists from Olde Town and the Arvada K-8 school on Balsam to get to the Triangle shopping areas.

Unless there are delays due to weather, the project is hoped to be complete by mid-February. Although there may be more work as a separate project later on to improve the connection to Independence Avenue on the west end and up the hill to the second ongoing project.

KiplingUnderpassMeeting graphics_1The second effort is a lot more visible, and is it likely to continue to affect traffic on the Kipling Parkway, almost until summer. The $2.4 million project is putting a bike/ped path under the Parkway. This one is quite an undertaking, but the benefits are large. The new path will run along the north side of the cemetery and will allow a connection with the miles of the Van Bibber bike/ped trail system through the Lutz/Stenger sports complex to Olde Town itself along 57th Avenue or along other residential streets.

KiplingUnderpassMeeting graphics_3

The project is running into some difficulties because of the need to shift traffic from one side of the Kipling Parkway to the other so that a large culvert can be built under the road in sections while keeping the road open during construction. Still, the project is expected to be complete sometime in June, unless we get delays from wet spring weather.

This project is also being funded mostly with a federal grant, with matching funds coming from the City. The City has put together a nifty three-minute video that explains what is going on. You can view the video at this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dpp129kwuXY

The video might make you feel a little better when you are squeezing into those changing twisty lanes on the Kipling Parkway this spring.

RECREATIONAL BOND ISSUE
Yes, a pool! This is a big deal. Arvada voters are going to be asked to vote on an important local issue again in May of 2016. That’s when the Apex Park and Recreation District plans to ask us to be allowed to renew $25 million in recreation bonds for another 20 years. Apex is not part of the government of the City of Arvada, which has its own parks and recreation program, but the two agencies often work together in cooperative partnerships where the City maintains the parks and Apex operates and, typically, owns the recreational facilities.

A half a dozen new recreational projects are being proposed across the City as a part of this bond renewal. Those include two that affect our neighborhoods in central Arvada: a somewhat smaller replacement for Fisher Pool that was once located in Ralston Central Park, and some substantial improvements to Lutz/Stenger sports fields. The pool and mini rec center proposal is to be located at the edge of Fitzmorris Park adjacent to the Fitzmorris Elementary School. And that will be the subject of a couple of neighborhood meetings early in the year on what the pool and facility should look like if the bond proposal passes in May.

FitzmorrisConceptPublicBirdsEye8Jan2016

The CLRC has offered to co-sponsor those public meetings. That’s a no-brainer for our neighborhood association. Our members, both young and old, have consistently said that local recreation for young people and the return of a neighborhood pool is a top priority for them. The City also sees this as another recreational partnership with Apex, and the City is picking up about 2/3rds of the cost of the new facility at Fitzmorris as well as all of the park improvements and schoolyard upgrades.

The proposal also includes an upgrade to all of Fitzmorris Park which is one of the lesser-used parks in the City. It currently doesn’t have many amenities or walkways. Most summer park visitors in this neighborhood prefer the nearby (and now somewhat overcrowded) Ralston Central Park on Garrison and Ralston Road where there is a restroom and a free spashpad for small children that is operated by the recreation district.

The City’s parks department will be seeking local public input on just the Fitzmorris pool, rec center, park and schoolyard upgrades at an open-house meeting that is now scheduled for Tuesday, January 26th at the Fitzmorris school auditorium from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. Flyers will be sent out to the nearby residences beforehand, and there will be more information available on the CLRC website in the next two weeks.

FitzmorrisCenterBuilding2015

The bond renewal will not increase anyone’s property tax rate. If approved by the voters in May, it will simply extend the current property taxes on the outstanding Apex bonds, which amount to about $35 per year for a typical $250,000 home. But Apex has not had a very good track record in getting ballot issues passed, so it is far from certain this bond issue will pass in May. Look for more from the CLRC on this ballot question in the coming weeks and months.

For those who are just interested in the proposal to improve Fitzmorris Park, it is supposed to be included in a draft master park plan that is being presented at yet another meeting on January 13th at the Arvada Center (from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm). Here’s the link where you can view that document:

http://arvada.org/explore/open-space-nature/arvada-park-system-master-plan

The actual draft plan may not be available until shortly before this open-house meeting referenced on the web page.

ROADS AND TAXES
How much are you willing to pay? Another issue that may come to a head in 2016, is what to do about our roads. The latest condition surveys show that the City’s roads have been holding their own in recent years thanks to a bump in funding allocations from the City’s General Fund over several years. But the longer-term prognosis for our aging roads is not very good, and the projected costs to even keep the roads in the condition they are now are alarming. There is simply not enough revenue available to improve road conditions – and possibly not enough to keep these pavements in their current state.

And it gets worse. Most pavement management analyses show that putting off needed roadway maintenance and repairs, doesn’t save money, but instead increases the overall cost of needed repairs by a large amount. Simply put, if a city delays less expensive maintenance repairs such as crack sealing, pothole repairs, chip seals and other thin overlays, then the existing pavement becomes unrepairable and has to then be milled out and repaved at a much greater cost.

Looking at past condition survey maps, it seems that less travelled streets in older residential neighborhoods tend to be the ones that have the most deferred maintenance. That describes much of central Arvada. The back streets in my own Alta Vista neighborhood have been in sorry shape for years, but since we don’t travel on them much, it’s the nearby arterials, such as Garrison, Carr and Brooks Drive that give us the most benefit when they are overlaid.

Add to that the need for widening a number of arterial roads in the City to handle increasing traffic (particularly in western Arvada) and rebuilding congested intersections, and the amount of new revenue needed becomes a staggering number. The only way to do that is to increase revenues for road maintenance and construction in some way. A local tax increase, a new City road maintenance fee, an increase in State tax on gasoline and diesel fuels, or even a City fuel tax, new bonding, cutting back funding for other City functions such as parks or police protection – all are possible solutions. All of these are things that most City Council members will be loath to do without a clear indication that that is what their constituents really want. And, since surveys can often be unreliable, they may want to see a City-wide vote on the matter as well.

2013 survey results

Satisfaction versus importance in the 2013 survey results – click to enlarge

 

So, how much more did you said you were willing to pay to keep the roads in good shape and build new ones? Some of the answers to these questions may come in January when the biennial citizens’ survey is released to the public. The survey took place last summer and was probably written up last October or November, but it has not yet been released to the public. The survey is important because it shows how important citizens rate various City functions and how satisfied they are with how they are being dealt with. But even that survey is not likely to be enough for the Council to decide what to do. And that’s what to watch for this year as the Council starts to consider its options, and starts asking for more feedback from Arvada residents.

Despite the complexity of predicting pavement life and the costs of repairs, there are some simple materials available to help the public to understand the scope of the problem. One of the best is the PowerPoint presentation shown to the Council in a recent workshop. It recommends a $115 million INCREASE in road maintenance expenditures over the next ten years. The cost of widening roads and rebuilding intersections is not included in this number. Another is a brief video of the most recent road condition survey done during the year. Here is the link to the Council presentation packet:

02.A. Pavement Condition Update Presentation-1

And the the four-minute road condition survey video can be found (for a little while at least) by going to

http://arvada.org/explore/transportation/street-services

and then looking for the “Media Featured Video”. For some reason it is not listed in the regular Arvada Youtube archives, so you might not find it again later on.

[A little disclosure here: This writer has a career background in pavement management systems and generally thinks that putting money into preventative pavement maintenance is a good public investment.]

ELECTIONS

P1000055Our 2015 elections are over. There was a good turnout and it will be nice not seeing so many Council seats come open at the same time (and with so many candidates running) during the next City election scheduled for November of 2017. Only Council District 3 (John Marriott), one At-Large seat (Don Allard’s), and District 1 (Nancy Ford) are scheduled to be on the ballot the next go round.

Why Nancy Ford? She was just elected. Normally Council members are elected for four years, but her appointment is only for two years. And that’s because the City Charter is set up to have about half the seats come open each year, with only a temporary schedule adjustment in the event a Council member resigns – as Rachel Zenzinger did two years ago in District 1. And that could make it a little harder for Dr Ford to get up to speed on City affairs and establish a voting constituency before she faces reelection in 2017. Our other new Council member, David Jones (in District 4) will enjoy a full four-year term in his district.

Coming up in November, there will be a rematch between former State Senator Rachel Zenzinger and incumbent Senator Laura Woods in Senate District 19. That district includes most of Arvada and promises to be a tight race. Expect gun control, education, and social services to be campaign issues.

ARVADA CENTER
There is a big change coming to the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, but you probably won’t notice anything unusual unless you are an employee of the Center. On July 1st the operation of the Center is expected to be turned over to a private organization for at least five years. The Center will no longer be a department of the City of Arvada. It is hoped that the change will make it easier for the Center to solicit private funding to expand its programming.

The employees who work at the Center – I think that’s about 40 people, including the Executive Director, Philip Sneed – will no longer be City employees. They will, instead, become employees of the new non-profit that will operate it.   However, the City employees who maintain the grounds and the building will remain City employees. That will be a part of the City’s in-kind contribution to the operation of the facility.

Arvada Center Executive Director Philip Sneed

Arvada Center Executive Director Philip Sneed

What should grab some attention at the Center is the ballot issue planned for November of 2016. That’s when the voters will be asked to renew the sales tax for the metro-wide Scientific Cultural and Facilities District (SCFD). You may not have noticed, but an extra one-tenth of one percent sales tax (a dime on every $100) is charged whenever you buy something in Arvada. That may not seem like a lot, but it supports the Denver Zoo, its natural history museum and many other cultural facilities in the metro area – including the Arvada Center and Majestic View Park.

The Arvada Center gets about $1 million of its approximately $4 million annual budget from the SCFD. Losing that income, would mean a substantial change in what the Center is able to provide to Arvada residents in terms of arts and humanities and the overall cultural attraction the Center brings to the City.

URBAN RENEWAL LAWS
For those who want to see no new urban renewal projects in Arvada, 2015 was a good year. The Colorado General Assembly passed new urban renewal legislation that took effect on January 1, 2016. The new law (HB 15-1348) looks like it will effectively stop any additional urban renewal projects in the City. Current projects such as those in the Arvada Triangle (Ralston Creek and Ralston Creek North), in Olde Town (Park Place, Solana, Nine Acres), the Hilton Garden Inn hotel, and a couple of Candelas-area projects, are all unaffected unless there is some sort “substantial change” in what they are doing – such as expanding a blighted area or extending the number of years allowed to redevelop an urban-renewal area – things that don’t seem very likely.

For new urban renewal areas and their projects, it’s a much different story. The legislation that recently passed has enough uncertainty in how its provisions will be interpreted, and in how long it will take to get final approval for a new urban renewal project, that the private financing needed to actually do projects seems likely to dry up. The banks, bond holders, developers, underwriters, and individual investors who come up with the money to actually build things, all want to be certain that they are going to be paid back before they will loan money to fund a new project.

HB15-1348FrontPageThat certainty is now gone. Under the new law, any affected special district, the County, or the school district can put an automatic four-month hold on a new project for negotiations with Arvada’s urban renewal authority, AURA, on who gets to keep what tax incentives. Our fire department can do that. Our recreation district can do that. Even our sewage disposal district or flood-control district can do that.

After the negotiation period, if any party does not agree, the negotiations then go to what the law calls “mediation” for another three months. If the parties cannot agree with the mediation recommendation, then they can go to the courts to ask for a ruling some months later, which, of course, can be appealed. It could take a couple of years for the Colorado courts to actually decide how the new statute will be interpreted.

In the meantime, it may get even more uncertain. The 2015 legislation, that was passed in the last minutes of the last legislative session, has enough ambiguities in it (such as what constitutes a substantial change) that most legislators seem to agree that a clean-up bill will be needed to fix things when they reconvene in January. A State-appointed panel of experts is already studying what needs to be done. By May, there should be even more legislation in a bill that the Governor will be asked to sign.

Why does this matter to Arvada? It matters because the City may not be willing, or able, to establish new urban renewal areas until these issues are settled, something that could take years. And, even if they do, developers typically can only line up investors and loans for a construction project for a short period of time, such as six months. After that, they have to start over again with a new feasibility study and financial analysis.

So for those hoping to see any near-blighted area, such as the east side of Wadsworth Boulevard between 64th and 68th, being rebuilt to bring in a retail outlet such as Kohl’s or Macy’s, you are now likely to have a much longer wait.

CONSTRUCTION DEFECT LAWS
These are laws that didn’t pass in the last legislative session, even though the majority of legislators seemed to want to pass one. The current law does not make it economically feasible to build most owner-occupied multi-family homes. Why? Because underwriters believe that, in Colorado, there is nearly a 100% chance their developers will be sued for construction defects, and that the property will be tied up in litigation for years. For-rent apartments don’t have this problem, so that’s what just about all the new housing in central Arvada has been for years, and probably continue to be in the future.

And that’s not a good thing. Although apartments are certainly needed for a growing Arvada, affordable and available housing such as owner-occupied condominiums are just as important to meet Arvada’s housing needs.

This will be the fourth year that Denver-metro cities have been asking the Colorado General Assembly for legislative relief. And in the meantime, some cities are not waiting. Denver, Aurora, Lakewood, Arvada and other cities have recently passed, or are about to pass, their own construction defects laws, bypassing the Colorado Legislature. But those measures may be mostly symbolic if liability insurers don’t lower their rates enough to make condo construction more affordable.

And so far, apparently concerned that the Legislature may try to vacate local defect ordinances later on, it doesn’t look like those insurers have yet lowered their rates. In the meantime, housing costs in the metro area have soared in the last couple of years. Here’s a link to a recent Denver Post article that explains just how much. Expect to hear more about this issue – both pro and con – in the coming year.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_29343627/denver-renters-getting-younger-wealthier-overall-population-ages

RALSTON ROAD CONSTRUCTION
About $16 million is now in the City budget to slightly widen central Ralston Road’s outside through lanes (from 11 to 12 feet), substantially widen its center turn lane (from 8 to 12 feet), and to add full-sized sidewalks on each side between the Triangle shopping centers and Olde Town. But that money is sitting in a ten-year budget and it’s not clear if there will be any substantial work on the roadway in 2016. In the meantime, school kids walking (or skateboarding) down that section of Ralston are going to have to be extra careful to make sure they are not clipped by the mirrors on trucks using the road.

RRoadTypicalSectionFig8

But there is an alternate ped and bike route for schoolkids on 57th Avenue as mentioned above. Let’s hope the kids actually use it.

THE FUTURE OF THE CLRC
The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community may not continue through the year – at least not in its current form. This is an issue our neighborhood association faces every year, but things are now a little different. We are now in our organization’s sixth year as neighborhood advocacy group. When we formed in 2010 as an independent neighborhood association, the major issues for those who attended our annual meetings were,

  • the need for local recreation (especially for youth) and the return of the Fisher Pool in what was to become Ralston Central Park,
  • to get community input on the plans to rebuild that park,
  • making central Ralston Road a safer corridor to walk along or to drive down,
  • to have the most blighted parts of the Triangle shopping centers rebuilt, and
  • the looming parking problems near Olde Town as the area developed,

All those issues have either been addressed, or are now being addressed by the City and our recreation district.

LogoAnd we seem to have accomplished a lot in five years. We organized or co-sponsored community meetings to deal with park construction issues, with the potential loss of the UC Health emergency room (aka, First Choice), with organizing to convince Apex that it is in the best interest of the city to support local recreation in this part of town. Our volunteers also put in a lot of hours on an extensive recreation needs survey that reached over 300 participants, and we were able petition the City for a small grant to present those results in a professional manner.

We also wanted to keep people informed about what was happening in central Arvada. In five years we have posted 325 CLRC articles and received 280 comments on our RalstonCommunity.org website. All of these are still available in our archives. We have also run a Facebook page that often contains shorter items of interest.

Many of these articles dealt with upcoming City, Apex, and urban renewal meetings, and the reasons citizens might want to attend these gatherings and give input to their organizers. We think we did more than a little to increase public participation in these meetings. Some of our most popular postings were on construction updates for projects in central Arvada.

However, our most popular postings were, sadly, for candidate profiles for those running for elected office. The CLRC does not endorse candidates for elected office, and we were not set up for campaign coverage – nor did we want to be. That was not our purpose. Still, the available information on candidates running for Council, the Apex board, for the fire protection district board and even the Colorado legislative races is pretty meager as the newsprint industry overall continues to decline. Over this time, we did personal interviews, put together questionnaires covering local issues, and provided comprehensive links to all the candidates’ web pages.

That meant that we had a lot of viewers who were not really interested CLRC members and friends, but who just wanted to find out more about the candidates.   And that’s not a bad thing if the demand for information is there. That all reached a peak in early November when the CLRC racked up about 15,000 views during the time voters had their mail-in ballots for the City Council election. That’s a lot for a City that typically gets about 35,000 voters in an election. We think we normally get only about 200 readers for each article we post that is not election related.

So, unless some new issues poke their heads up, it’s looking increasingly likely that, after May, the CLRC will have done the job it was set up to do over five years ago. The decision on what to do with the CLRC will not be made unilaterally, but instead by interested steering committee members, and headed up by our association President, T.O. Owens. If, before then, you have thoughts on what the CLRC should become, write to him or phone him with your ideas.

T.O. Owens, CLRC President
t.o.owens@gmail.com
303-927-8888

For those interested in reading our application (from two years ago) to become a City-recognized neighborhood group which better defines our coverage area, our purpose, and our key issues in much more detail, here’s a link you can click on to read the entire application.

ArvadaRegistration

And, again, have a Happy New Year!

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community is an independent neighborhood association representing the neighborhoods adjacent to Ralston Road from the Wadsworth Bypass to the Kipling Parkway.

You can read all of our articles on our main website at http://www.RalstonCommunity.org or you can read even more posts on our Facebook page at “CLRC – Citizens for a Liveable Ralston Community”. You can write to us, call us or email us at

CLRC
c/o John Kiljan, Secretary
6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO 80004

303-423-9875
jpkiljan@yahoo.com

January 8, 2016

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Ralston Road Café to Stay, Walmart’s Schedule Slips Five More Months, and More


by John Kiljan

Dear CLRC members and friends,

The latest updates given at last Wednesday’s urban renewal meeting confirmed that Walmart is letting its construction schedule for the Arvada Plaza Supercenter slip by another five months.   Even the Grinch won’t be able to shop there during next year’s Christmas shopping season. The revised schedule now says that Walmart will not start construction until late March or early April of 2016 – presumably to avoid ground work during the winter months. And those who want to boycott Walmart will now have to wait at least until April of 2017 to urge shoppers not to patronize the new outlet when it opens.

Part of the problem seems to be that the site developer, IRG, still does not have permission from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to demo the entire site. That’s a little surprising, and no reason was given for the approval delay at the Wednesday night AURA meeting. Originally, the site was supposed to be cleared for construction by the middle of October. And looking at the site recently, it appears demolition activity has stopped with the center buildings and a lot of asphalt paving having been removed – while the demolition has not even started on most of the site’s perimeter buildings.  In the briefing, it was stated that the remaining demolition work and site preparation is now expected to last through December of this year.

Ralston Road Cafe - Thurs Nov 5th 1:20 pm

Ralston Road Cafe – Thurs Nov 5th 1:20 pm

A brief comment as AURA went into executive session at its last meeting on October 21st to discuss what to offer the Ralston Road Café for its property generated a lot of speculation on social media that the venerable Ralston Road Café was being condemned by urban renewal, or the owners were otherwise being forced to sell under that threat. Or even that the business was being forced to close as a part of a secret urban renewal policy targeting small Arvada businesses in favor of large retail chains and developers. No, I’m not kidding.

None of that turned out to be true. The speculation of a forced sale of Café seems to have been no more than campaign rhetoric for the Arvada City Council race that ended on November 3rd. What really happened was that the owners of the Café put their property up for sale on the open market and their real estate agent approached urban renewal to ask if they would be willing to buy the property and lease the site back to the business so the Café could continue to operate.

And that’s likely to happen. AURA now has a contract to buy the property and the building, but not the business itself. The purchase is due to close next month. The owners will keep business with the understanding that the Ralston Road Café will be able to stay on the site indefinitely. AURA will only move to redevelop the parcel when the Café decides it wants to give up its lease in the future.

Sambos2

Everyone living in this part of Arvada as long as I have will remember that restaurant going all the way back to when it was operated as a Sambo’s pancake restaurant in the 1970s. It’s a part of central Arvada’s history, and it’s good to see urban renewal helping it to stay in business.

Walmart’s delay has not affected developments north of that part of Ralston Road, which is still referred to as Arvada Square. The preferred developer, Loftus, hopes to ink an agreement with urban renewal for the first phase of reconstruction there shortly after a special AURA meeting to be held on November 18th. If that agreement goes through, groundbreaking could take place at the site of the old Big O and Safeway stores sometime in May of 2016 – although the agreement with AURA will allow that date to be pushed back as far as December of 2016. Loftus has assured AURA that the agreement with 24 Hour Fitness is complete and the renovation of the old Safeway (or for its complete removal and replacement) will begin shortly after groundbreaking.

AURA has worked up an estimate of the tax benefits to the City, to the State and to a number of other public agencies for the first two phases of what will be rebranded as Ralston Creek North. I’m still digging through all of the numbers, but, hopefully, I can do another article on that just subject later in the month.

The second phase of Ralston Creek North, which will include the Chuck E Cheese strip mall, will see no activity until well into 2016, if not later. But it will eventually include multi-family housing and even more retail on that site. Currently, 250 new housing units are being planned for phase two, and some of them may be owner-occupied. That’s quite a few less than was originally planned for the project.

In other news, construction has started on the Solana apartments just east of the Wadsworth Bypass in Olde Town. The industrial buildings on the site have been fenced off for demolition and hazardous material abatement. Their first units are expected to become available for leasing in the spring of 2017.

Construction of the new Hilton Garden Inn hotel on Olde Wadsworth Boulevard is expected to start with the demolition of the old building fairly soon, but the project hit a snag when the AURA board asked the developer to improve the look and maintainability of the new hotel by replacing some of the lower faux-stone stucco on the building with real stone. The developer already has approval to go with an all-stucco building, but is willing to replace it with stonework if AURA picks up the additional cost – about $186,000, but the board itself was divided on the wisdom of funding an improvement that would not provide a direct benefit to the City. After a lengthy discussion, the majority of the board voted to go ahead with the “betterment” to the building. Citing four previous hotel proposals that failed when financing was pulled by lenders, the board also agreed to speed up the property’s deed transfer and reimbursement for the cost of the stonework to help the developer keep the available financing for the new hotel.

Even with the new stonework, the overall look of the building from a distance will not change noticeably from the final proposal’s design already approved by the City of Arvada.

For Park Place in Olde Town, work has been moving at a fast clip and the first tenants should be moving into the south end of the new apartments at Ralston Road and the Wadsworth Bypass this week. The developer has 41 units preleased for the half of the building that is now opening up to new residents. That’s quite a few leases for a new apartment building, and even more are expected in the next few days. There are supposed to be 153 units in all when the remainder of the building is completed early next year.

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
There is a recent CLRC posting about the possibility of a delay in actually building and opening the new Arvada Plaza Walmart, but it might have gotten buried in all our election coverage articles. If you missed it, you can read that article again at this link:

http://ralstoncommunity.org/2015/10/23/two-years-to-build-a-walmart-an-update-on-arvadas-urban-renewal-projects/

I found the short update about the Ralston Road Café purchase to be interesting. You can view a short video of what the discussion at the urban renewal board meeting was by clicking on this Dropbox link. You should not have to register with Dropbox to view the video.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/aev5z7ufvjffg9j/RalstonRoadCafe.mp4?dl=0

The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community is an independent neighborhood association representing the neighborhoods adjacent to Ralston Road from the Wadsworth Bypass to the Kipling Parkway.

You can read all of our articles on our main website at http://www.RalstonCommunity.org or you can read even more posts on our Facebook page at “CLRC – Citizens for a Liveable Ralston Community”. You can write to us, call us or email us at

CLRC
c/o John Kiljan, Secretary
6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO 80004

303-423-9875
jpkiljan@yahoo.com

November 8, 2015

 

 

 

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Voters Say ‘NO’ to Reform Candidates, Ford Takes District 1, Jones Leads in District 4


by John Kiljan

Dear CLRC members and friends,

Good morning, Arvada! Late Tuesday night election returns are showing a surprising victory for Nancy Ford in northeast Arvada, firm support for urban renewal and economic development in three other races, and a tight election in west Arvada. Late voting predominated in this election.

This post is mostly commentary. If you don’t like political commentary – and who can blame you considering what we’ve just been through in this election cycle – now is a good time to stop reading.

Nancy Ford -- Councilor-elect District 1

Nancy Ford — Councilor-elect District 1

In what is being viewed as continuing public support for Arvada’s urban renewal efforts, for economic growth and for the City’s current management, voters turned down challenges by three opponents asking for a complete turnover in City governance – Dave Chandler, Carl Campanella and Dave Palm.

A total of six opposition candidates ran on a variety of platforms: those included the need for Council diversity, that the current Council was overly supportive of Arvada businesses, and that the Council was too collaborative when reaching agreement on what was best for Arvada’s future.

Most significantly in this campaign, the Council and the Mayor had been criticized for being too pro big business and for supporting urban renewal projects in the officially blighted areas of the City. Under Arvada’s urban renewal program, developers are rebated part of the new property taxes they generate as a way of financing new housing and retail projects they would not build otherwise in blighted areas.

Those projects included allowing the big-box retailer, Walmart, into the Arvada Triangle shopping center, building higher-density apartments adjacent to Olde Town (Park Place and Solana), and supporting the construction of Arvada’s first modern hotel, a Hilton Garden Inn, near the heart of Olde Town.

Councilor Mark McGoff

Councilor Mark McGoff

The three reform challengers, Chandler/Campanella/Palm, ran on a platform that would have either ended or drastically cut back urban renewal efforts in the City. By State law, the Mayor appoints (with the consent of the Council) the members of the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority (AURA). Voters rejected all three candidates by a wide margin.

Mayor Marc Williams

Mayor Marc Williams

Other campaign issues included local recreational needs, growing congestion on arterial roads on the west side of Arvada, higher-density development around Arvada’s new commuter rail stations, construction defects laws, a lack of retail outlets in west Arvada, and the needs of an aging Arvada population.

Councilor Bob Fifer

Councilor Bob Fifer

There were plenty of traditional kick-off events, yard signs, newspaper ads, and door-to-door campaigning in this election. But, in what may be a sign of what is the future of City elections, the reform campaign was waged largely on social media outlets. Those outlets went beyond the usual candidate campaign websites and, in addition to the candidates’ own Facebook pages, the candidates and their supporters were active on a half a dozen Arvada Facebook groups and community pages.

Candidate Dave Chandler -- administer for "Let's Talk, Arvada" Facebook site

Candidate Dave Chandler — administrator for the “Let’s Talk, Arvada” Facebook site

The need for diversity also played a role in this election. The Council was also criticized for being all-male, all-white and having backgrounds mostly in business or technology. Two candidates challenged that image: Kathy Drulard (At-Large) and Nancy Ford (District 1). Neither candidate ran on a better-gender platform. But Ms Drulard aligned herself with the reform candidates and Ms Ford did not.

Nancy Ford’s win was a surprise because she is new to Arvada politics and her campaign was underfunded and seemed and somewhat disorganized during most of her campaign. She only set up a campaign website two weeks before the election using an in-kind contribution by former Council candidate Ascenzo DiGiacamo. She spent less than $2000 on her campaign otherwise.

But Ms Ford has been active in Arvada’s sustainability advisory committee (that’s Arvada’s eco-thingy that promotes things such as, outdoor activities, recycling and eco-friendly housing and businesses) and was selected to be a member of the City’s second citizens’ advisory committee for capital improvement projects. That latter appointment provided its members with a wealth of information about how City government works and gave its members a voice in helping to decide what its construction priorities should be in the coming ten years.

The closest election was for Council District 4. Incumbent Councilor Dyer ran unopposed during the last election, but in this campaign he had opposition from David Jones who (like Nancy Ford) is politically unknown in most of Arvada. Mr Jones only had a 230 vote lead over Councilor Dyer last night, but that is a lot in this race and it now looks like David Jones will prevail in this election with a 2% voting margin. District 4 is the subject of a separate CLRC article referenced below.

David Jones -- Councilor-elect for District 4

David Jones — Councilor-elect for District 4

The Jeffco schoolboard election/recall campaign that was on the same City ballot may have influenced the turnout for this election. With the current returns, the County is now estimating a 43% county-wide turnout. That’s a bit high for an off-year election but it is about the same as two years ago when we last had a City Council election.

Both of these elections were non-partisan and no party affiliations were identified on the ballots. None of the Council candidates are known to have taken a position on the school board recall issue.

What is different about this election is that voters seemed to want to be more informed and they voted late – very late. I thought I was bad about waiting till the last minute to decide who to vote for, but, apparently, I had a lot of company.

The late decisions on who to vote for are reflected in our website “hits” on RalstonCommunity.org. Here is a graphic showing the number of reads we experienced during the last days of the election. Almost all of the views were for our election articles. We are a small neighborhood association and normally we only get a couple of hundred views for each CLRC article. Overall, we had about 15,000 views for our City Council election coverage since the ballots first arrived in the mail on October 14th.

Views3Nov2015

If you are interested in the school board election, here is an Arvada Press summary from last night:

http://arvadapress.com/stories/Clean-slate-for-Jeffco-school-board-as-voters-favor-recall,201507

Unofficial Jefferson County results as of midnight on November 3rd were:

Marc Williams    19,873 62.36%
Dave Chandler    11,993 37.64%
Total    31,866

 

Bob Fifer 14,093 47.30%
Carl Campanella 7,083 23.77%
Kathy Drulard 8,618 28.93%
Total 29,794

 

Nancy Ford        3,910 54.22%
Jerry Marks        3,302 45.78%
Total        7,212

 

Mark McGoff      3,187 57.98%
Dave Palm      2,310 42.02%
Total      5,497

 

David Jones          5,462 51.08%
Bob Dyer          5,232 48.92%
Total        10,694

There is no waiting period for the new Council members to take their seats. The new Council will be sworn in at its next City Council meeting on November 9th (unless I’m mistaken).

Again, this article is mostly commentary and does not represent the views of all the members of our neighborhood association. Opposing commentary on the election results are welcomed. Readers may post them in the “Comments” section of this CLRC article.

[Disclosure: This commentator has made campaign contributions to Marc Williams, to Bob Fifer, to Kathy Drulard, to Jerry Marks, to Mark McGoff, and to Bob Dyer. All contributions were made after the CLRC candidate surveys were posted.  As with past Council campaigns, contributions do not necessarily mean these candidates were voted for by this commentator. ]

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
Adams County votes (in far east Arvada and includes the Mayor, At-Large, and Districts 2) are not included in this article’s numbers. Adams County will have about 400 additional voters.  The Jeffco vote totals may change with some late ballots. To find out the most recent information from Jefferson County, go to this link:

http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/CO/Jefferson/56801/156834/Web01/en/summary.html

For more about the unique challenges faced by Arvada City Council District 4, here is a brief article to read:

http://ralstoncommunity.org/2015/10/18/commentary-district-4-residents-face-unique-challenges/

The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community does not endorse candidates for public office. However, we often post candidacy announcements, press releases, interviews and questionnaire responses for those running for office. And we encourage our members to actively support whatever candidates they choose during elections.”

The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community is an independent neighborhood association representing the neighborhoods adjacent to Ralston Road from the Wadsworth Bypass to the Kipling Parkway.

You can read all of our articles on our main website at http://www.RalstonCommunity.org or you can read even more posts on our Facebook page at “CLRC – Citizens for a Liveable Ralston Community”. You can write to us, call us or email us at

CLRC
c/o John Kiljan, Secretary
6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO 80004

303-423-9875
jpkiljan@yahoo.com

November 4, 2015

 

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Campaign Ethics – Arvada’s Fair Campaign Practices


by John Kiljan
[updated October 29, 2015]

Dear CLRC members and friends,

“I will take personal responsibility for approving or disavowing the substance of attacks on my opponent that may come from third parties supporting my candidacy.” – from the Arvada Voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices

Have you ever followed an election campaign where, in the last weeks of a campaign, a candidate starts making allegations of wrongdoing, or even crimes, against an opponent that the opponent has no chance of refuting before the ballots are cast? Or otherwise starts defaming their opponent? Or addresses their opposition with vulgar characterizations or names? Or just tells out-and-out lies about their opposition?

Or more commonly, have you seen where a candidate’s supporters will start doing these kinds of things, and the candidate themselves refuse to disavow their supporters’ activities?

ethicsFortunately, Arvada City elections have been relatively free of these kinds of unfair campaign practices. The City goes further and offers those running for office the opportunity to agree to follow a code of fair campaign practices. The quote at the beginning of this article is part of that code.

Candidates who have signed this pledge do not have that noted on the actual ballot we get in the mail, but those who have signed are recorded by the City Clerk’s office, and that information is a part of the public record.

I recently asked the City Clerk’s office which candidates had agreed to the campaign code. I was told that seven Arvada City Council candidates have done that, leaving four candidates who have not. Below is the text of the voluntary code, and below that is the list of those running in the City Council elections who have signed the code and a list of those who have yet to do so.

* * *

Voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices

Persons who are candidates for public office in the city or persons representing organizations who campaign in support or opposition of a ballot issue may voluntarily commit to conduct themselves in accordance with a code of fair campaign practices. The Arvada Voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices shall include the following statements:

“As I seek public office in Arvada, I honor and will abide by the following principles as a guide to my conduct.

(1) I will address valid issues in my campaign, will tell the truth as to my intentions if I am elected.

(2) I will not engage in conduct that seeks to deflect the public’s attention by falsifying issues that obscure real concerns of the electorate.

(3) I will limit my comments or statements to legitimate challenges to that person’s record, qualifications, and positions.

(4) I will neither use nor permit the use of untruths, deception, or vulgar or coarse and abusive innuendos about an opponent’s personal and/or business life, nor will I make or condone unfounded accusations discrediting that person’s integrity.

(5) I will take personal responsibility for approving or disavowing the substance of attacks on my opponent that may come from third parties supporting my candidacy.

(6) I will not use or permit the use of campaign material that falsifies, distorts, or misrepresents facts, or will deceive the public as to the real issues before the electorate.

(7) I will neither use nor permit the use of appeals to bigotry in any form, and specifically to prejudice based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or national origin.

(8) I will neither use nor permit the use of last-minute charges made without giving any opponent reasonable time in which to respond before election day.

(9) I will demand that persons or organizations supporting me maintain these standards of fairness.”

Date                                                                 Candidate Signature

* * *

Here is a list of those filing the Voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices and the dates they signed the form:

Mayor
Marc Williams, April 26th
Dave Chandler, June 19th

At Large
Bob Fifer, April 21st

District 1
Jerry Marks, February 9th

District 2
Mark McGoff, August 17th
David Palm, August 18th

District 4
Bob Dyer, August 14th

And here is a list of Council candidates who, as of October 27th, are not yet on record as agreeing to the voluntary code:

At Large
Kathy Drulard
Carl Campanella

District 1
Nancy Ford

District 4
David Jones

If we become aware of any changes to this list in the last days of this campaign, this article will be updated on the RalstonCommunity.org website. Candidates are also welcome to comment on the code in the comments section of this article at the same website.

[update: October 29th — Carl Campanella wrote, “Mr. Kiljan I wish to thank you for pointing out an over sight on my part. I did go into city hall this morning, I did check to make sure of the Fair Campaign Act agreement being signed, Yes, I had not submitted the form. I have since taken the responsibility to do so . I have not in any way made this campaign a personal attack on either of my opponents, nor have I done anything that can be construed as unfair. Again, thank you for pointing out my over sight.”] 

[update:  October 29th — David Jones wrote, “I found your post yesterday about Campaign Ethics very interesting especially when I saw that my name was one of the few that had not officially signed the Voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices.  While that was an oversight by me it has been corrected and I have signed and filed that document with the City Clerk.

“The good news is that I can say that I have conducted and will continue to conduct a campaign that is in harmony with the Code of Fair Campaign Practices.  I appreciate you bringing this to my attention.”]

–John Kiljan, CLRC Secretary

October 28, 2015

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