Better Roads Tax Question


by John Kiljan

Monday, August 15th, is the deadline for responding to the City of Arvada’s “Better Roads” online survey.  This is a lot more important than a typical City survey.  It’s a choice between avoiding a tax increase and having better roads.  Here’s the link to the City survey if you want to take it now, but I suggest you read on a bit first and learn a little more about what’s being proposed and why.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5TS3CLX

Although most Arvadans will not take it, the survey may be the best indication the Arvada City Council is going to get on whether or not they should go to the voters in November to see if they want to increase the City’s current 3.00% general sales tax by another half percent (to 3.50%).  The increase would be used for a combination of road improvements and increased street maintenance for at least the next ten years.  A half-percent tax increase would mean paying an additional 50 cents on every $100 purchase made in the City.  That would include purchases made at grocery stores as well.

And it would make Arvada’s combined sales tax rate the highest in Jefferson County.  Arvada also levies a 0.46% police tax, and when adding in all the other sales taxes levied by the County, special districts and the State, the overall sales tax rate in Arvada would go from 7.96% to 8.46%.

WHY A NEW TAX?
Most citizens are adverse to sales tax increases.  If I were a Council member, I would be reluctant to even offer a tax increase proposal unless I were fairly certain that’s what my constituents wanted.  But recent citizen surveys show that residents have also become increasingly dissatisfied with the condition of the roads and growing traffic in Arvada.

CITIZENS’ SURVEY
And that dissatisfaction is in spite of the fact that impartial machine-based measurements of pavement distress and roughness show no overall pavement deterioration since 2012. So what has changed?   What has really changed is people’s perception of how bad the streets are. There was a significant drop in satisfaction when the latest citizens’ survey was released in January of this year.2015 Citizens' Survey showing ta dropping level of satisfaction with street repair. Two years earlier, the level was next to the snow removal rating.

2015 Citizens’ Survey showing a dropping level of satisfaction with street repair. Two years earlier, the level was next to the snow removal rating.

I suspect there are several reasons for that dissatisfaction, and at the top of the list is congestion. People tend to lump congestion and road maintenance together when they respond to surveys. They also tend to lump together City streets and State highways.

Where I hear the most complaints about congestion and traffic are on State highways, on 72nd Avenue and on the Kipling Parkway. Those State highways are Sheridan, Wadsworth, SH 72 (Ward/64th/Indiana) and SH 93. CDOT has its own budget problems that the State Legislature has not been able to address.  Despite a large increase in construction costs, there have been no State or federal gas tax increases in the last 20 years, and I’m not surprised to see it showing up in their roads. This new City sales tax money, if it happens, will not be going to State highways, either for new construction or for maintenance and repair.

New construction has delayed maintenance on the Kipling Parkway for some time, but it is now getting a two-month patching and overlay job since that construction has finished up. It should look, and ride, pretty nice when the work is done. The same thing happened to feeder streets such as Brooks Drive and Garrison Street near the park after its reconstruction had finished.

BetterRoads

Ralston Road in central Arvada will always be a problem until it is widened. The outside lane is so narrow (8 feet) that the larger and heavier vehicles are forced to drive in the adjacent two-foot gutter pan, driving rainwater and snowmelt into the joint between the concrete and asphalt. It will always have a spring crop of potholes until that problem is addressed.  Over the years, I’ve lost a couple of hubcaps on that road myself.  Moreover, if reconstruction is imminent, crews will probably put off any major pavement repairs, since much of it will have to come out when the road is rebuilt.

SO HOW MUCH WILL RESIDENTS REALLY HAVE TO PAY?
What will that 0.50% increase cost a typical Arvada family each year?  That would depend upon how much they shop in Arvada, of course.  The City hasn’t made an official estimate yet.  But to get a rough idea, I used the data that urban renewal used when figuring the benefits of the new housing project proposed for Ralston Creek North, which is scheduled to begin construction next year.  Those numbers worked out to about $65 a year for a typical family.  If you want to see the math, here’s a link to follow:

https://ralstoncommunity.org/2016/03/15/alternative-funding-for-transportation/

A GRIM FUTURE IS PREDICTED FOR CITY ROADS
Also pushing the tax measure forward is a warning from the City’s consultants that pavement condition ratings are soon expected to head steeply downward on our road condition surveys if more money is not put into preventative maintenance now.  That’s where most of the $9 million-a-year figure that City Staff is asking for seems to be coming from.

And the consultant says that is just the money needed to keep the roads in the same overall condition they are in now.   More funding would be needed to see a tangible improvement in overall pavement conditions over time.   As far as I know, there has been no independent review of the consultant’s findings or the tie to the additional $9 million-a-year amount being asked for.

So, is this much money really what is needed?  Is more needed?  I don’t know the answers to those questions.  Those questions are sort of like asking if a family really does need to pay for a lawn service for weekly lawn care, or should they wait until the yard is so full of weeds that it needs to be re-sodded entirely.

How much do similarly sized towns spend on road maintenance on a lane-mile basis and on new construction?   I don’t know the answer to that question either, and there are so many variables when comparing Arvada to other cities, I’m not sure that information would even be useful even if it were available.

CAN WE EVEN SPEND THAT MUCH MONEY?
Nine million dollars would kick up the City’s annual road improvement budget quite a bit – to $16 million a year, more than double the $6 million or so we spend now.  That’s a big increase.  Can we even spend that surge in money for street maintenance fast enough?  The short answer is, no we can’t.  Well, not at first, anyway.  Most of the needed work would have to be contracted out to private companies, and the City has been saying that they can’t staff up fast enough to handle the contracting and inspection demands in the first few years.  And the available asphalt laying companies in the metro area may also need to gear up themselves with new equipment purchases – especially if the Colorado Legislature finally passes its own better roads bill.

But the City can spend all of what they take in by doing a series of the most-needed capital-improvement projects right away, and those would include new construction on Ralston Road and 72nd Avenue.  After those, the City would be ready to pour most of the $9 million annual amount into the streets that are in the poorest condition.   That approach seems to make sense, and it seems a lot better than letting the first monies sit in a bank waiting to be used.

onehalfcentgraph

A FAIR TAX?
Is this an equitable tax?  The short answer to that is, no, it’s not.  Sales taxes are some of the most regressive taxes there are.  They tend to hit the poorest residents the hardest since those are the ones who have to spend the largest portion of their income on basic necessities, such as clothes and groceries.  More to the point, those who use the roads the most are the ones who should be paying the most.  A gas tax is very good at doing that, but, so far, no Colorado city has levied its own gas tax.

But there is a catch that makes a sales tax increase a lot fairer for Arvada’s least-well-off than it would first seem.  The reason for that is that many of the people paying the tax will not be Arvada residents, but will instead be those from the County and nearby municipalities who shop in Arvada.  Those people also use our roads to shop and to commute.

But if we were to do something else such as increase Arvada’s property tax rate (we are among the lowest in the metro area), only Arvada residents would be paying that tax.  Those outside the City would get a free ride (figuratively speaking).  And Arvada families would have to pay much more to get the same funding benefit.  You can see my own calculations of how much more we would have to pay for that (and other funding alternatives) in the “alternative funding for transportation” link referenced above.

So what about a combination of both property taxes and sales taxes instead of just one or the other?  If I’ve got this right, the State Constitution requires ballot questions to be for a single issue only.  If a combination of both property and sales taxes were proposed, one might pass and the other might not.   That could leave us short of what is really needed.

SHOULD OTHER CITY SERVICES BE CUT INSTEAD?
It’s the next logical question.  The City Council could cut other ongoing City functions to come up with another $9 million a year to provide the money City Staff is asking for.

That would amount to about 14% of the City’s annual budget.  That’s a lot.  The City already runs a tight budget.  That approach would have a pretty significant impact on City services and maintenance.  I once did a quick calculation and figured we could do it if we fired the entire police force.

But I was wrong, we’d only have to fire less than half the department according to Arvada City Manager, Mark Deven.  And it probably wouldn’t even be legal to do that since the taxpayers have voted twice now that some of our sales taxes be dedicated for police department use only.

And as for diverting urban renewal tax breaks to roads, I am always mystified why people think that money could even be available.  Not only would it be illegal under State law, but those projects generate their own revenue.  Without their tax concessions, there would be no urban renewal projects built and no money at all to use for any other purpose.   Urban renewal tax breaks are “but for” tax breaks.  But for those limited tax concessions, there would be no urban renewal and no new revenue for anything.

61st Avenue where trash haulers turn onto Flower Street. It takes real money to fill cracks and potholes.

61st Avenue where trash haulers turn onto Flower Street. It takes real money to fill cracks and potholes.

A somewhat more practical suggestion would be to divert the entire City Charter-mandated capital improvement budget over the next ten years to roads.  But even though that would be legal, it is still not enough, and it would kill a lot of things a recent citizens’ committee said were more important.  That committee instead recommended finding a new revenue source (i.e., taxes or fees) to improve roads.  City Manager Mark Deven addressed this issue much better than I could for three minutes at the last City Council workshop.

If anyone is interested, they can hear what he said if they pull up the City’s workshop video on this subject and go to the 1-hour 54-minute mark at this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sYHPdHRWmk4

WILL MY OWN ROAD GET FIXED?
Maybe not.  If your street is already in pretty good shape, it’s not likely to get any improvements with a tax increase over the next ten years other than regular crack sealing or maybe a very thin (micropave) overlay.  If, more likely, you are more concerned about the roads you commute on or use for shopping while travelling at higher speeds than you do on your own residential street, then the answer depends upon who owns the road.  The City does not own, operate, or maintain all of Arvada’s arterial roads.

The State of Colorado does that for its State Highways.  SH 72, for example, runs up Ward Road from I-70, west along 64th Avenue, then turns onto Indiana, and then again along Coal Creek Canyon Road.  Similarly, Wadsworth Boulevard, Sheridan Boulevard and SH 93 are all owned and maintained by the State’s transportation department, CDOT.  If you drive on those roads, keep in mind this is not likely to be where Arvada’s tax increase will be going.

State Highway 72 at 64th Avenue and Ward Road

State Highway 72 at 64th Avenue and Ward Road

The City did up a great condition survey map showing the measured road conditions on all the City-owned streets.  As you might have guessed, most of the worst roads are in the older residential neighborhoods.

I’ve asked the City to add the condition survey map to Arvada.org’s excellent GIS map gallery on Arvada.org at

http://arvada.org/explore/maps/map-gallery

but so far they have not been able to do that.

However, there are very low-resolution maps that are available online.  The best I’ve seen is a “Red to Green” map in the latest Arvada Report on page three.  And, I’ll copy it here at the best resolution I can get.  But you might not be able to find your own street on it.  Why?  Because it can be hard to get oriented.  In addition to the somewhat fuzzy image, the State Highways have been blanked out entirely since they are not City streets.  You might have to guess where they are to help find your own street.  Arvada looks very different on a map without Wadsworth Boulevard on it.  Here is the image:

Low-res version of Arvada's 2015 road condition survey map from the Arvada Report. State highways are not shown.

Low-res version of Arvada’s 2015 road condition survey map from the Arvada Report. State highways are not shown.

IS NOVEMBER A GOOD TIME TO EVEN BE ASKING THE VOTERS ABOUT THIS ISSUE?
There is going to be an awful lot on this November’s ballot.  And much of what will be on that ballot will be controversial.  In addition to the Presidential race where both candidates have a high disapproval rating, there will be federal Senate and House races, tight races for Arvada’s State House and Senate representatives, a very large Jeffco schools tax issue, a SCFD cultural and arts district tax renewal, and many more issues for Arvada voters to consider.

But voter turnout tends to be higher during November Presidential election years and a large turnout tends to favor tax issues.  The alternative for a May ballot question usually brings out older and more consistent voters who tend to vote against tax increases.  And then there is the possibility of an off-year ballot question in November of 2017.

And there is a lot of information about the need for improved road maintenance and congestion mitigation in Arvada that voters will have to absorb between now and the end of October while they are considering all those other ballot issues.  I don’t see that there is much time left to do a good job of that in this current election cycle, and people tend not to vote for issues they are uncertain about.

HOW WILL THIS WRITER VOTE?
I’m pretty likely to be voting for a tax increase for roads if one goes up on the ballot.

I am a little worried that we are relying a little too much on the findings of a single consultant to ask voters for $93 million of additional funding over the next decade.  I may not be completely happy about this choice of funding, but I can afford a $65 a year increase in retail purchases in Arvada.  It’s relatively cheap, and it’s an easy way to get the needed revenue.

And, considering the benefit that money will bring to me and to my neighborhood, I think it will probably be a pretty easy decision to make.  Investing reasonable amounts in roads and transportation infrastructure is generally a good public investment at just about any time.

For a cost comparison, this proposal should cost me only a little more than the 0.40% RTD FasTracks tax when I voted for that years ago.  By coincidence, $65 is the same amount that RTD said in public meetings that tax would cost a typical metro-area family each year.  That Gold Line train hasn’t even arrived in Arvada yet, but already I see the benefits it has brought to the community – particularly in helping to revitalize Olde Town and to redevelop the Arvada Ridge area.  Hopefully, these road improvements will do the same for all of Arvada.

DISCLOSURE
This writer is a civil engineer.  I once attended Michigan State University for a month of day-and-night intensive training in pavement design, and how to put together pavement management systems, how to evaluate pavements conditions, and how to best allocate resources for maintaining state highways.  The State of Colorado footed the bill for that when I was an employee of CDOT.  I have also spent many, many hours doing pavement condition surveys in the field on highways all over Colorado as a part of my work for that agency as a research engineer.  I’m retired now, but that background has done much to reinforce my own belief that public expenditures in keeping up city streets with regular preventative maintenance are a good investment.

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
This is a YouTube video of the Arvada City Council’s workshop on this subject.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sYHPdHRWmk4

Unless you also want to learn about long-range planning for Arvada’s broadband internet service, the road maintenance part starts at about the 1-hour 46-minute part on the video.

The City also has a number of information files that go with the online survey.  You can find those at this link on Arvada.org:

http://arvada.org/explore/transportation/better-roads-arvada-survey

There are two earlier CLRC articles on this subject.  Here are the links to each:

https://ralstoncommunity.org/2016/03/12/city-staff-recommends-17-sales-tax-increase/

and

https://ralstoncommunity.org/2016/03/15/alternative-funding-for-transportation/

If you are interested in what the most recent citizens’ survey has to say about the need for better road maintenance, here is a link to yet another CLRC article on that subject:

https://ralstoncommunity.org/2016/01/13/citizen-survey-report-of-2015/

If you are still undecided on whether or not to take the survey, here are the six questions you’ll be asked to answer, displayed here in a compressed format:

***

  1. Arvada’s transportation infrastructure is the City’s largest and most valuable asset and must be a priority in terms of maintenance and improvements.

Agree Disagree  Other (please specify)

  1. Do you believe the condition of Arvada’s streets and roads has deteriorated over the past five years?

Yes No About the same Don’t know  Other (please specify)

  1. Thinking about street and road maintenance, what are the top issues you think the City of Arvada should focus on when addressing transportation infrastructure needs?

Filling potholes and repairing cracks in streets.

Preventative maintenance that will extend street life and save money long term.

Widening major intersections.

Continue to improve synchronization of lights along busy streets.

Increasing the number of turn lanes to ease congestion.

Other (please specify)

  1. The Citizens Capital Improvement Plan Committee, a diverse group of Arvada residents appointed to assess the City’s infrastructure needs, ranked street improvements and maintenance as a top priority and recommended that Council take immediate action to address the shortfall in funding available for needed street improvements and maintenance. In response, City staff has recommended that Arvada City Council consider asking voters for a 1/2 cent sales tax increase to be used specifically for Arvada streets and roads. If the vote were held today would you support this increase?

Yes, I would support a1/2 sales tax increase specifically for Arvada streets and roads.

No, I would not support a sales tax increase.

I don’t know

Other (please specify)

  1. Would you be more or less willing to support a 1/2 cent tax increase to be specifically spent on roads if you knew all monies collected from this tax will be conducted in an open and transparent process including all projects  tracked on the City’s website as well as an annual review published on the City’s website?

More likely  Less likely  Does not make a difference  Other (please specify)

  1. Would you be more or less likely to support a 1/2 cent sales tax to be spent specifically on Arvada streets and roads if the tax had a sunset provision–meaning it would end after a certain amount of time?

More likely  Less likely  Does not make a difference  Other (please specify)

***

Okay, now it’s your turn.  Follow the link at the top of this article and take the City’s Better Roads survey and tell the Council what you think.  They are waiting to hear from you.

–John Kiljan
jpkiljan@yahoo.com
August 7, 2016

 

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This November’s Ballot


by John Kiljan

It’s looking like this November’s ballot is going to be one of the most contentious in recent memory for Arvada voters.  In addition to a presidential election where both candidates have high disapproval ratings, there will be well-contested Congressional and State races along with a slew of a ballot issues.

right-to-die-legislation-introduced-in-quebec-feature2

It’s that last category that will require the most thought by voters.  They are likely to include:  healthcare insurance for all Colorado residents, an amendment to make it harder to propose State constitutional amendments, physician-assisted suicide, a really big Jeffco school tax increase, renewing the existing cultural tax that provides much of the Arvada Center’s operating budget, increasing the Colorado minimum wage, and maybe some others I’ve forgotten about.

And the City of Arvada may have a couple of its own ballot issues.  One may make it easier to provide broadband services in the City in the future.  And there may be a second one to increase taxes to keep up the City’s pavements and to ease congestion.  Look for another post on that last item.

It’s a lot for responsible voters to think about.  And it is good to get started with that thinking now to avoid the temptation to just vote against everything you are not sure about when you mail in your ballot in late October.  Here’s a link to an article on one of those upcoming ballot issues.  It’s on the proposal to allow physician-assisted suicide.

I don’t want to clutter up RalstonCommunity.org with a lot of article link postings, but look for more article links on upcoming ballot issues on the CLRC’s Facebook page as we move toward November.  The link for that Facebook page if you want to bookmark it is

https://www.facebook.com/ralston.arvada

and here is the link to the right to die issue,

http://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2016/08/05/signatures-submitted-medical-aid-dying-law/88297370/

5 August 2016

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City Road Improvements and a Tax Increase


Well, it’s now up on the City’s website.  The Arvada City Council is looking for feedback on whether or not they should put a tax issue on the November ballot (or later) to increase Arvada’s general city sales tax by another 0.5% (50 cents on every $100 purchase).  You’ll have till August 15th to respond to on to the online poll.  I’ll be writing more about this later, but here’s a link to the info page and the polling link.  –John Kiljan

BetterRoads

http://arvada.org/explore/transportation/better-roads-arvada-survey 

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The CLRC Ends its Neighborhood Association – Website to Continue


by John Kiljan

Dear CLRC members and friends,

Last month marked the end of the Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community (CLRC) as a neighborhood association.  Hopefully, the CLRC will continue as an intermittent neighborhood news service as long as it is needed.  But article postings – especially those about upcoming community events – will become a lot less frequent.

Logo

And, except for a few possible ad-hoc gatherings, our annual meetings and steering committee meetings will also go away.  As it is, the CLRC hasn’t needed to have a general meeting for a couple years, and our steering committee meetings, although more frequent, have been almost as limited.

SO WHY ARE WE GOING AWAY?
The short answer is that this neighborhood association no longer seems to be needed.  But before going into why that is true, and what will remain of the organization, we should quickly review why our organization was formed in the first place.

A LITTLE HISTORY
The CLRC was organized in late 2010 at the suggestion of then Arvada Councilor Shelley Cook.  Councilor Cook had noticed how effective neighborhood associations were in providing public input on development issues in other metro-area neighborhoods.  In a nutshell, elected officials and those who establish policy are more interested in hearing feedback from organizations than they are in dealing with individual feedback that may not represent the community at large.

And there were a lot of issues facing the neighborhoods near the central Ralston Road corridor at that time.  Those, in no particular order, included

  • the pending redevelopment of what was to become Ralston Central Park,
  • the need to redevelop the growing eyesore that the Triangle shopping centers had become,
  • where to park cars in an Olde Town that was becoming an increasingly popular place to visit,
  • the loss of the North Jeffco community swimming pool (aka, the Fisher Pool) at Garrison Street,
  • the possible loss of the community gardens at 57th and Garrison,
  • the unusable sidewalks and narrow lanes on Ralston Road, and
  • the decline of opportunities for healthy activities for young people in the neighborhood,

These were most of the important issues identified by participants during the first couple of neighborhood association meetings held by the CLRC.  But a lot has changed in five years.  Not all of those issues have been resolved, but many have, and there are now well-defined plans to deal with the rest of them.

However, in the following years, many new issues came up.  Those included Walmart’s offer to move into the Triangle, the development of Wolff Park, the closing of the Safeway, the potential closing of the UC Health emergency room, the redesign of Memorial Park, rising house prices and rental rates, the lack of new owner-occupied housing and the reasons why, flood remediation, City Council elections, a bizarre proposal to take space from businesses along Ralston Road to put in parallel parking, legislation to restrict urban renewal, higher density apartments near Olde Town, what appears to be a growing homeless problem in the City, the increasing use of the Lutz/Stenger sports complex, development plans for Arvada Square, scrape-offs in historic residential areas, the failure of prominent businesses in Olde Town, changing the management of the Arvada center, designing and building a modern hotel in Olde Town, street maintenance issues, and a variety of other issues related to the coming of the Gold Line commuter rail line to Olde Town and to Arvada Ridge.  Keeping our neighborhoods informed about all those issues took far more effort than first anticipated.

RALSTONCOMMUNITY.ORG TO REMAIN
When formed, one of the purposes of the CLRC was to keep people informed about what was happening in central Arvada. In 2010 the need was definitely there.  YourHub and the Arvada Press could only touch on local news events, and the abundant number of Arvada Facebook and Nextdoor social media groups we have now had not yet come about.  The City of Arvada also greatly improved its social media outreach during that time.  These days it is easy to find out what is happening in Arvada through a variety of sources, and Arvada citizens seem to have become much more socially aware of what is happening in the City during the last decade.

In the last five-and-a-half years the CLRC has posted 340 articles and received 293 feedback comments on our RalstonCommunity.org website, receiving tens of thousands of views with hundreds of regular readers. All of those posting and comments are still available for anyone to view in our archives dating back to the end of 2010. We have also run a Facebook page that often contains shorter items of interest, but I’m not sure if that will stay.  It is set up in a “Community” Facebook format that does not encourage interactive discussions, but it automatically links to RalstonCommunity.org postings, so it is still a good way to become aware of them.

The RalstonCommunity.org website is no longer owned by T.O. Owens, our former president.  It has been taken over by Preston Branaugh who was the CLRC’s treasurer.  T.O. resigned from the neighborhood association on the advice of a City of Arvada attorney when he was recently appointed to fill a vacancy on the City’s Planning Commission.  The Planning Commission reviews plans for future development projects and is often required to conduct quasi-judicial reviews to advise the Arvada City Council.  Apparently, those kinds of reviews may be compromised by a leadership or ownership position in a neighborhood association.

WILL WE EVER COME BACK AS A NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION?
Possibly.  But I suspect any future CLRC will have more to do with ad hoc development issues that may pop up from time to time rather than continuing with an ongoing neighborhood association.

And for me personally, as the primary contributor to the CLRC’s website, it is time to move on to other things I’d like to accomplish during my life.  It’s also an opportunity to take the time to research more thoroughly the articles that I do continue to write and to cover a larger geographic area than just central Arvada.

For those readers who are on the iContact recreational information list that was put together when the CLRC and the City did the recreational needs surveys during the spring and summer of 2013, we’ll keep up those email lists and let you know of any important developments that come up as the Fitzmorris pool and rec facility, approved by the voters in the May bond issue, actually gets built.

And on another personal note:  Thanks to all of you who have spoken to me or emailed me over the years thanking me and the CLRC for keeping you informed about what has been happening in Arvada.  Feedback comments have generally run about 4-to-1 positive – even during controversial times such as the approval of Walmart as the Triangle’s new redevelopment anchor and Council member elections.  The most common compliment was for being impartial and presenting both sides of each issue.  But I found the negative comments to be just as valuable.  They told me much about what citizens’ fears and concerns were. Hopefully, those who write for whatever the CLRC becomes in the future can continue a tradition of presenting both sides of every issue, while concentrating on providing relevant information and fewer personal opinions on what citizens should think.

Eventually, when I get some time, I will update the static information on RalstonCommunity.org to reflect the change to what I expect will primarily be an intermittent information service to the community.

And anyone who wants to post moderated articles is welcome to write to me and submit guest articles for review, formatting and posting on the RalstonCommunity.org website.  The future of Arvada really lies with its youth, and young people who want to write about Arvada community issues and how it affects them are particularly welcome to submit articles for posting.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE:
If you want to read our 2014 submittal to the City of Arvada to become a recognized neighborhood group, here is the link for that:

ArvadaRegistration

For other CLRC information, feel free to contact me at

John Kiljan
6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO  80004
303-423-9875
jpkiljan@yahoo.com

Have a happy and safe 4th of July everyone!

–John

4 July 2016

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A-Line Shuttle Service to DIA to End This Year


by John Kiljan

Dear CLRC members and friends,

The fastest, most convenient shuttle service from Arvada to DIA will be coming to an end in only a few months’ time.  Arvada’s A-Line airport shuttle, operated by the Ride Provide non-profit, will end its popular airport service once the new Gold Line commuter-rail service through Arvada starts operating this fall.

Ride Provide team on opening day in 2003

Ride Provide team on opening day in 2003

The 40-minute Olde Town to DIA service the A-Line gave Arvada will be taken over by the Gold Line and the A-Train to DIA leaving from Union Station in the heart of Denver.  That connection, with average waits for trains, could take a little over an hour to reach the airport check-in counters from Arvada.  But there will be other advantages that go with the additional 20-minute RTD connection to DIA that could make the longer trip time worth it for Arvada’s air travellers.

It had been hoped that the A-Line wouldn’t go away and would be able to continue as a for-profit service operating from another nearby Olde Town location.  But that wasn’t to be.  RTD has been subsidizing about a quarter of the fare for the Ride Provide service since RTD cancelled its original AA Arvada public bus service to DIA years ago.  That subsidy, along with access to the Olde Town park-and-ride facility goes away when the Gold Line opens up later this year.

And the transportation market itself is changing.  Semi-private door-to-door services such as Uber are picking up some of the DIA traffic, and the time advantage to DIA may evaporate in the next decade or so as metro-area traffic volumes continue to increase.  And the RTD service will run more frequently and further into the night.  That will be mean fewer late-night taxi rides for travellers on delayed flights that get in after 9:00 pm.  RTD’s commuter rail service is also expected to be largely immune to weather delays caused by Denver’s sometimes fierce winter storms.

Moreover, RTD has set the fare for a commuter-rail ride from Arvada to DIA (with the change at Denver’s Union State) at a very reasonable $9.00.  That’s less than the A-Line shuttle, and the fare is half-price for seniors.  All of that makes it very difficult to attract the private financing that would be needed to keep the A-Line shuttle running.

GoldLineArt

So what’s next?  The best summary I’ve seen is in an announcement and FAQ recently put out by Ride Provide’s director, former Arvada City Council member Shelley Cook.  It can be found on the A-Line web site at

http://aline2dia.com/index.html

and they are copied here.

***

What happens to the A-Line Shuttle after the Gold Line starts operating this Fall?

By now many of our riders have heard the news that the A-Line Shuttle will cease operation once the Gold Line train (RTD’s G Line) is up and running. This is an exciting time — the train we’ve all looked forward to is almost here — but it also means that our funding is about to end.

RTD has very generously funded the A-Line shuttle service for more than a dozen years. Even so, we have always understood that the agency’s subsidy could continue no later than when there is train service to Arvada and Wheat Ridge.

The start date of the G Line has not been announced, but it likely will be later in the fall. (Certainly not earlier than October. We’ll let you know as soon as we know.) Until then we’ll be operating on our normal schedule out of the Olde Town Arvada park-n-Ride.

Please watch for updates about the transition in the months to come, and, especially important, details about alternatives for you — including the great one of the train itself.

In the meantime, do you have questions? Want to know more? Please download the FAQ sheet (373K, .pdf file). Or reply to this email, or give us a call at our main number, 303-420-2589. We’ll be glad as always to hear from you. And, as always, thank you.

Shelley
Ride Provide, Inc.

***

A-Line Shuttle FAQs – May, 2016

  • Why stopping? The A-Line Shuttle has been generously funded by RTD every year since 2003 (with considerable additional help in the beginning from the City of Arvada and Arvada agencies). That’s because RTD had discontinued its own airport service to this part of town. Our understanding from the outset was that funding would be sustained no later than when RTD service was restored via the Gold Line.
  • When exactly will you stop? Probably the same day the Gold Line starts. RTD has not yet announced a date, but it likely will be later in the fall. (Certainly no earlier than October.) Once we know for sure, we’ll let you know right away. In the meantime we’ll be operating our normal schedule both in Arvada and at DIA.
  • Is there any way that you could continue without the funding? I/we would be willing to pay more for non-stop service. We have thoroughly explored this question and must conclude in the negative. In addition to the loss of subsidy, our costs go way up, including airport access fees that will soar ten or more times their current level. More, we know the train service will be terrific: it will operate much more frequently and for a greater part of the day, charge only $9.00 all the way to the airport ($4.50 for seniors), and the transfer at Union Station will be quick and easy, all level and cross-platform. It won’t take that much longer to get to the airport – around an hour all told – and the travel time would be consistent throughout the day and in all kinds of weather. We’d be bound to lose ridership — and even at significantly increased fares, our non-profit would likely not be able cover the high fixed costs of operating a scheduled service.
  • What will be my options for airport transit service? Transportation as an industry is undergoing a rapid shift both globally and here in the metro area, spurred in part by the introduction of a full-fledged rail system. Monitoring the trends in mobility, we think passengers will have multiple alternatives for getting to DIA, including both shared and dedicated ride services. We’ll be sending information about the train and other options over the next few months.
  • What about passes I purchased? If I can’t use them, can I get a refund? We have set up a sinking fund to reimburse purchasers of unused ten pack tickets and even round trip tickets, if needed. Just give us a call at 303-420-2589 and we can arrange a refund.

***

AFRAID OF MAKING A TRAIN CHANGE AT UNION STATION?
You are not alone.  I am too.  Union Station is now much bigger, more modern, more bustling and a more scary place than it used to be.  But like any new experience, it should be easier to navigate through the station once you’ve tried it.  The A-Line people are aware of that, and they are trying to make changing trains in the heart of Denver easier to learn about.  Next month – even before the Gold Line opens up in Arvada – is likely to be your first opportunity to try out the change before you actually have to catch a flight.  Here’s a quote from the A-Line’s director:

“Here’s one thought: we’ll be hosting ‘dry runs’ once the Westy station is open in July. Theirs will be the most similar to the trek from our neck of the woods. We’ll organize free trips using a van to get people from our park-n-ride to the Westy station. RTD will supply free passes so we can ride downtown, see what the transfer is like, and then go to DIA if folks wish.”

Denver Union Station

Denver Union Station

THANKFUL FOR 13 YEARS OF SERVICE TO THE CITY OF ARVADA?
The A-Line has been a labor of love from its very beginnings.  It took a lot of people working together to set it up, and it nearly didn’t happen at all.  If, like me, you are grateful to have benefitted from a service that has literally connected Arvada to the rest of the world for over a decade, this would be a good time to pick up the phone and briefly express those thoughts to Ride Provide’s director, Shelley Cook, at 303-420-2589, and let her know what the service has meant to you and to the City of Arvada.    

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
As this article points out, things must change evenually.  The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community (in its present form, at least) is also going away.  Look for another post later this month explaining what will be happening to our neighborhood association that so many of us have been a part of for the last six years.  In the meantime, 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

June 4, 2016

 

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Arvada Square Developer Asks for Public Input


by John Kiljan

In a public meeting held last Wednesday, the developers for the old Safeway building and the Chuck E Cheese strip mall in Arvada Square outlined their concepts for building new residences in the shopping center before taking their design plans to the City of Arvada to begin the City’s drawn-out approval process.  At the meeting there was a 26-minute public presentation with graphics and a video followed by 37 minutes of general questions and answers.  That was followed by one-on-one discussions with the attendees.

Aerial view of the proposed Arvada Square redevelopment

Aerial view of the proposed Arvada Square redevelopment

The new development will be rebranded as Ralston Creek North to differentiate it from the Walmart shopping center located on opposite side of Ralston Road to the south.  The names Independence Plaza, the Triangle, and Arvada Square will go away.  The developement partnership with Jim Loftus also has a new corporate name.  It’s now Ralston Creek North, LLC.

Attendance at the meeting was light – only about 45 people – possibly because this was the first good weather day after a couple of weeks of rain.  Notification post cards had been sent out to every address within 1500 feet of the development.  For those who did not attend, the CLRC video-recorded the presentation part and audio-recorded the general question-and-answer part as well.  Readers can find those recordings at the links below.

View of the proposed development from the entrance to Ralston Central Park on Garrison Street

View of the proposed development from the entrance to Ralston Central Park on Garrison Street

The Wednesday meeting only concerned Phase Two of the development project, which consists mostly of new multi-family housing along the south side of Ralston Creek.  Phase One of the project has already been approved by the City of Arvada and is expected to begin construction in July or August with the demolition of the existing buildings on the corner of Ralston Road and Independence Street.  Phase One consists of 15 to 20 small shops stretching from Holland Street to Independence Street.

Phase Two will also have some retail in addition to 300 new housing units in three separate blocks that are its primary feature.  Most notably, that new retail will include a 30,000 square foot space located under the middle set of apartments to be constructed about where the Family Dollar store is now.  It is hoped that a small-footprint specialty grocer, such as a Trader Joe’s, will want to occupy that space, but no grocer has been identified yet.  Nor have any other lease contracts been signed for businesses to be located in Phase Two – it is simply too early for that.

Proposed small-format grocery store with apartments above

Proposed small-format grocery store with apartments above

Even the Phase One shops due to start construction this year have no tenants signed up so far.  That Phase is expected to emphasize fast-casual dining.  In addition, the current Ralston Road Café is expected to stay on at its current location, even though it will eventually be redeveloped as well.

This public input meeting came months sooner than I thought it would.  The developer is moving much faster than what would normally be expected for an urban renewal project of this kind.  The impetus for that accelerated schedule may be the current market.  As another urban renewal developer recently said, the three most important things when planning new developments are “timing, timing, and timing”.  The economic climate for urban renewal is good right now.  In a couple of years, it may not be.  And it could be difficult to get anyone to invest in this kind of development if the economy changes.

Or, it may simply be that the new Phase One restaurants and retail shops in the development need the new Phase Two housing to thrive.  Or, it could be a combination of both.  Readers’ insight would be welcome.

What’s coming up next is conferences between the developer and the City’s staff going over the design details, compliance with the Outline Development Plan (ODP) for the area approved by the City Council in 2011, code requirements for new construction, traffic reviews, fire access reviews, school impacts, and the possible need for variances, waivers and exemptions to complete the preliminary design.  It looks like a height exception for four stories will be needed, but that has already been approved in the ODP.

After all that, a preliminary design goes before the Arvada Planning Commission for its review and approval in a public hearing.  The Planning Commission’s recommendations are not binding on the City Council, but the Council usually follows their advice.  That final approval of the preliminary plan will be the subject of an open hearing by the Council afterward.  Only then, will final plans be approved before construction begins.

That’s a lot to have happen in a year, but the developer is hoping to begin construction on Phase Two in the second quarter of 2017 and to have construction complete about a year or so later.

View from the north side of the UC Health ER facility

View from the north side of the UC Health ER facility

If you have input you’d like to have considered during the design approval process, now would be a very good time to provide that.  The City’s Senior Planner, Carol Ibanez, is the contact person for further comment.  She can be reached at 720-898-7463, or via email at cibanez@arvada.org .  Ms Ibanez sat through developers’ presentation and the question-and-answer session that followed, so she is already familiar with the issues that were raised by the attendees.  There will be an opportunity for still further public input when the preliminary design packet goes before the entire Planning Commission afterward.  [update:  Carol is out of the office until June 1st, but you can leave a message for her on her voicemail for when she gets back.  If you need to talk with someone before then, you can call Community Development at 720-898-7435 and ask to talk with the “planner of the day” who will pass on your comments to Carol when she returns.]

Here’s the link to the YouTube video of the Wednesday night presentation.  This video is a little different than earlier video postings since it shows both before and after pictures at the same location.  That better orientates viewers to what is going where in the Phase Two development.  I’m sorry about the bad sound and lighting, but I could only work with what I had when making the recording.

https://youtu.be/bEWwjd5SftU

The audio during the question and answer sessions is even harder to hear because of the acoustics of the meeting room.  That’s why they were recorded separately.  You should be able to listen to (or download) that file from my Dropbox account without registering.  Here’s the link for that:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/aiejz9b0w9khzcy/RCNQandA18May2016.MP3?dl=0

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
The CLRC has been reporting on urban renewal developments in the Triangle shopping centers since 2011.   Our most recent article can be found at this link:

https://ralstoncommunity.org/2016/04/10/a-new-look-for-the-old-safeway-and-adjacent-strip-mall-in-the-triangle/

It has more still photos and a link to an earlier YouTube video that shows the decision-making process going on in the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority’s offices when they were presented with this concept earlier in the month.

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.

LogoFor now at least, 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”.  Like the Triangle itself, changes are coming to the CLRC and we are not sure how much longer those two sites will be active.  You can also 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

May 22, 2016

 

 

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Wednesday Public Meeting for New Triangle Developments


PUBLIC MEETING FOR NEW TRIANGLE DEVELOPMENTS:  The developer for the old Safeway building and the strip mall with Chuck E Cheese will be hosting a public-input meeting on their design concepts for the new shops and residences.  Here is a copy of the official meeting announcement and a link to find out more:

Arvada Square Entryway from Independence Street

Arvada Square Entryway from Independence Street

* * *

ANNOUNCEMENT!

A community meeting is set for Wednesday, May 18 at 6 pm, held at the Arvada Vineyard, 5855 Wadsworth Bypass, Building B., Arvada.

  • At this meeting you will learn about the redevelopment of Arvada Square. 
  • Phase II Redevelopment of the 11-acres north of Ralston Road between Independence Street and Garrison Street.  The proposed project incorporates commercial, retail and resident uses. 
  • Meet the developers with Ralston Creek North, LLC, who will provide general concepts for the redevelopment; seek your insight; and answer your questions.

 FYI: Contact City of Arvada, Senior Planner, Carol Ibanez, 720-898-7463.

* * *

I anyone is interested and has three minutes to spare, there is a YouTube video of the newest concept plan for Arvada Square. Go to the link and then fast forward the 14-minute mark where the animation starts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4hKshWuOt8

The proposed development should define what this neighborhood looks like for the next couple of generations. The first phase, with about 20 shops, has already been approved by the Council. The second phase concentrates more on what the new housing that supports those businesses will look like and where a new grocery store will be located.

–JK

 

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