January 28, 2011
by John Kiljan
In a marathon televised two-hour study session, the Arvada City Council put a number of hard questions to City staff members and consultants about the design elements and plans included in what is now being called the “Ralston Road Complex.”
Last Monday evening, Garrison Street project manager and Assistant City Manager, Vicky Reier, coordinated a series of five presentations to the City Council on the Garrison Street bridge replacement, the concurrent flood control project running from Holland Street to Carr Street, the North Jeffco Community Park’s reconstruction, the plans for a new park at the southwest corner of Carr Street and Ralston Road (now known as the Arvada K-8 Park), AURA’s plans for the redevelopment of the Triangle shopping district, and the Ralston Road widening study. Collectively, they are being referred to as the Ralston Road Complex.
FLOOD CONTROL & TREES
City engineer Mark Floyd, began by giving a short history of the City’s past flood control efforts from Garrison Street downstream to Sheridan Boulevard. He showed a graphic of how the bank of the creek within the park will be lowered 4 to 6 feet to create a large, flat open area. The excavation will create extra floodwater storage in the park and will remove the flood threat from the nearby residences. Affected homeowners are expected to save between $1000 and $1500 a year in flood insurance. The project will also improve the quality of the neighborhood by allowing the Triangle to be redeveloped as its flood threat is removed.
Between Holland Street and Garrison Street, Ralston Creek will be lowered 1-1/2 feet to accommodate a bike path under Garrison Street. Additionally, the new bridge will be 1-1/2 feet higher than the old one. The existing bridge at Carr Street may be slightly modified to prevent peak flows from overtopping Brooks Drive. Existing homes along Holland Street will not benefit from this project.
The bridge and channel designs will not be compete till August. After that, approval will be sought from the Corps of Engineers, FEMA and the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District. Construction is expected to start in October. The new bridge at Garrison Stree will have a 100-foot span, more that three times the width of the existing bridge.
Councilors Cook and Zenzinger asked about increased hazards to homes east of Carr Street because of the project. Mr Floyd said that the Carr Street bridge acts as a flow restrictor and there would be no increased risk to homes located downstream from Carr Street.
Mayor Frie asked what was needed to get the Holland Street homes out of the flood plain. Mark said that a similar project would be needed to widen the channel along the entire length of the Ralston Cove Park to 59th Place near Ralston Road.
Mayor Frie also said that he thought the recently completed Van Bibber project running from the ballparks and then underground through the shopping center would be the last piece of the flood control project. And he though that project would take both Holland Street and the Triangle out of the floodplain. “Am I wrong?” he asked.
Mr Floyd said that there was a misunderstanding. The Corps of Engineers’ Van Bibber project only removed the flood designation from most of the commercial properties in the Triangle. This current project completes that work. The Van Bibber project was never intended to take Holland Street out of the floodplain. Moreover, to remove the flood threat upstream from 59th Place would require a very large flood-control project.
Councilor Cook asked what was being done to save as many trees as possible in the park. Mark responded that he and the City forester have walked the entire project and inventoried the location of about 780 trees. Approximately 280 of the most damaged or diseased trees are being taken out now. Relocation work for some other trees will start in a couple of month. Mr Floyd and the City forester will use a “ten-year” guideline in deciding which trees can be saved by transplanting them and which will be better off by having a younger replacement tree planted in their place.
Both the City and the Corps of Engineers have standards requiring tree replacements for removed trees. Some trees will be replanted outside of the park itself. No new trees will be planted within the new channel. Every tree being removed has been photographed and its condition logged to help with the replacement program.
Bill Newmann, a consultant with DHM Design who is doing the new park design, spoke next and showed a series of PowerPoint slides describing the concept plan his company has developed for the new central park. He said the 21-acre park will have 3000 feet of creek running through it. The concept plan calls for 80 to 100 parking spaces to be placed within the park.
He showed a series of birds-eye views of the park from many directions. Mayor Frie asked what traffic calming plans were being made for the mid-block Garrison Street entrance other than the painted stripes shown in those views. Mr Newmann said he was in discussion with the City traffic engineers about doing some other calming measures.
Shelly Cook asked why a walkway was shown along the north side of the creek in the plan view she had been given, but the birds-eye views now being shown seem to show a different path layout that crosses the creek moving the path into the middle of the park. Bill Newmann said that the birds-eye view was the accurate one. The actual plan calls for the path to cross the creek and move to the interior of the park using two bridges. The plan view the Council has is not the correct one.
Shelley said she had concerns about how usable a path through the interior of the park would be after dark. The primary concern was safety. She preferred keeping the path to the north of the creek throughout the length of park. Or, at least providing an additional path closer to Brooks Drive to meet those needs.
Vicky Reier interrupted Mr Newmann’s presentation to say that this park feature is still under consideration because of grading concerns. Ms Cook pointed out that there is clearly a demand for a walkway along Brooks Drive because of the dirt path that exists there now. However, Ms Reier said that Staff has not yet decided what they would do, and that she could not assure the Council that there would be a sidewalk running the entire length of Brooks Drive in the final design.
That explanation drew a sharp rebuke from Mayor Frie who said, “When we get these study sessions, they’re not just for you to tell us what you’re going to do. We get the option — at least — to have you listen to us. So I would be grateful if you would consider Ms Cook’s comments and mine. I get the idea that they are being rejected — or a least the thing is already done. I hope that you [Mr Newmann] get a chance to consider our input tonight.”
Councilor Mark McGoff then asked about bicycle access coming from the Van Bibber trail and crossing into the southwest corner of the park at the intersection of Garrison and Ralston. There will be an 8 – 10 foot sidewalk entering the park at that corner as well as a dedicated bike lane along Garrison.
Councilor Bob Dyer pointed out that the plans shows the splash pad as being in the floodplain and asked what happens to the facility if there is a flood. Mr Newmann responded that the vulnerable parts of the splash pad, i.e., the pump house and restrooms, will be located just outside of the floodplain.
Councilor Cook reminded Mr Newmann of how many people at a public meeting wanted to keep the existing sledding hill just behind the Cattlemen’s Association building and asked why that feature was not in the concept plan. Bill responded that he had examined the site. He said it was a good idea, but, unfortunately, there was only a six-foot hill there now and that would only be increase to ten feet after construction — not enough to build a sled run. Ms Cook persisted by asking if a sledding hill could be located elsewhere in the park using the excess embankment from project’s excavation. Mr Newmann said that might be possible.
Ms Cook also said that she wanted to see a multitude of recreational activities that span the calendar year in the park. She asked about the possibility of a “flexover” into the adjacent Triangle commercial area to set up an ice skating rink or a health and wellness facility that could be constructed with grant funding.
Councilor Marc Williams followed on that theme by asking if portable ice skating units could be brought into the park seasonally. Mr Williams also said that he really liked the widened creek bottoms he saw in the design.
ARVADA K-8 PARK
Gordon Reusink, Arvada’s Director of Parks, spoke next on the City’s partnership with Jeffco schools to build the Arvada K-8 Park. The park is located immediately west of the K-8 school and has 8.75 acres available for development. Gordon said there are 29 other locations in the City where the school districts have formed partnerships with the City. DHM Design (again with Bill Newmann) has been retained to develop a conceptual master plan for the park. Mr Reusink spoke of the school’s strict program and security requirements for this new park. Those requirements specify such things as measured meandering trail lengths for the school’s physical education program. There is also a requirement for a pedestrian trail to be put in from Ralston Road to 57th Avenue. The K-8 school intends to host a series of neighborhood meetings at the school in the first quarter of this year to discuss the park’s plans.
However, the school will only contribute $100,000 toward the cost of the proposed park project in addition to allowing the use of its land. Mayor Frie asked why City would not receive ownership of the land if the City were using it to build a City park. Gordon said the issue was complicated, but under the pending agreement, the school district will retain ownership of the land and the City will be responsible for maintaining the park and its facilities after it was built. No mention was made of public access restrictions to the new park because of school ownership of the land.
Mr Reusink outlined this budget:
school district contribution $100,000 (11%)
Apex P&RD contribution 75,000 ( 8%)
Jeffco conservation trust fund 200,000 (22%)
City of Arvada appropriation 525,000 (58%)
estimated project total $900,000
Mayor Frie said that the financial arrangement did not seem fair to the City. And that at least some of the Council members want to see the City have — at a minimum — ownership of the park if the City were going to put that much money into its financing. He said that if the City went along with this arrangement, the property would have to be deeded to the City to have his support. Gordon said that he would be providing updates to the Council that will include that possibility. He said that the City’s contribution to the park project was already appropriated for 2011 and that the work would be starting very soon on the planning portion of the park.
That presentation was followed by Maureen Phair with the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority (AURA). She started with a short history of AURA’s efforts in encouraging the development of the Triangle commercial district over the years.
Ms Phair said that AURA’S updated Outline Development Plan (ODP) has been on hold to ensure the Complex projects had a sense of continuity to them. The ODP is a solicitation document with detailed graphics designed to entice private-sector investment in the redevelopment of the urban renewal area.
Maureen introduced a painfully hoarse Rich von Luhrte from RNL Designs to speak for the proposed ODP. Mr Von Luhrte emphasized the mixed-use nature of the concept plans being developed in his presentation. All the concept plans have professional offices, multi-story residences and plazas, as well as conventional retail space.
He said the four concept plans are merely guidelines to help developers come to the City with an acceptable proposal. Concept Plan #4 is a little different from the others in that it is an example of a plan that was brought to the City for consideration by a developer. He described #4 as a more traditional and conservative approach that is more likely to be favored by a developer.
He made no mention of the Triangle being a grocery-store-anchored development project as it has been described by others.
Next steps are to submit the ODP for approval by the City and to have public hearings on it. The ODP will then become the official guideline for future development in the Triangle. Any development offers would then be measured against these concept plans before being accepted.
Rachel Zenzinger asked if the existing community gardens could be incorporated into the development plans for the Triangle. Mr Von Luhrte said that he had been told that the City would be relocating the gardens. He thought that the gardens should be relocated — either within the development, or within the park, or elsewhere within the neighborhood. However, he said that the gardens must to go if Garrison Street is to be extended as proposed.
Ms Cook said she sees a community trend for more urban agriculture. She said the Authority has an amenity in the garden that the community can use as a spark for better development of the area — particularly with the high-density housing being proposed in the Triangle. She asked the Council to find a compromise that would allow the garden to remain at its current site.
Mr Frie said that he also did not want to see the garden moved.
Ms Phair said that she had also been told that the garden plots were to be relocated. She thought they could be relocated to the various plazas within the development and nearby. No mention was made of the fencing or other security needs typically required by a community garden.
Mr Von Luhrte said that planners often make the mistake of trying to decide the future of land that they do not own. He suggested instead of changing the ODP, that text be added to it that says urban gardens should be preserved, and not specify where in the development that should happen. That item would then be a negotiation item with the developer when the City gets an offer.
Shelly Cook countered that the garden is a parcel that the City does own and has sponsored the garden club there for many years. Even though there is currently a long waiting list for an allotment, she was worried that the garden may not prosper if it were moved to other locations.
Councilor Marc Williams disagreed and said that we have to be pragmatic about finding the best use for that land so we can attract development in the Triangle. Councilor Don Allard agreed with Mr Williams pointing out that it will be some time before this matter is decided. Councilor Mark McGoff went further and said that he would not even favor verbiage in the ODP to address the importance of the existing community garden.
What followed was an active discussion among the Council members on what should or should not be included in the ODP for the Triangle. In the end, most of the Council supported the position of Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Dyer that we just follow Mr Von Luhrte’s suggestion to insert some verbiage when issuing the ODP, but leave off the graphic “dots on a map.”
Rich von Luhrte said he will bring back several versions of supporting text for the ODP for the Council to consider. Mayor Frie said that the Council can then vote on what they want.
RALSTON ROAD CORRIDOR STUDY
After three hours of meetings and a short break, a weary City Council returned for a final Complex presentation by the City Traffic Engineer, Patty Lorence, on the planning work she has been doing on widening Ralston Road. Her presentation was intentionally brief and barely discussed the road study at all.
Ms Lorence emphasized that the plan is a long-term vision for the use of the corridor and the land uses adjacent to it. The study has been going on for well over a year now.
During her short presentation, Ms Lorence spoke more toward the design of Garrison Street than to Ralston Road saying that there could be a raised and patterned concrete pavement at the mid-block vehicle entrance to the park to provide some traffic calming. No design details have been decided on so far.
Patty outlined the following study schedule to the Council:
Draft corridor plan report — March 2011
Public comment report — sometime following
Council study session — sometime following
Staff recommendations — sometime following
Ms Cook asked if Ms Lorence was comfortable with the planned entrance to the park. She said she was because it is essentially where it is now. She did plan to close off some driveway access on the west side of Garrison at a later time.
Mark McGoff asked if he were seeing parking spots along the east side of Garrison Street between Brooks and Ralston Road on his plans. Ms Lorence said, yes, they were planning for that.
Ms Reier concluded by saying that funding was already available for the bridge, the park and the channel and the City would be proceeding rapidly on this project. The indoor soccer field will be pulled down in October and shortly afterward construction will begin. However, the ribbon cutting for the new park will not occur until May of 2013. She said information will be provided online at Arvada.org and phone calls directly to the City Manager’s offic will always be welcome.
There was a pre-study-session plea from a local resident, Mary Thielen, for the City to bring back the pool citing the community benefits of having a pool with a deep end. She argued that a splash pad was no substitute for a real pool. The mayor said that the City never owned the pool, but he wished it had. It was built and maintained by Apex and he was also very sorry to see it go. He said that it cannot be replaced without a source of funding and that at least two bond issues to do that have failed so far.
During a post-study-session comment period, this reporter asked the Council to plan now for connecting Garrison Street to 57th Avenue on an alignment west of its current location. I argued that the proposed closing of the westbound left turn lane along Ralston Road will force turning traffic to divert to Independence Street and then backtrack along 57th Avenue after making an unprotected left turn at the bottom of the Independence Street hill. A westward realignment of Garrison Street from the new bridge to 57th would also free up land for park parking, for court sports that have to be above the floodplain or even a pool at a later date. It would also have a traffic calming effect that the City was looking for on Garrison Street at the entrance to the park.
Afterward, CLRC co-founder, T.O. Owens, asked the Council to consider moving Holland Street out of the floodplain with an extension to the current flood-control project. Mr Owens said that a Holland Street project would be simpler than the one underway now. Two million cubic feet of dirt will be removed from the park. That’s equivalent to 11,000 dump trucks hauling dirt from the projects site and will be a burden on the neighborhood during construction. Possibly some of that material can be used to mitigate the flood hazard on Holland Street as well.
Mr Owens also wondered if the funding now being allocated for a south-central park could be used for the Arvada K-8 Park since the two are so close to each other.
T.O. also reminded the Council that the “Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community” was just now organizing. The website for the neighborhood association is http://www.ralstoncommunity.com/. The website is currently being used to post community information and news articles (such as this article). The association is having its first organizational meeting on February 8th at the Arvada Community Food Bank at 6:30 pm. Members of the Council are invited. The neighborhood association has not yet taking any positions on community issues.
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
Readers can see the Council’s entire video-cast by clicking on this KATV-8 link:
or by following this sequence from Arvada.org’s current home page: Arvada Media Services/City Council Meetings/City Council Meeting 012411.
To hear the audio-only podcast, click on this link:
The four Triangle ODP concept plans can be viewed at
RNL Designs website can be found at http://www.rnldesign.com/
The bird’s-eye views of the proposed park are not yet available online from any source.
The graphic used during this study session will be made available on the http://www.ralstoncommunity.org/ website when they become available.
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