February 16, 2011
by John Kiljan
Despite the snow and cold, 21 people showed up for the first general meeting of the Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community (CLRC) neighborhood association on the night of February 8th. The nascent association had been running as a website-only organization since the second week in December. The association targets the neighborhoods within about half a mile of Ralston Road between Wadsworth and Kipling. In the last two months, CLRC’s website, http://www.RalstonCommunity.org has received over 1000 ‘hits’ and over 30 people have signed up for automatic email notifications.
Thursday night’s meeting was to test the waters to see if there was really enough community support to create a viable neighborhood association. There was enough. Considering the snowstorm and the icy roads, the organizers thought the turnout was pretty good. The meeting was also held to find out what community issues its members thought were most important to them.
In fact, almost the entire 2-1/2 hour meeting was spent with the participants talking about the issues that concerned them most. After T.O. Owens and this reporter gave “ABOUT US” introductions, more than a dozen issues were identified by those attending. The big ‘winners’ were the design of the new park at Garrison Street, the City’s widening and development plans for the Ralston Road corridor, and current and future parking problems along the corridor and neighborhoods adjacent to Olde Town — each of those three gathered multiple tick marks on the issues flip chart.
Here’s a sampling of some of the thoughts floating around the meeting room that evening:
Joe Miller doesn’t live very close to the park, but he frequently visits it. He echoed the thoughts of many when he said that he was concerned about the park’s design and the preservation of as many trees as possible as it was reconstructed. He doesn’t want to see a sanitized-looking channel running through the park when it’s done.
Fourteen-year residents Linda and Rick Seager were also concerned about park design, but thought that the Ralston Road corridor widening was a bigger problem because of the potential to push parking back into the adjacent residential neighborhoods. Rick reported that a neighbor had recently moved away because of business parking in front of her house. The Seagers said they have had people parking too close to their driveway for them to get out safely. It’s now common for them to see 14 or more cars parked on his street where there used to be none. Rick said he has been asking the City to help fix the problem for four years now.
Parking was also the concern for Sharon, who lives on the first full residential street outside of Olde Town (Yarrow Street). She described Ralston as a big road that is hard to cross and divides the neighborhoods. She was concerned that the coming light rail would push the demand for parking over onto her street. She said that residential parking wasn’t a problem right now except for events like the Harvest Festival. She’s concerned that developers might buy up several adjacent residential lots and then do scrape-offs to build apartment blocks that won’t have adequate parking.
Rick Seager wondered if there would be a benefit in bringing back the Glen Allen homeowners’ association (just west of Olde Town on both sides of 57th Avenue) to deal with parking and other issues. The HOA dates back to the 1950’s and already has covenants set up.
Eddie Lyons talked about how Denver was now handling parking in residential areas around the stock show. Denver simply put up signs that say something like, “No Parking During January.” Perhaps Arvada could do something similar for residences impacted by Ralston Road businesses?
I pointed out that the real impact on residences may come when the City decides to put in a paid parking structure. To make the new structure financially viable, the City may have to put in metered parking throughout Olde Town and that could have a ripple effect on the nearby residences.
Councilor Shelley Cook, who lives on the 5700 block of Zephyr Street, talked about the benefits of having effective neighborhood organizations. She used the example of all the neighborhood groups from Denver that weighed in on the diesel-versus-electric debate at RTD’s public meetings. Arvada was just as affected by that decision as other communities, but we fronted no community organizations to speak for or against the decision.
Another example she gave was the Independence Street Neighborhood group’s effort in getting traffic calming for Independence Street. She also thought that having enough members responding to polls set up by the association would be an excellent way to influence the Council and City Staff in setting policies and practices.
Warren Miller has lived in his house for 40 years just off of Ralston Road on Yarrow Street. He also volunteered to distribute several hundred green-sheet fliers for this meeting. He said he thought Ralston Road had become one of the worst city streets in America for accidents. He said the sidewalks on the road are unsafe and often impassable. And he recounted a story of one of his neighbors slipping and taking a near-fatal fall that almost took her into the path of a passing truck on the road. He said it is the inconsistent widths of the road and walks that make it so dangerous. The number of driveways and inconsistent turn lanes add to the safety problems.
Warren was also concerned with growing parking demand. He’s wondering if RTD will build a big enough parking lot to prevent spillover into the neighborhoods. He thought the City was shortchanged on parking when the library was moved to Olde Town and that situation has added to parking demand.
Mary Wadell, a retired accountant who is also a member of the Independence Street Neighborhood group, has lived at 53rd and Independence for 42 years. She has seen tremendous changes to the community in that time. She used to be able to sit on her porch and talk with neighbors, but the heavy traffic flow on Independence prevents that now. Mary said that some cars coming down the road will exceed 50 MPH. She has had four fences knocked down by errant vehicles and has now stopped replacing them. One of her neighbors recently lost a fence as well. She is concerned about the developments planned around the new Gold Line station on Ridge Road increasing the traffic on Independence Street.
Jerry Duncan, who lives close to Independence Street, said he was concerned about not being informed in advance about the City’s development plans for the area. By the time the community finds out what is in the works, the plans seem to have already been decided. The removal of the trees in the park took him by surprise. Others agreed when he said he thought there should be a citizens’ review before the park’s plans are finalized. He was also worried that the various projects in the area were not being coordinated with each other.
T.O. Owens said these were valid concerns, but, from his perspective, city projects do seem to be getting more coordinated. He’s seen much better project coordination and public input recently than he has in the past. He also said that one of the reasons for forming this neighborhood association was to get information out to the community on what was happening much faster than it has in the past — and hopefully before development issues have already been decided.
T.O. also said that he was hoping that an attractive park would attract community-friendly commercial development in the Triangle when the economy recovers.
Brian Wareing encouraged the attendees to feel self-empowered. He said they, as a group, had more moral authority to govern than any member of the City Council had under the State Constitution. Citing several references, he said he thought that sustainable growth initiatives were UN funded and weren’t in the best interests of the community and could hurt small businesses. His primary issues were economics and people.
Rita Caldwell and her husband, Roy, live in one of ten houses on a 59th Avenue cul-de-sac that overlook Hoskinson Park. Her first concern was the removal of trees from private property. The Caldwell’s have over 50 of them and many of them now have City paint marks on them. She and some of her neighbors are being told that some of their trees likely will be taken out and that they will only be told about what is to happen after it has been decided. She and her neighbors feel squeezed between the park development and development on Ralston Road on the other side of the street.
Shelley Cook said that she will check on the tree-taking issue since this is the first time that she has heard of it. She had been told that there would be no takings of private property along the creek and that the design of the new channel had still not been finalized.
Stan Crouse lives on Johnston Way just outside the flood plain and near Ralston Cove Park. He said he was pleased at the efforts he’s seeing on the part of the City to preserve the waterway and deal with flood issues. These kinds of activities help prevent the deteriorization of inner cities and should be encouraged. He also saw the City as being pretty open about what it has been doing. Shelley Cook picked up on those comments and talked briefly about how much the City was investing in developing the central park, both in finances and in Staff resources.
Christine Duncan said that she had moved to Arvada because of its special characteristics combining both rural and urban attractions. She said the central area had lost a lot over the years and the neighborhood needed to get back its recreation center, its gymnastics, its ice rink and its pool.
Chris Singer, who grew up in Arvada and recently moved back, talked about a vision and goals for City. He thought that those goals should be a legacy for the City’s children many years from now. He was also worried about public takings of private property and how park facilities would be maintained in the future.
Irene Backes has a long history with this part of Arvada and recounted stories of people parking horses outside of the KMart and when there was a pig farmer across the road. She was still hoping, but wondered if she would ever see a commercial redevelopment of the Triangle area.
Lynn Huizing and her husband Wim live just a few lots away from Ralston Road. They were worried most about commercial development along Ralston Road and its widening. They felt uncomfortable with proposals to allow two and three story buildings along the corridor and wondered what the effect of that kind of development would be on their homes and neighborhoods. They were concerned about the lack of an implementation schedule and didn’t like the uncertainty about how long these development proposals would take to get started.
Lynn was supportive of the new K-8 school and the plans for the new K-8 park. She was once a school bus driver and recounted how unsafe she felt when taking the bus route down Ralston Road because of the changing narrow lanes and having to have one tire in the gutter while driving the road. Wim said that even buses stopping to pick up passengers on Ralston create hazards because there is so little room for other vehicles to maneuver around them.
Wim said the sidewalks along the road are too dangerous to use. He openly wondered how the City could have delayed sidewalk construction for so long, and said it would just be a question of time before pedestrians started to get killed. His comments prompted anecdotal stories from others in the room on how unsafe the sidewalks were, including one by Warren Miller recounting how he was once clipped by a truck mirror while walking along the road.
Wim, a pilot and a native of the Netherlands, was also disappointed that there were no plans to provide bicycle access along Ralston Road. He talked briefly about European parks and how their development was often done in partnership with private enterprises. That lowered the cost of developing the parks, but still left the cities to maintain them. He suggested that the City take a more aggressive approach to forming those kinds of partnerships in the new central park when the economy improves in a few years.
Eddie Lyons has lived on 57th Avenue since 1956. He predates both the park and the Triangle development. He has a long history of volunteering to support civil planning in many boards and committees. Eddie said the loss of the pool was a personal loss for him because the pool brought so much to the neighborhood. He said the safety neglect along Ralston Road was a pet peeve of his and had his own stories of pedestrians nearly being hit. He said that he supported everything that he heard this group was trying to accomplish. However, he said putting sidewalks in on that road should be a top priority. Eddie also hopes that no one gets killed before they are built.
Eddie’s comments lead into a brisk discussion on where the association should go from here. Several thought we should be having these forums frequently and not rely on the internet as much. Others said we should be sharing emails addresses and other contact information to help with more informal subcommittee meetings of just a few people in homes or coffee shops. Eddie thought we should be very open about who was attending these forums to add weight to the group’s views. (These notes are an attempt to do that.)
Large meetings are more of a problem since they have to be scheduled well in advance. Rooms can cost between $25 and $100 plus other fees and a two-month lead time is not too much. Dealing with those costs is awkward for an association that is not charging dues. T.O. was hoping for a more frequent meeting schedule than that. Smaller informal issues-oriented meetings can be more flexible.
There were suggestions for inviting guest speakers to talk about what Apex, AURA and others are doing.
Chris Singer asked for a ‘LINKS’ listing where members could go for more information on particular issues. T.O. and I said we would do that and send it out. We will also ask registrants for permission to share their email addresses.
It was pointed out that going to the website can be the best way to get large-format information because many email services will not let one receive graphic files as big as the park plans. However, they can easily be seen and downloaded on the http://www.RalstonCommunity.org website.
Someone volunteered to set up a Facebook account for the CLRC. (That’s since been done under the name “Ralston Arvada”.)
Some attendees encouraged participants to simply call their City Council members about issues and also the City Staff. Most of the City Staff has been pretty cooperative in providing technical information and explanations of what is going on. Arvada.org’s “Ask Arvada” feature has a history of being responsive to queries. We’ll add that kind of information to the new LINKS list as well.
And, lastly, T.O. Owens invited anyone to call him at anytime. His number is 303-927-8888.
It was well past 9:00 pm when we all went out to scrape our window before the drive home.
Here’s a list of the issues T.O. Owens logged on the flipchart during the meeting:
Park Issuses (7 times)
Ralston Road Redevelopment (8 times)
Park and Neighborhood Integrity (2 times)
Economics (2 times)
Parking (5 times)
Trees in the Park (4 times)
Light Rail Changes (Commuter Rail Impacts) (2 times)
Glenn Allen HOA
Ralston Sidewalks (2 times)
Independence Street Traffic
Recreation Center Needs
John Kiljan, CLRC News: 303-423-9875 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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