October 8, 2011
Background: This interview was held September 21st and is one in a series of interviews with candidates for the Arvada City Council. The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community offered each of the candidates an opportunity to review a list of local CLRC issues and concerns and to comment on them in an informal discussion. The candidates were also invited to talk about any other subjects they thought were important. The interviewers were T.O. Owens and John Kiljan.
The Candidate: Bob Fifer attended Metro State College and is a principal engineer for CenturyLink. He focuses on business plans, both domestically and internationally. He has lived in Arvada with his family since 2002. He ran a small business in Olde Town through last year. Bob is a past-president of Historic Olde Town Arvada and has supported a number of local civic organizations and events including the Kiwanis, the Historical Society, the Arvada Community Food Bank, Apex Park and Recreation District, the Transit Alliance Citizen’s Academy, Ralston House, Santa House, Arvada Police Department’s “Lighting up the Holidays Toy Drive,” “Colorado’s Future through Civic Engagement,” youth baseball and youth football. Bob enjoys all types of volunteering, even simply helping kids fly their kites at the Arvada Kite Festival.
In person, Mr Fifer comes across as a family-oriented man who is keenly interested in his community. This is Bob Fifer’s second run for an Arvada City Council seat.
Pedestrian Safety and the Ralston Road Corridor Plan: I agree that there is a pedestrian and vehicle safety issue on the central Ralston Road corridor. Anyone who believes differently should take the time to walk the corridor as I have. The proximity of the sidewalks to the traffic lanes creates a danger. Pedestrians could easily be clipped by a passing vehicle when using the sidewalks. The safety issue will worsen when we start mixing in multi-modal communities. Safe connections to the town center for pedestrians and cyclists are a must.
In addition, the safe passages to the schools in the area are a major concern. Are parents driving their kids to school because they are worried about letting them walk next to traffic? If so, we are not promoting a healthy lifestyle for our children. It is time to meet some basic safety standards on the central corridor.
The initial plans for the Ralston Road corridor are exciting, and I feel they give the corridor a sense of community. Development of the corridor can generate tax revenue and provide places for people to walk with their families and enjoy other activities. I lived in Europe for several months in 2001. It appears that most people walk to where they are going whenever they have the opportunity. We need an environment to foster that type of living.
The only downside I see to the plan is the very regrettable reliance upon eminent domain for corridor improvements. I know a few folks who live in the area who may feel the impact.
Fortunately, I don’t believe we will have to resort to condemnations. Instead, I anticipate rezoning, with a developer who offers fair market value for the properties located near Ralston Road. I’m concerned as to what that would look like, and we need to be sensitive around this issue. We do, however, need to move forward.
I would like to see an option for a trolley in the narrowed-down plans from the consultant. I think a trolley can help keep a community connected. But I think we really need to focus on the safety of Ralston Road more than anything — safety for vehicles, for pedestrians and for cyclists.
Car door hazards are also a concern with the proposed Ralston Road corridor design. While I was out campaigning, a resident invited me to see the side of his truck, which had extensive damage. It occurred while he drove through Olde Town at the same time someone opened a car door. Unless we are careful, we could have that kind of hazard on Ralston Road with on-street parking, and lives would be in danger because of higher speeds.
In regards to the connecting corridor segment between the two urban renewal areas, there are other possible solutions for parking. One would be to create parking behind the facilities. The other may be underground, under-building or a parking structure facility. Surface lots are not ideal since they can radiate a great deal of heat in summer, which are not good for our environment. The drawback with multi-story or underground parking structures is that neither may be feasible due to the economics and land values within Arvada.
It’s the connecting corridor that I’ve been mulling over the most. We need to know what the impacts are going to be, whose property will be impacted, and do we push the needed parking into the adjacent residential lots?
I want to see multi-use development along the corridor, and that includes more retail. I believe in multi-modal communities where people should be able to work and use mass transit. I also believe in the benefits of small town centers.
Yes, there’s absolutely going to be disruptions in the first few years of construction. But the vision contained in the corridor plan is a great opportunity for the City. It’s like working with a blank canvas. We can make a beautiful place and create a beautiful sense of community over time. I envision the first floor of the new buildings as being mostly retail, the second being offices, and the floor above as residences. People should be able to work, shop, eat and live within an area.
For many people, about a third of the money they spend goes toward automobile ownership and maintenance. If you can help someone save up to a third of their available income, then it may help us address economic issues and inject more of those savings back into our community.
On the other hand, if you plan on putting too much commercial development into the connecting area between the two AURA redevelopment zones, that could become an issue itself. The question then is will there really be enough retail demand to fill that space?
I think the housing along the corridor is going to be medium density, not high density. I believe in the benefits of “infill” and I guard against urban sprawl. New developments outside the City have the potential to create infrastructure problems, environmental issues and more.
A portion of the Ralston Road connecting corridor should be residential. So how do we deal with the parking demand that goes with new residential development on the connecting corridor? How do we foster a community that can become carefree about parking and give people the opportunity to shop, eat and play in the park?
I think the development conversations can get intense at times. Candelas and the central Ralston Road corridor are the City’s two development hot spots currently.
I have read the executive summary of the Ralston Road Corridor Plan, plus the proposed eight-year schedule and more. I’ve also followed the news articles on the corridor plan carried on the CLRC website. It seems that just building sidewalks along the corridor now and only spending the original $3 million proposed for the project without first developing a more comprehensive plan would be a disjointed approach. The developments we’ve been talking about could be much more than eight years in the making. It could take 20 years or more to fully realize this plan.
On the Redevelopment of the Triangle: The Triangle will probably be redeveloped in phases. Starting the redevelopment will be like tossing a pebble into a pond and seeing the ripples spread throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. I am absolutely on board with the Triangle and I’m on board with AURA’s Outline Development Plan (ODP) for the Triangle.
I’ve been to the Arvada Community Gardens’ open houses and tours. A community garden brings a community together. Other gardens started in other communities have shown that. I think the unfortunate reality is that the garden is probably going to have to move. The garden is not going to go away. I’ll be there to make sure that the move, if it happens, is done properly. I do believe the garden could be made better by the move. It could be uplifted, made more visible and it could be more welcoming to the community in its new location.
I can see why a developer would want the site the gardens are located on now. The scenery from the top of that hill is unbelievable. You can see all the way to the Flatirons near Boulder from the hill. It’s that kind of appeal that can bring in tax revenues, retail opportunities and foster a connection to the area. There may be 450 new housing units located in the Triangle. That housing will create a lot of traffic, which brings us back to the issue of how we foster a community that says you don’t really need to have all that traffic.
For the first few years after the Triangle’s reconstruction we will have problems. I hate to say it, but I think 57th Avenue is going to change if all goes as the City is envisioning it. Fortunately, 57th is probably wide enough to accommodate that change. I’m concerned about the residential streets that feed into it from each side.
I like the trolley idea because it reduces vehicle traffic and takes some of the wear and tear off the streets. I believe we have an opportunity to leverage partnerships with the A-Line and RTD to provide a local-only bus between the primary town centers and other attractions within the City.
Ralston Road is jam packed right now. I’d be afraid to see another 450 housing units at the Triangle and then find that everyone living there has brought one to two cars with them. Where would we park them? AURA has a great idea for shared-use parking facilities for retail, commercial and residential. They can all share the same parking spaces. The whole idea of the ODP is to have a higher density multi-dwelling and multi-use environment with safe pedestrian passages where needed and with lots of walk-in retail development.
I have a passion for businesses, like the local Ace Hardware, that show a dedication to the community. Businesses like that have to stay in the new Triangle, and they should not have to lose revenue in the transition when the redevelopment comes.
On Local Recreational Needs: The priority for adult, senior and kids’ recreation has to be at Secrest on the east side of town. Secrest’s recreational needs have to have priority over those of the central Ralston corridor because there are so few recreational opportunities available in the surrounding area. After completion of that project, the central area would be the next area to get something. I don’t know what that might be, but it has to be something that gets the biggest bang for the buck.
I’ve knocked on 1,300 doors already in my campaign, and a few folks in the community are saying, “I wish we had a community pool.” I hear people tell me they consider the Apex pool to be “their” pool. It’s “over there,” and on top of that, it’s an indoor pool. What I hear when I’m walking from Ward Road and the neighborhoods eastward is, “I wish we had just a plain outdoor pool — a pool for minors that is located outdoors.” That brings us back to what we just dug out of the ground.
I grew up in El Paso, Texas. We had neighborhood pools in the older neighborhoods. Every two or three miles there was a neighborhood pool. They were simple, plain and square. Best of all, admission was cheap. There is a lifeguard, sometimes a concession stand. That’s how we spent our summers and these community pools have been going on for over 65 years now. They weren’t built as elaborate facilities. Basically, they were a king-sized home pool with a shallow end and deep end just big enough to learn how to swim. That kind of small solutions approach to recreation might work here, and we need to try to leverage developers or urban renewal to help us with some of those opportunities.
In my background with CenturyLink, one of the things I do when I develop business plans or negotiate with a business partner, is to look at what the return is on the company’s investment. I look to make our deal a win-win situation for both sides of the table, and to be fair about the deal when doing it.
The Walmart at 72nd Avenue and Sheridan is an example. The installation of decorative walls, redesigned streets, water lines and artwork were all negotiated with the developer by Westminster. Similarly we should negotiate with our own big box developers coming into the Triangle for items that have a community benefit such as a small recreation center or a community meeting room.
On Neighborhood Associations and the CLRC: I see your organization as a hybrid neighborhood association. The information on your website is timely and valuable. The one thing that I’ve learned from reading multiple website groups is that websites whose aim is to be fair and objective and whose primary objective is sharing knowledge with others adds a lot of credibility to an organization — as it does to yours. I think you will see more news, opinion and commentary pieces offered by your members as your organization matures.
I see your group as partly a home-owners’ association, but you are also a community advocacy group. I am hearing of neighborhoods that want to re-establish their old HOA’s, and I’m wondering if a neighborhood advocacy group like yours could be the best way to go.
I live in an HOA that is thinking of disbanding. I like having the HOA. I like having the trash picked up on a single day each week, and I like knowing that someone is looking out for my neighborhood. I wonder if other neighborhoods can find a T.O. and a John to do the kind of work that you do now? Eventually, I can see the CLRC becoming a sort of neighborhood council.
Volunteerism is huge for me. It is the spirit and character of our community. Participating in a neighborhood council can be an important part of that volunteerism. Here’s how: After I am elected, I plan to go around and knock on doors. I will do this because I know how intimidating it can be for individuals to go down to City Hall during a meeting, to go up in front of lights, recorders and cameras to speak to their Councilor members.
Typically, to avoid turning Council meetings into debate sessions, Councilors do not react very much during public comment periods, even when they are very interested in what’s being said. People need their own ways to interact with their Council. It’s my goal to walk a precinct every quarter for my whole term to “Take the Council to the Door.” I also hope to hold neighborhood coffees.
Still, not everything works out the way you hope it will. One of my disappointments with my time as president of Historic Olde Town Arvada was the occasional inconsistency of our programs. Some of the great programs we had, like the Friday Art Walks, we just weren’t able to sustain.
I’m interested in the Allendale area near the Triangle’s K-Mart. It has the highest meal assistance rates for Jeffco schools. To reach out to this community, we need to find people who live there and who are willing to become active in community affairs.
How do we find those local leaders and encourage and inspire them, and how do we let them know they can make a difference for their neighborhood?
On Stabilizing Older Neighborhoods: People have different perceptions of what government’s role should be and many want that role limited to basic things such police protection, street, water and sewer services. So where should we set those limits on government services? For me it is more than just basics. We need to nurture a community where people can feed themselves, enjoy clean neighborhoods, safe streets with police protection and everything else it takes to create a decent place to live.
In older community neighborhoods, an immaculately kept house can pick up the rest of the neighborhood. The City should also give back to the neighborhoods by doing things such as replacing deteriorating sidewalks, removing graffiti as soon as it appears, finding new ways of maintaining neglected lawns from bank-seized properties and billing the costs back to the banks.
It’s not just older and less affluent neighborhoods that have that problem. Some well-off streets near the Westwoods Golf Course have many foreclosed properties. Something as simple as keeping up a lawn of a foreclosed home can also lower the crime rate in an area. The City has an obligation to its residents to help keep neighborhoods clean, as well as providing safe streets and sidewalks.
We should also support public cleanup efforts and provide the materials needed to do that. When I was young, I was a member of an organization called Police Explorers, which we also have here in Arvada. Every Saturday morning the Explorers would meet for graffiti and other cleanup efforts. The city organized the effort and brought the supplies to the site. I would hope that we could do something similar here in Arvada.
WHERE TO LEARN MORE
Bob Fifer has an election website at
and his contact information is
Mr Fifer’s opponent for the At-Large Council seat is Ed Tomlinson. Mr Tomlinson has also been interviewed for our neighborhood association. Look for that article in a separate posting.
You can also watch a video of the candidates for the at-large seat on Facebook at