by John Kiljan
After a well-attended October 10th Town Meeting and two follow-on budget study sessions, the Arvada City Council rejected a proposed seven-year widening and sidewalk construction plan for Ralston Road between Kipling and Wadsworth. However, in a budget action on October 24th, the Council authorized spending $300,000 for the next planning phase.
City Staff is expected to come back to the Council with a modified concept plan for its approval in November or December. When approved, that plan will start an engineering study that “puts lines on a map” so that Ralston Road’s businesses and property owners can see how they will be affected by sidewalk construction and lane widening.
The Council asked for options for not having parallel parking, fewer restrictions on left turn movements along the corridor, not having a concrete median, having less than standard sidewalk widths or separation strips where space was limited, a faster implementation schedule for the connecting corridor, not having bicycle access, more personal interaction with adjacent property owners and businesses, accommodating historical structures and preserving existing landscaping.
The revised $300,000 budget is half the amount originally proposed in a budget study session held on August 6th. It is unclear what additional activities the original proposal was intended to cover. So far, the City appears to have spent over $200,000 on consultant studies for the corridor over the last two years.
In a separate action, the Council also budgeted $250,000 for missing sidewalks in its 2012-2013 budget. However, none of those monies are expected to be used to fill in missing sidewalks along Ralston Road. Instead, that funding will go toward sidewalks near Arvada’s new Gold Line stations.
So when will Ralston Road see sidewalk replacements and lane widening? Without an approved implementation schedule, that is uncertain at best. But Council member sentiment seems to favor a sooner-is-better approach to at least the sidewalk part of the plan. City Manager Mark Deven said that his take from the October 10th Town Meeting was that the Council wanted to move a little slower now so that the City could move faster later on. The $300,000 allocation is only intended to fund enough of an engineering study to provide specific design information to adjacent property owners — not to acquire property or begin construction.
The October 10th Town Meeting began with a 30-minute presentation by City Traffic that emphasized the City’s efforts to get public input for the project over the last two years. There were 20 comments offered by the public at the meeting, plus additional comments from Council members at the time and again at two later budget meetings. Here is a sampling of some of those comments:
Mayor Bob Frie: “This really started out with an inspiration from a group of citizens to fix the sidewalk problem.”
John Kiljan: “You’re spending a lot of money, but you’re not getting that much more in the way of roadway width.”
Eddie Lyons: “. . . we need to set out and get this thing under control and get it going forward. As Patty said, it’s just the beginning and we need to keep going.”
T.O. Owens: “I’m here tonight to encourage you to do sidewalks sooner than is called for in the plan.”
Lynne Herron: “[The planning] went from ‘this is kind of what we want’ to this huge project for reconstructing the road.”
Elissa McAlear: “Go back to the original request to improve the sidewalks, and forget about the rest of this horrendous project.”
Jon Girand: “The smaller cross section, I believe, will significantly increase traffic congestion. And this congestion will cause people to avoid the Olde Town Arvada area, reduce sales taxes and decrease its viability.
Nancy Young: “It eludes me as to why Arvada would need to establish parallel parking, eliminate more spaces in off-street parking than you’re going to gain in parallel parking, create a dangerous situation, and all because some consultant says parallel parking should be part of main street.”
Brian Wareing: “By golly, if I had to struggle through the traffic tie-up that this would create, I’d almost want to get out of my vehicle and walk. And you know what? That’s called sustainability.”
Chris Smith: “I don’t think there is anyone in this room that would probably look at you and say, ‘Let’s leave Ralston Road exactly as it is with dirt for a sidewalk right next to the curb in spots.'”
Mayor Bob Frie: “We have a few people that address us on a weekly basis. They just love to come down here and whop on us. And, okay, we signed up for that. But now that we’ve heard from the people that are usually upset with us. If you are here because you’ve got a building or a business, or you’ve got property near there, or you might want to develop there someday, we want to know. The votes may or may not be here for this plan. So if you don’t do anything and we’ve just heard from the negatives, then the votes may not be there at all.”
Sandra Creighton: “Ralston Road has not been planned. We look to the City Council as our governing body to lead us — to look past today’s needs and to the future to see where we are going. . . . Just doing the sidewalks, I think, is silly. . . . That’s solving a symptom and not curing the problem that is Ralston Road. . . . It’s an average plan. The people of Arvada — the professional people who are working on Ralston Road — deserve better than a grade C.”
Dr Russ Drabek: “To me this [plan] looks like a very detailed this-is-the-deal thing . . . it looks like you are going vote it in or vote it out. And that’s it. It’s a done deal.”
Heidi Brown: “There was mention that the City will work with property owners one-on-one. I would suggest, and plead, that they do that immediately before any vote is taken. We all need to know what’s going to happen to our property. And once we know that then maybe we can be a little more ‘pro’ all of the workings.”
Dave Parker: “As far as Ralston Road itself, I don’t have the statistics but I would say it’s got to be one of the most profitable streets in Arvada based on people running businesses out of little houses, not out of a four-story buildings that someone said earlier that private money is going to come in to build.”
Flora Mirensky: “I don’t see much foot traffic on 58th.”
Ed Tomlinson: “I believe this big project should be postponed, but I believe that we should move forward, not only with the sidewalks, but also Xcel energy gives you about $3 million a year to put the power lines underground. I think that too should be added.”
Roy Caldwell: “What happens to the lots behind [the ones on Ralston Road]? In one meeting that I went to, you talked about taking three lots for the development of the high rises. So where I live, what would happen is we’d have the high-rise building and we’d have no parking in front. So we’d have big parking lots behind the buildings and probably an alley over there. That would become my new view. I wouldn’t like that very much.”
Dennis Baayen: “Are we trying to increase or decrease the traffic flow on Ralston Road? . . . It would be nice if we could slow it down a little bit.”
Leanne Canty: “Are we creating a problem by trying to fix the problem? The more I hear, the more I don’t understand.”
Councilor Bob Dyer: “We should give Staff direction on what’s acceptable and what isn’t acceptable. . . . I have serious problem with parallel parking on Ralston Road for a number of reasons. . . . Do we want to slow things down from Kipling to Olde Wadsworth which I believe we will? . . . I don’t like the idea of the medians in particular. . . . I do think we need to improve the traffic lanes. I do think we need to do something about the sidewalks.”
Councilor Marc Williams: “I’m not sure we have a framework to move forward. . . . I appreciate the comments that we need to move forward on the sidewalks. . . . I will vote against on-street parking as long as I’m sitting here. It makes no sense on Ralston Road.”
Councilor Shelley Cook: “Don’t vote on this until you’ve had a chance to talk to the owners and do a little bit of the engineering that would give us an idea about what the impacts would be at each parcel. . . . And then make a decision about how we want Ralston Road to look and to be. . . . The reason that the plan and the people involved didn’t [concentrate on the central corridor] is because they didn’t want Ralston to just be a connector. They thought it might stand alone as a place on its own — that it might have character and preserve and improve on that character going forward.”
Councilor Mark McGoff: “. . . I share many of [Councilors Dyer’s and Williams’] concerns about parallel parking, the bike lanes and the trolley in particular. I believe that our focus needs to be on pedestrians. . . . The thing that is most important to me [is that] . . . we really do need to finish out a plan of some kind. . . . since we’ve open up this whole idea of a plan along the Ralston corridor that any property owner would be looking at uncertainty and saying, ‘Well what is going to happen?’ I think we need bring something to conclusion, so that somebody who does own property can have some certainty as far as development, have some certainty about expansion of business, have some certainty about what he can do with that property in the future.”
Councilor Rachel Zenzinger: “I think we need to take the next step to be able to provide the information to the businesses and property owners along the Ralston Road corridor, so they do know if this is something that they can get behind. . . . The more information we have, the better decisions we can make.
Mayor Bob Frie: “We didn’t come here with the idea of adopting a plan tonight. We wanted to listen to you. Kind of a constant theme from the very first person I talked to tonight . . . is, ‘What is going on, what is the plan?’ The engineers say we can’t give you a plan until we do the engineering study. On the other hand, they can’t do the engineering study until they know a little bit more about what the details are. . . . But we’re asking the Manager to take the comments tonight . . . [so we can] just go down the list and make a decision on these items, because the uncertainty of [having] no plan is really upsetting people. They can’t make a plan about remodeling or reselling or who is going to buy with this uncertainty. So, I think we have all uttered our concerns, so if you would put those on the list, we’ll make a decision.”
At a later budget study session, Councilor Don Allard said that we didn’t need to do a lot in the engineering study. He was not in favor of medians nor on-street parking and that he thought streets should be used primarily for carrying traffic.
The approved Ralston Road Corridor Plan was to have been presented to the Ralston Complex Advisory Group (RCAG) at its next meeting on November 10th. However, Assistant City Manager Vicky Reier said that meeting may be canceled because of the concerns expressed at the October 10th Town Meeting. The RCAG is scheduled to finish all its reviews in early December.
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community will post more information online on its website at http://www.ralstoncommunity.org/ as it becomes available.
Reader can see streaming video of the entire 2-1/2 hour Town Meeting by going to this link
and then clicking on the “City Council Meeting 10/10/11” link.
Past CLRC articles on the corridor are summarized in this CLRC Notes article:
And, finally, here is a cut-and-paste copy of the official City meeting notes for the October 10th Town Meeting:
“Mayor Frie said this started out as an inspiration from a group of citizens who wanted to fix the sidewalk issue along Ralston Road. He said we commissioned a study that led the engineers to look at how the whole corridor could be improved. He said that is where we are today and nothing has been decided.”
“Bill Ray introduced this study session. He said this project and plan and process stands unique in its true emphasis in seeking out what the citizens have provided from the onset. He said it was an idea that came out of a much larger process in redoing our capital improvement program, which involved thirty-three citizens, to understand the capital needs and challenges. He said staff presented many issues but this whole concern about improving safety came from within the body of the citizens’ committee. In the evaluation criteria that the committee set, this ranked consistently as one of the highest priorities facing the City. He said staff also recognized the fact that from a transportation view, this is one of the most serious problems we have in comparison to any similar roadway in the City, with three to four times as many accidents. It would have been irresponsible of us to just look at sidewalks and not look at the traffic safety issues. He said at the same time the Urban Renewal issue came up with the Triangle and Ralston Fields and the natural connection and connectivity gave us a link. He said Ralston Road connects these two established commercial areas in the City. He said it is clear that there are issues of topography that have to be addressed, we have to look at ways to accommodate the 109 access driveway points, and the act of expanding sidewalks without considering impacts on businesses requires that we take on a more thoughtful process. He said City Council recognized that when they said to move forward with this study. Mr. Ray said the process from that point forward was very citizen driven. He said there were a series of themes that became known as The Great Eight. Mr. Ray introduced Patty Lorence, Traffic Engineer for the City.
“Ms. Lorence said this Plan was guided by citizens and addresses serious problems on Ralston Road. She reviewed the high accident rates from 2006-2009 and talked about the substandard sidewalks. She showed the cross-slope driveways which cause wheelchairs to tip. She said the sales tax revenue has been declining seriously over the last several years. Ms. Lorence referred to problems confirmed by citizens: narrow lanes, difficulty for pedestrians, traffic safety, appearance of buildings and lack of shopping and businesses. Ms. Lorence said various plans were looked at and it was decided that the four-lane compact best addresses the problems which targets traffic flow, sidewalk needs, aesthetics, provides for future redevelopment, is the most flexible, allows up to 4-story buildings and takes less right-of-way while solving problems. She said with this concept, medians can be between 3’ and 10’; sidewalks can be less than 8’; the tree lawn can be a narrower landscape strip; there are slight curves to avoid property impacts; and parking can be provided only where needed. Ms. Lorence said the 14’ shown in the slide on both sides of Ralston Road are the worst case scenario for those areas that would need that much right-of-way.
“She said most importantly, the City will work with property owners one-on-one on how to apply the preferred concept at their property.
“Ms. Lorence explained that this Plan will allow the City to proceed with detailed planning. It will also be an opportunity to work with property owners one-on-one. She said there will be further review and approval by City Council but that this gives us a framework to follow. Ms. Lorence said this is a planning tool and referred to similar types of plans adopted by the City, such as the Parks, Trails, and Open Space Plan, the Gold Line Station Plans, the Land Use Plan and the Long Range Transportation Plan. She said most importantly, this Plan means that 14’ will not be acquired on each side of Ralston Road; the project is not ready to move into construction; the four-lane compact “template” will not be applied strictly; the four-story buildings will not line Ralston Road; and the City will not acquire parcels for redevelopment.
“Ms. Lorence reviewed the work chart for the next phase of the project and said the first step will be a meet and greet with property owners, followed by a survey and mapping; a historic structure survey; land use inventory; one-on-one discussions with property owners; traffic analysis; RTD coordination; utility relocation; roadway layout work; follow-up discussions with property owners; roadway layout revisions; identify early action projects; Ralston Road preliminary and layout and implementation plan; a public meeting and then it will go to City Council.
“Ms. Lorence talked about the citizens’ involvement and how it guided the outcome. She discussed the November through December 2009 interviews, the February 2010 public workshop, the May 2010 public workshop, and the results of the December 2010 on-line survey. Ms. Lorence said 2500 postcards were sent out to the study area prior to the survey, as well as for all of the public workshops.
“In summary, Ms. Lorence said serious problems exist, this Plan addresses those problems and the Plan was guided by public input. She said during the August 2011 comment period, 22 comments were received. Seven were completely in favor of the Plan, five were completely opposed to the Plan and ten had questions or comments on certain features of the Plan, but did not state opposition. Ms. Lorence said five themes emerged from the comments received. The first dealt with the 14’ of right-of-way; the second dealt with the need for on-street parking; the third concerned medians; the fourth wanted sidewalk construction only; and the fifth was a concern about 4-story buildings on Ralston Road.
“The following people spoke:
“The following issues were discussed:
Necessity of moving forward
Need for sidewalks to be done soon
Turning a simple sidewalk plan into a major plan
Limited left turn access
Destroy property rights
Will limit access to businesses
Create traffic flow disruptions
Plans were not made available to the public
Will increase traffic flow
72nd & 80th need to be completed first
Two and Four story buildings
Will not promote support for Olde Town business establishments
Distribution of post cards to study area only
On street parking
Will not increase bus ridership
Should submit large projects such as this to a vote of the citizens
Plan is in conflict with the City’s Comprehensive Plan
Preservation of historical buildings
Historical Society never consulted
Need to know specifically how it will impact each business
Hardly any pedestrian traffic on Ralston
Could destroy the largest Schumacher Oak tree in the state
One-on-one meetings need to happen immediately
Utility wires should be undergrounded
Tall buildings will obstruct residential and business views
Olde Town has died and is a ghost town at night
“Mayor Pro Tem Dyer said that Council tonight wanted to hear comments from the public and also to be able to ask questions of each other and lay out some policy questions. He said if staff is going to come back with any type of proposal, he would like to give direction to staff as to what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. He said he has serious problems with parallel parking on Ralston Road. He said he also does not like the medians. He does want to improve the traffic lanes and the sidewalks. He said he also wants to take out any possibility of a streetcar. He said he would also like to take a look at the raw accident data for the three roads mentioned. He said he does not want to have bikes on Ralston Road.
“Councilmember Williams said he is uncertain that we have a framework at this point. He said he also does not want medians, and he doesn’t feel there are that many significant problems. He said accident rates should be compared to more typical streets and not 72nd and 80th. He said he is sympathetic to the need for the sidewalks and appreciates that we need to move forward on those.
“He said if we can widen Ralston in a few small spots that would be okay but not to harm the businesses. He said he is also opposed to parking on Ralston Road and he wants to drop the trolley system. He said he is also comfortable not having bikes on Ralston Road.
“Councilmember Cook said there will be a light rail station in Olde Town and at Ridge. She said DRCOG predicts growth and one of the drivers of growth is rail. She said just as a highway drives development and employment, so does a rail stop. She said DRCOG predicts a large increase in development and we need to decide what type of a place this should be in the long term. She said Arvada was trying to get ahead of an issue instead of being reactionary. She said Ralston Corridor is also not your usual corridor because it is historic with converted homes, narrow setbacks, many mom and pop businesses and we can’t just proceed in boiler plate fashion.
“She said she would hope that a little money could be allocated for some preliminary engineering so that we could talk to businesses one-on-one, and then make a decision about how Ralston Road should look. She said she agrees now that the streetcar is probably not right for Ralston Road. She said she would like to have something of a phasing or implementation plan. She said she thinks there will be development pressure on both ends of Ralston and she would like to see some development standards in place before that happens.
“Councilmember McGoff said he shares many of the concerns about parallel parking, the bike lanes and the trolley. He said the focus needs to be on pedestrians, but the most important thing to him is that a plan needs to be finished forthwith so that property owners can have some certainty about what he can do with that property in the future.
“Councilmember Zenzinger agreed that the next step is to be able to provide the necessary information to the business owners so that they do have some certainty. She said when the Capital Improvement Committee first started to meet, this was not on any list. It came out of the discussions of the committee and she would like to see it come to fruition. She said she takes great pride in Arvada and thanked everyone who came out this evening.
“Mayor Frie said City Council did not come in tonight with the idea of adopting a plan. They came to listen to the residents and business owners. He said on one hand we hear we can’t give the residents a Plan until an engineering study is done, and an engineering study can’t be done until a Plan is approved. He said it may be that limited left turn lanes won’t work, or some other issue. Mayor Frie said they are asking the City Manager to capture all of these issues and then City Council will decide each one and then communicate with the citizens.
“Councilmember Cook said she thinks we should move forward with at least some engineering and would like the City Manager to add that to the list.”
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