by John Kiljan
Dear CLRC members and friends,
These are the notes of an interview held September 8th and it 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 interviewer was CLRC member T.O. Owens, with follow-up questions and this write up by John Kiljan. The CLRC does not endorse candidates for elected office.
Justin Vicory is a second-generation Arvadan and the owner/operator of a small business in Olde Town, The Wedding Seamstress. He and his co-owner wife and four children live near Arvada West High School. He has been active with Historic Olde Town Arvada (HOTA) and similar metro-area organizations. He is also a graduate of CSU and holds an MBA in Marketing from the University of Colorado. You can read more about Mr Vicory on his website referenced below.
On Ralston Road Pedestrian Safety and the Corridor Plan: I’m not that familiar with the status of the Ralston Road Corridor Plan. It seems like it is constantly changing, so the final product could be very different from what it is now. One of the most obvious things missing on the corridor is a crosswalk for pedestrians. With a fabulous park opening up now in May of 2014, you want to have that as soon as it opens. I imagine there will be a fully signalized intersection at the Pizza Hut or a little farther to the east.
Fully signalized intersections are safer for pedestrians than mid-block crosswalks that are not signalized or are push-button operated like the old Field Street crossing was. I’ve seen this in Olde Town where people have been hit crossing in front of Rheinlander Bakery.
I see that people don’t stop at the light in front of the fire station on 57th Avenue and the fire trucks have to be careful, even though they have a red light for protection when pulling out. And a mother with a stroller is a lot smaller than a big white fire truck. Mid-block signals don’t appeal to me.
Pedestrian safety on Ralston Road is important and the poor sidewalks on the corridor are part of the problem. As to the possibility of putting down temporary sidewalks on Ralston Road — even if they have to be pulled out again in 15 years, or even 10 years later? Yes, I completely support that for the segment from Stenger/Lutz to Olde Town. Poured concrete won’t be cheaper in future years. And, if we plan well now we may not have to redo so much later on, if Ralston Road were to be widened.
On the redevelopment of the Triangle on the north side of Ralston Road: I am concerned about high-density housing nestled up against the central Ralston Road corridor. This is something that needs to be well planned with our developers. I am a big fan of mixed-use development. I do like having people who are going to live in high-density areas having access to nearby shops and recreation areas.
But development is as much a supply and demand issue as a planning issue. Is there going to be enough demand to encourage developers? It looks like AURA may be planning to buy the old Safeway building, but just buying the property doesn’t necessarily bring in a developer. I would have thought the land now designated for Walmart would have easily attracted developers, but it took a long time to find a willing developer.
The City has a lot of influence on what its business partners do. I know that from my Historic Olde Town Arvada experience. That influence forms great foundations for developing Arvada and has given us organizations like HOTA, the Festivals Commission, the Visitor’s Center, Urban Renewal and Apex. Organizations like that are the glue that holds Arvada together.
On the new Ralston Central Park and its plans: I haven’t seen the plans for the new Ralston Central Park on Garrison Street. I know it’s supposed to have a splash pad, which I am excited about because I know how popular the one in Olde Town is. I do worry that the new splash pad at Ralston Central Park may eventually mean the end for the one in the middle of Olde Town. The new one is only two miles away and should be much more fun and use its water more efficiently. Also, the new park’s splash pad will recycle its own water.
I haven’t heard any plans to do away with the Olde Town splash fountain, but if there were a prolonged drought, Denver Water would be deciding whether or not to operate the fountain. My business is right next to it. I love that splash fountain, and I love seeing the kids play there, and I want to keep it.
So I don’t know what the best use will be for that spot, if the Olde Town splash fountain is shut off, but I don’t want to see it being replaced by another development, like a four-story parking structure. So whatever happens to it, it is a matter for buy-in from the community.
Best use is a thought that also comes up with the Kmart in the Triangle. I’ve heard that it might be reduced in size to accommodate another tenant if they can’t keep up the business they’ve got now. But it will cost over $1 million for them to do that. Or will they decide to go the way of the Safeway and leave altogether?
Like I said, I haven’t been able get hold of the latest park construction plans, but I thought there was going to be a sledding hill in the new park. Now I’m hearing that there will not be one. I hear that the City is holding back a small contingency fund for use after the completion of the park to handle contingencies and fix small mistakes that always occur with a project like this. That’s a good idea.
Much of the City’s operations come down to budgeting prudently. I think that the City has done a fairly good job of doing its budgets. The Arvada Center is a good example of that. The return on ticket sales is always uncertain when budgeting for the Center’s productions a year in advance. But the City has always been able to set aside enough to cover any shortfall the Center might suffer at the end of the fiscal year.
On Parking in Olde Town and the bleed over into adjacent neighborhoods: I don’t yet know much about parking along Ralston Road between Olde Town and the Triangle shopping center. My initial thought when I heard about the parallel parking proposal was that it was a horrible idea. Ralston Road is simply not that kind of street.
As far as paid parking in Olde Town, I am actually in favor of that for the simple reason that it is going to be necessary if we are going to grow as a City. I can’t see us not having it eventually. We are already seeing some of the free lots packed with cars during peak periods and it’s going to get worse. Currently, we have two hours of free parking in most of Olde Town. At the start of January, those who run over will be getting tickets from the new Police Service Technicians.
So if you are going to get a ticket after parking for two hours, what happens if you need to be in Olde Town for 2-1/2 or 3 hours — say to get your hair done. That’s not fair. Some businesses need to be able to have their customers park for longer periods. And I hear people getting concerned about that.
So what do we do? If we had paid parking we could drop the two-hour limit, and let people come back and feed the meter for the additional time they need. I know cities often don’t allow that with their meters, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it here. That would let those who really need to park in Olde Town, to park there. And it would make those who want to park there, just so they can take the commuter rail into Denver, find another place to park that doesn’t tie up the parking needed for local retail.
The cost to the customer for doing that doesn’t have to be exorbitant — a dollar or two is plenty. And it doesn’t mean we have to have a meter at each public parking space. There’s available technology where you only need to have one or two kiosks per block.
Aside from paid parking, I think we are still going to run into some issues. For Park Place, I think the City has underestimated the parking demand. This is a real concern of mine. The 1.7 ratio of parking to apartments in that project meets the revised design guidelines for a TOD district. But I’m afraid the real demand will be more than that. We’re not downtown Denver. We are still a suburban city.
Speaking of Park Place, I think the real business beneficiaries will be the Olde Town eateries and bars. For myself, I’m a destination retail business and I’m not expecting a big bump in business from Park Place. I’m in Olde Town because I like Olde Town. I could probably do just as much business, or more, in Wheat Ridge or in Denver. I pull in customers for my business from as much as six or eight hours away from places like Wyoming or Nebraska.
I was looking at the older planning documents for Olde Town, including the Comprehensive Plan, and they talk about creating a district that only allows dining and retail on the first level of a building. But the Comprehensive Plan isn’t always followed. For example, right now we have a giant office building going in where the Art Peddler, just south of La Dolce Vita, is right now. It’s going to be all offices.
On the role of neighborhood associations: I think neighborhood associations are essential to the City. I love what the CLRC has going on with the central Ralston Road communities. The hard part is how do you get to have a community organization that is not just one or two people doing most of the work, and is able to transfer information from the City and pass it out to the people who care about their neighborhoods but don’t want to go out of their way get information?
I look at neighborhood associations a lot like I do our PTA’s. A PTA is only as strong as the school and the people who participate make it. The better the PTA, the better the school.
As to the anti-issue groups, it’s just how our society is. It’s easy to create an organization that has drama to it. I am in favor of “Stop Arvada Walmart (SAW)” being there. It is good to have a group of people that are charged up about an issue. They need to have a voice.
However, I personally, have had an issues with the way SAW has sometimes done things. Some of their members will tell me about their issue and then tell me how disingenuous a person I am if I don’t immediately agree or see another side to it. The group never sat down with me or gave me an opportunity to go into detail or to ask questions so I could get to know them a little better. The true nature of a neighborhood association should be to get to know your representatives on the City Council and to have a cordial relationship where you can discuss what the possibilities are for a neighborhood, and what the overall vision should be.
If Shelley Cook had decided to run again, I would not have run. She’s great at that cooperative approach to her constituents. She loves her community as much as I do and that’s what’s important to me in a Council member.
On traffic on Independence Street: I’m concerned about the growing traffic on Independence as well. I don’t know what the solution to the problem is going to be, but it will have to be dealt with somehow. There are just not that many north-south through corridors in the City. The City has some well-qualified people who are able to work on this issue and who understand it much better than I do. That is who I will be looking to for a solution to dealing with the traffic issues on that corridor.
On local recreational needs: I attended the meeting where the CLRC presented the results of its recreational needs survey. I’m a fan of building for long-term needs, so when looking at the concepts proposed, I support getting as much of a recreational facility as we can get. That could mean setting it as a partnership where an organization like the YMCA runs it for the City. When you build a facility like a recreation center for a community, it needs to represent that community in aesthetics, functionality and in sustainability.
On zoning in and near Olde Town: I think we have enough high-density housing near Olde Town between the water tower developments and what is planned for Park Place. Those activities are going to drive up the property values for the older residential neighborhoods just west of Olde Town. I think the City will do better by not replacing those properties with multi-family units or other developments. I do support doing renovations and up-scaling those properties as improvements-in-place. And I support the types of improvements you see in the Highlands neighborhood in Denver.
As you can tell, I’m not a big fan of a developer buying up a few adjacent homes and then doing a scrape-off to put in multi-family units. These kinds of neighborhoods are what makes Arvada attractive for visitors and residents, and you can do a lot to improve a home in place without destroying its intrinsic value. The renovations to that little home with the lightning rod are a good example of the kinds of improvements I’d like to see in these neighborhoods. And I think there must be something we can do to protect homeowners from the increases in property taxes that go with nearby development.
On neighborhood sustainability: The neighborhoods along 52nd and north of Memorial Park are good examples of slipping neighborhoods that could use some help. The City can, and is doing, a lot in terms of infrastructure improvements, like sidewalk replacements and drainage upgrades. But those kinds of things by themselves don’t seem to be enough. The best solutions should probably be coming from the residents of those neighborhoods themselves.
In summary: Arvada is the best of the suburbs in the Denver metro area. I could move anywhere and still run my business successfully, but we picked Arvada because we saw it as the very best place to live. I want to keep it that way and that’s why I’ve been volunteering my time to help with community activities. I’m part of the advisory board for the visitor’s center. I’ve twice been the vice president of Historic Olde Town Arvada. I spend a lot of time working on civic events and promoting other Olde Town businesses.
I also reach out beyond Arvada to help other metro areas become more like Arvada. I’m the president the metro-area Original Shopping Districts which supports Olde Town-like shopping districts in other areas. Why? Because, in reality, our metro-area cities are seamless. We all interconnect and support each other.
Please vote for Justin Vicory for a better District 3 and for a better Arvada.
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
Mr Vicory’s opponents for the Council District 3 seat are Ted Terranova and John Marriott, both of whom are also local business owners.
The Arvada Chamber of Commerce held a forum with all the candidates running for the District 3 City Council seat on August 30th. You can view that 25-minute discussion by going to this YouTube link:
And then on September 26th the Chamber held a second forum. You may view that at this link:
You can read all of our neighborhood association posts by going to www.RalstonCommunity.org , and you can join us with 800 other followers on Facebook at “CLRC Arvada”.
John Kiljan, CLRC Notes: 303-423-9875 or firstname.lastname@example.org
September 29, 2013
All rights reserved