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.
John Marriott grew up in Arvada and is a graduate of Pomona High School. He has owned and operated Larson’s Ski and Sport for the last 29 years. He is currently the Chairman of the City’s Board of Adjustments, Chairman for the Wheat Ridge Business District, and Chairman for the Colorado State Trails Committee. He has served on advisory committees for the Gold Line and for building codes in both Arvada and Wheat Ridge. He is restoring an historic house on Grandview Avenue where he and his family reside. You can read more about John Marriott on his website referenced below.
On his background and why he is running: I grew up in Arvada. My folks moved here in 1970 when I was eight years old. I attended Sierra Elementary and Oberon Junior High School and graduated from Pomona High School afterward. While working my way through college I was lucky enough to be able to buy Larson’s Ski & Sport in 1984. I’ve spent the last 30 years running the business located at Kipling and I-70, and I’ve lived near Olde Town Arvada since 1989 — almost 25 years.
I decided to run for City Council because of the big changes I see coming for Arvada and particularly for Olde Town. I think it is critically important that we get the details of these changes before they happen. I also think it is important that we protect our neighborhoods as much as possible from the negative parts of these changes while at the same time embracing the benefits of these changes.
On pedestrian safety on Ralston Road: My family and I live only two blocks from Ralston Road and I’m pretty familiar with its safety issues. I also participated in a City-sponsored citizens’ advisory group for the Ralston Road Corridor Study. At the end of that study, I asked the City Council not to adopt the initial plan for the corridor that was recommended by Staff. It wasn’t right for Arvada. I found it to be too multi-faceted and it would take too long to implement. Pedestrian safety along Ralston Road is a big issue for local residents. But my approach would be to do the easy stuff first, such as adding sidewalks on Ralston Road where they currently don’t exist. And, particularly in places where the City already owns the property, I would first advocate widening the sidewalks we already have that are too narrow to be useable. And only then would I advocate doing the rest of the corridor, but without turning it into a very large project.
Now, I’ll agree that there is some need for a larger Ralston Road corridor project at some point in the future between Olde Town and the Triangle shopping center. But I don’t think we want to wait ten or twelve years to improve pedestrian safety on that part of the road. Now is the time to do what we can do now. I don’t know what the cost would be to just take care of the sidewalk portion, but it must be only a fraction of what the originally proposed $15 million project was going to be. We ought to start immediately. The City certainly doesn’t have the money needed to do the entire project, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything, when there are many sections where we can do what’s needed now.
I’m in favor of putting down sidewalks now — even if it means we might have to tear them out some years in the future as a part of a larger project. My kids are 6 and 8 years old and we don’t allow them to walk along Ralston Road unsupervised. But the day is coming when they will be walking that road. A sidewalk that has to be pulled up seven, ten or 15 years later is a small cost compared to the danger to our children and other pedestrians who would like to walk along Ralston Road. It is not wise to sit and do nothing until we can rebuild the whole corridor.
On future plans for the Triangle: I’ve looked at AURA’s concept plans for the north side of Ralston Road. I am definitely for some multi-use components for the north side’s development. The parts that I like the most are the new “Main Street” running from the new Ralston Central Park entrance through the center to where Ralston Road turns north.
I also like the way the plan tries to make good use of the newly re-channelized creek running along the north side. Considering what a dry state Colorado is, the rebuilt creek channel is a unique feature for the area that should have either commercial or residential components facing it. And I think for the neighborhoods on the other side of the creek, either of those options would be better than looking at the back side of a bland strip mall like they do now.
I want to see a development that’s an interesting development and that has multi-use components to it. I don’t see the need for just high-density housing on the north side. It needs to remain a commercial area, but having a housing component with that is fine too — as long as it’s not exclusively housing.
I’d also look favorably on a municipal element for the area. I don’t know whether that would be a Justice Center or some other use. But I think some municipal use would help make it a more well-rounded development.
On parking in Olde Town and bleed-over into the adjacent neighborhoods and along Ralston Road: I think the growing parking demand in Olde Town is inevitable. We have a problem. But it’s a good problem to have. It means that local businesses are getting more traffic, and that benefits all of us. The real issue is how to deal with that new demand. I think the City’s role should be to provide additional parking when and where possible, whether that means encouraging private development or partnering with those private developers. That could take the form of a multi-level parking structure or commercial developments that have parking on the ground level and businesses located above them.
I also think that the City’s participation in some kind of parking structure built in partnership with RTD would be a useful component in solving Olde Town’s parking dilemma.
For the residential neighborhoods just west of Olde Town (and I live in one of those), we are probably going to see some parking demand migrate out to the nearest neighborhoods. Some of that may be unavoidable, but I think we can deal with it. It will require businesses to have their employees park in appropriate spots and not just on one of the adjacent neighborhood streets. We need to the leave parking in Olde Town for the Olde Town customers.
Along Ralston Road itself, it’s a tougher issue because there are fewer opportunities for innovative solutions. Again, I think a partnership with the local businesses along the corridor is the best solution rather than trying to use law enforcement. It’s not appropriate to have employees parking in front of residences even though they have a legal right to do so.
On neighborhood associations: I view neighborhood associations (NA’s) as being important to the vitality of the City and improving local government. I favor expanding their role in the City. NA’s have a tremendous ability to communicate with our citizens. I’m hoping that some of citizens groups that have sprung up as a result of development in the Triangle, and for developments in other areas of the City, stay together and continue to stay involved with local government. A lack of citizen involvement is a weakness in how we govern today.
Having said that, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot that the City can do on its own to make that happen. The initiative for that has to come from within the neighborhood association itself. As you in the CLRC well know, the organization happened because you guys were willing to take on the job of doing the heavy lifting. As a citizen I really appreciate that because it is such a good way to communicate with and stay involved in City issues. I do think the City should do everything it can do to foster these groups, but what can be done just by the City itself is a little limited. I don’t see any downsides to that kind of encouragement at all.
And yes, just so everyone knows, I am, and have been, a part of the informal ten-member steering committee that helps direct the activities of the Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community neighborhood association.
On increasing traffic volumes on Independence Street: I own a house on Independence Street. It’s a house we rent out and it’s already more difficult to rent out than any other house I own because of the traffic on Independence Street. So I’d hate to see more traffic on Independence Street and I think there are more things we can do about it. We may not know enough to work up a solution until the transit station opens up in 2016. Part of the problem is that the main parking for the new transit station will be on the south side of the tracks and has to be accessed from the Target side of the station.
The other problem is that on the north side of the transit station there is going to be a hug-and-go or kiss-and-go pull-over lane. I think that’s going to encourage traffic that comes from the north and northwest to go down either Independence or Miller Streets, pull up and drop people off and then continue out the other direction. So the problem is not just Independence, but Miller and Parfet Streets are also under threat from the transit station.
So the things that really need to be considered are some exits or off ramps from Kipling Parkway to Ridge Road as well as ramps back onto Kipling Parkway. It’s also important to do anything we can to encourage traffic to stay on the main roads and off of neighborhoods streets. Building new ramps would cost a lot of money, and we need to see how traffic develops before spending that kind of money up front.
I can also see the need for some kind of traffic calming to reduce the amount of traffic that is going up Independence past Ridge Road and then turning west to get to the Gold Line station. The City’s traffic division is the best agency to come up with options here. The goal shouldn’t be to take the existing traffic off Independence but to eliminate as much of the cut-through traffic as possible.
On the City’s set-aside funding for a recreational center in the Triangle: I’m a big supporter of bringing recreation back to the Triangle. This is important! When I was a kid and ten years old, I rode my bicycle from 76th and Kipling to recreate all summer long using the Fisher Pool. I think it is an absolute tragedy that the children that now live in this same area have been left with such limited access to local recreational opportunities.
As a City Council member I would advocate using part the monies generated by the redevelopment of the Triangle area to make a recreation center a practical option for the area. That may come in the form of support for a commercial developer or some other urban renewal option. I also think that while the Apex Parks and Recreation District has not yet embraced the idea, they need to figure into the picture as well, since that is their area of expertise. I think a recreation center should be in the forefront of all our plans for the redevelopment of the Triangle and the new Ralston Central Park and we need to do everything we can to try to make that happen.
On rezoning west of Olde Town: I do think it’s the job of the City to protect those historic neighborhoods. I also think as Olde Town continues to prosper there will be development pressures towards the west that may affect those eclectic neighborhoods. Those pressures may come in the form of small offices and the like, but as far as reconstruction to create multi-family housing in that area, I’m completely against that. That said, I’m not against multi-family housing in Olde Town. I just don’t think it needs to be next to the west side of Olde Town. There are ample opportunities for multi-family housing south and east of Wadsworth Bypass as well as in Olde Town. I think it is the City’s job to protect those residential neighborhoods west of Olde Town and zoning is the way to do that.
On the sustainability of older neighborhoods: As a landlord and a citizen activist, this is an area of deep concern for me.
I don’t think the City should be buying up rundown properties to clean up rundown neighborhoods. Although that doesn’t mean we should turn down Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) grants to do that when the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department makes those monies available to us. But I think there are some better options, particularly for the busy thoroughfares that run through those neighborhoods and have become densely packed with rental properties — and usually rental properties that haven’t always been kept in the best of shape.
In my experience the problem often lies with “accidental landlords”. They are landlords who didn’t intend to be landlords, but ended up inheriting a house or purchased one thinking they wanted to be in the rental property business, but found they were not as good at managing properties as they thought they would be.
The City has placed a number of restrictive hurdles in front of landlords who want to maintain their properties. Currently, in the City of Arvada, a landlord cannot get a building permit to modify or improve any apartment they own. A private homeowner can pull a permit to improve their house, but a landlord may not. Landlords must instead hire a contractor licensed by the City to pull that permit and do the work for them.
I can’t think of a faster way to help landlords fix up rundown properties and improve older neighborhoods than by removing this unneeded regulatory hurdle.
I know it’s hard to believe but this rule affects all of us and it certainly affects the quality of older neighborhoods. As a homeowner you can get a building permit to do anything. You can get a permit to do electrical work, to do plumbing work, mechanical work, an electrical service change, put up a new roof, a pop-top on a house — anything that requires a permit. Now you do have to get the work inspected by the City, just like a contractor would do.
But the minute you don’t actually live on your own property you can’t get a permit to do anything. If you want to build a fence, you cannot get a permit. If you want to put in new windows, you cannot get a permit. New doors, new cabinets in a kitchen — all of these require a permit and you have to first hire a licensed contractor to pull the permit and do the work for you.
So this leads to a situation where one of two things can happen: either the landlord does the work without a permit, or he decides he can’t afford to hire a contractor and leaves the property unimproved. Both are bad for Arvada and neighborhoods that need help the most. In the first case, the un-permitted work goes un-inspected and is below standards and possibly unsafe. In the second case it’s worse. The landlord thinks, “this kitchen could really use a remodel, but I can’t afford to pay a contractor to do the work, so I’m just not going to do any improvements.” Meanwhile, the property continues to decline, the quality of the renters continues to decline, as do the surrounding neighborhoods.
The problem is getting worse. Nationally, we’ve pulled back in the percentage of homes owned by those living in them. The only way that can happen is homes that used to be owner-occupied are now occupied by renters. The first step Arvada can take to sustain older neighborhoods is regulatory reform that allows landlords to repair their own properties. The restrictions that prohibit that are not a part of the International Building Code the City has adopted. It is just a City policy and it’s a policy that can be changed.
The second thing we could do to bring up older neighborhoods is to provide incentives to fix the worst problems. That could be done either City-wide or by targeting certain neighborhoods. It could target either owner-occupied or rental properties. The incentives could take the form of saying, “if you get a building permit in this area in this year, we’re only going to charge you half price.” There are many ways to do this, but we risk little by trying to provide cost-reduction incentives to people to do improvements they wouldn’t want to do otherwise.
And the third thing the City could do is to sponsor an AEDA-type program for residences. AEDA (the Arvada Economic Development Association) provides grants and low-cost loans to businesses to spiff up their store fronts and signage to improve the looks of businesses along our major arterials. Arvada could set up a similar companion program for residences instead of businesses. That program could also take many forms, targeting certain times and certain areas. It could be limited to a series of small dollar amount, somewhere between $100 and $2000 to help homeowners spruce up the exteriors of their properties.
That’s cheap compared to the cost of coming into a neighborhood and fixing all the curb and gutter at the City’s expense. Giving out a building permit for half price and giving an elderly homeowner a $500 grant to repaint a house is a lot cheaper and accomplishes a lot more. The City should be in the business of incentivising home improvements, as opposed to doing home improvements for its residents.
Neighborhoods that are in decline are often in decline for different reasons. Should the City be involved in trying to bring these neighborhoods up? Absolutely! Obviously, money is an issue, but there is a thing that the City can do that costs nothing. And that’s regulatory reform — as a landlord I can tell you that will make a big difference.
On final thoughts: There are a lot of changes coming to Arvada, especially those related to the coming of the Gold Line commuter rail. There are going to be a lot of details that your City Council members really need to pay attention to. Important details such as where to build an Olde Town parking structure, how big to make it, what it should look like, how to finance it, how will traffic flow in and out of it. We need to get those details right and we need to get them right the first time. The same applies to other coming developments in Olde Town, Arvada Ridge and in the Triangle shopping centers. This is our once in every 50 or 60 years opportunity to get it right for the future generations that will live in Arvada.
I think I am the best person to represent you on the Arvada City Council as we make these changes.
But there is another reason that voters should vote for me: I’m fiscally conservative. Arvada has done a much better job of managing its finances and keeping its user fees in check than other metro cities have. As a small business owner who operates with a small retail profit margin, I have the experience needed to make certain that the City always has the financial resources it needs to take care of its primary services — things like curb and gutter replacements, parks and recreation, roadway maintenance, sanding and plowing, and police protection.
Please vote for John Marriott when you get your ballot next month. You will also be voting for a better Arvada.
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
John Marriott has a re-election website at
and he can be reached at 720-273-3912 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Mr Marriott’s opponents for the Council District 3 seat are Justin Vicory and Ted Terranova, who 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 email@example.com
September 29, 2013
All rights reserved
[formatting error corrected 11 October 2013]