by John Kiljan
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.
Don Allard is an incumbent Arvada City Council member. He has lived in Arvada for 30 years. He was a City Manager for Columbia, Missouri for 12 years. He was also employed as Arvada’s Deputy City Manager from 1983 to 1987 before retiring. He’s served on the Apex Park and Recreation District Board, the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority Board, the Metro Denver Water Reclamation District, the Colorado Municipal League, and the Board of the Colorado Association of Special Districts. He has been involved with four of Arvada’s Charter Review Committees. He’s one of two representatives on the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (toll road). He is a graduate of the University of Missouri, and he has a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of Kansas.
On pedestrian safety and sidewalks on central Ralston Road: The reason there are not usable sidewalks on Ralston Road is because the City doesn’t have a plan yet. The neighborhoods are going to have to wait longer. A consultant is studying this issue and has interviewed the property owners along the road. There are a number of ‘problem’ properties along the road — perhaps as many as 20 of them. They either have a parking problem, or an entrance problem, or a setback problem, depending upon what we do. Some of them may even have an “illegal use” problem.
You’ve probably attended our workshops. We’ve had meeting after meeting about this and the proposals have included things like a trolley between Olde Town and the Triangle — which I am against. I’m like you, we could have done a good temporary sidewalk improvement along that road — and I don’t mean a shoddy sidewalk — just like the Capital Improvements Committee (CIP) recommended as a top priority back in 2008. I’ve argued over this as the proposed project cost grew from $10 million, $11 million, and $12 million to do the road.
I’m completely on your side. I voted no against the consultant study. I voted no on the plan to put in a median strip, to plant trees in the median and to build new turn lanes. I guess I’m the lone ranger on the Council on that issue, and I always have been.
On the redevelopment of the Triangle: Assuming the developer goes ahead, the south side of Ralston Road is settled, and I do think the project will be built. On the north side of the road, it’s the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority’s (AURA’s) responsibility with the City and City Council ultimately approving or disapproving the new developments. My philosophy on urban renewal is that you’re going to have to work with the market.
I’ve been active in the City for 30+ years, and I remember when we voted to increase the sales tax to do the first urban renewal project. Then we went almost nowhere for 15 years, and the Buyer’s Club failed after two years. So, regardless of what planners want to do, or I want to do, or the majority of the Council wants to do, or our urban renewal authority wants to do, the government has to work with the developer. And the developer is not going to invest any money on a project or try to bring in a business unless the City has already approved a plan.
So I think we have to tell the developer what we want to do in this area first. And then say to the developer we’ll approve your proposal if it conforms to this plan. And I’m in favor of leaving that up to urban renewal because that’s what they are charged with doing — with final approval by the City Council.
But what sometimes happens even with a project that does meet the plan, we come back and say that the project really ought to be like this, or like that, or maybe like this. And then we sometimes get into a big argument, like we did over the south side of the Triangle over the community gardens. In the meantime we haven’t really talked about the rest of the south side or the north side very much at all. So to me this is just all talk until we get some developer that comes in and says, “Yes, I’m willing to do it.” That’s all there is to it.
On parking in Olde Town and along Ralston Road: Parking along Ralston Road should be a part of that road’s corridor improvement plan. But as you go farther east, and in Olde Town itself, we are already trying to find a site for a parking garage. That is the City’s responsibility, and there is already a plan for one that is going to be built by RTD in cooperation with the City and AURA in time for the Gold Line’s completion and startup.
Getting back to Ralston Road itself and the individual businesses along there, we’ve got to be careful how we do that redesign, so we can still let the businesses have the parking they need. And yes, we might have to buy out some business properties to make sure there is parking for the rest. There’s simply not enough right of way available now. You don’t have to be an engineer or a planner to figure that out. All one has to do is drive down Ralston to see that there are going to be parking problems along there.
There’s only 60 feet of right of way available. You can just fit four lanes into that, but it won’t handle the parking needs, so you are going to have go wider than that. I’d guess that there are at least 15 businesses that are a real problem, and you are going to have to compensate those people if you widen the road.
It’s kind of like one of the other points in your issues memo. We have a policy to keep and preserve historic Olde Town Arvada, but over the past few years we have made decisions to change Olde Town. I don’t know why we did the historical studies. There was even talk of having an historic Ralston Road, because that was one of the original routes through the City. Some of those people in the historical society feel very strongly about that, and the two problems are kind of intermixed with each other.
I think paid parking in Olde Town is a possibility in the future, but I don’t know how that’s going to happen. The parking situation will have to get a bit worse than it is now. Until the Gold Line opens it’s kind of hard to predict. But Olde Town is constantly changing. You can’t stop that. The other day I drove around a lot trying to find a space while trying to get to a lunch meeting. I think I looked for a place for ten minutes before I found one.
On neighborhood associations and HOA’s: I think these associations ought to do exactly what you are doing. But home-owner associations (HOA’s) tend to be associations concerned only with their own neighborhood. They rarely come to Council meetings about another part of town that really affects them — for example, a meeting on Ralston Road. Ralston Road affects the Lake Arbor people as City residents just as much as it affects other City residents. As you probably know, my pet issue is the need to extend and improve arterial streets like 80th Avenue or Indiana. I keep losing this battle, but, in my opinion, transportation is key to a vital community. And yet, in Lake Arbor where I live, the HOA doesn’t talk about arterial streets. They don’t have to. Participation is only voluntary and so they don’t get involved.
But maybe they could be motivated to participate in City government if the City would try, because I don’t think we make much of an effort to do that now. We do keep a list of associations and who to contact, but a lot of times I will ask, “who’s the president of Lake Crest or Meadow Glen or . . .” — I don’t know all of the association names. The response I get back is likely to be something like “well, we’re not sure” or “they changed” or “the president moved”. It behooves the City if we really want to get these organizations involved in City government — the things we are talking about here — to contact those people and say, hey, you ought to come to budget meetings, or to a meeting on the Triangle. Our neighborhood associations don’t do what your neighborhood association is doing.
I agree that there should be more neighborhood associations, and that it takes City outreach to encourage them. But I also have to ask, is that really the government’s job? I don’t think it is. Again, one of my concerns is that governments now are starting to decide — depending upon who gets elected — what is good for you. And I think we are overdoing it. On the other hand, if we keep saying we want public participation, and I think this Council does, I’ll concede that the City has to help. If I couldn’t back the Council on that, I wouldn’t run. I’m going to cooperate with this effort.
It’s also the idea of defining a neighborhood. The City Staff sits down and does it. I’ve brought this up time and time again: How did you decide where to draw that line on the map? The answer I get is, “Well somebody has to decide it.” So, you see the dilemma with the City establishing its own neighborhood associations? I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it. I’m not trying to find a way not to do it.
And I’m talking here about neighborhood associations and HOA’s — not informal get-together groups like Neighborhood Watch and stuff like that. That’s too informal. Your group is informal as well. Do you think your neighborhood association would continue if you had to move next week to take a new job? [editing note: T.O. Owens responded that it would be difficult because the number of activists in the neighborhood is so limited.]
On growing traffic on Independence: The City will have to address it. I don’t know how long you’ve lived here, but that’s been on and off the Council’s agenda for years — whether there should be a traffic signal or not, where it ought to be located, the problem of ice in the wintertime coming down that hill. Of course I’m talking about when the Arvada Plaza was THE activity center in Arvada.
The situation WILL be addressed — mark my words. When the Walmart opens, what to do about that road will be on the Council’s agenda again. There is no question about it. It’s not just the local residents. It’s also people who are passing back and forth through that area. Keep in mind that before we had the Kipling Parkway, it was more of a question and a problem than it is today. But I can assure you this issue will be in front of the Council.
On local recreational facilities: Yes, I am supportive of bringing recreation back to the Triangle area. That’s a work in progress, and I can assure you what is planned now probably will not be the end result. Now, whether we get a pool or not, I just don’t know.
Most cities don’t have two government jurisdictions doing both park and recreation functions. It’s always a coordination and cooperation problem with Apex. I was on the Apex Board when Secrest was being discussed. And we did improve the Secrest Pool and added other features. But you are looking at a residential neighborhood. And if Apex undertakes a major development there, there are going to be the same things happening that happen in almost every neighborhood where we try to build something. Half of the people won’t like it and half of them will.
I agree with you when you say that, if we are going to subsidize recreation, every child deserves to get the same recreation subsidy as the next kid. And I agree that organized team sports are not for every child. Apex’s standard that their facilities must generate enough in fees to support their ongoing operation and maintenance is one of the problems with Secrest. The district is financially limited. It doesn’t have the wherewithal to raise funds like the City can. So, if Apex expands at Secrest, they will be talking about parking problems and maybe the need to buy additional land. I often hear that the City ought to make Apex “do something”. Well, those board members are elected the same as I am, and they are accountable to the voters.
On zoning in neighborhoods near Olde Town: You’re right. The owners of those residential streets adjacent to Olde Town ought to be nervous. There absolutely is a risk that those properties could be bought up, scraped clean, and replaced with multi-family housing. It could happen.
The Council adopted Olde Town design guidelines after about two years of committee activity. Personally, I don’t know whether they are right or wrong. Like the establishment of the historical district boundaries, it has already been done. As to whether they ought to be reviewed, it’s probably a good idea.
But zoning is the only way you are going to protect those properties. I believe in protecting property rights. I believe if you own a piece of property and you comply with our laws, you should be able to do what you want with that property.
That’s government’s job. It passes laws, ordinances, and regulations. If a property owner meets those, I believe the City Council has an obligation to approve the use of the property. But that’s often what we don’t do as a City Council. We tend to look at every development that comes in and start thinking, well, the street ought to be moved over here. Or that house is too high. Or, you don’t have enough ranch-style houses.
That’s not my philosophy. If you meet the law and want to do something with your property, I’m going to agree. Now, if you are infringing on someone else’s property rights, and a neighbor comes in and proves that what you want to do will hurt him, then that is obviously a different story.
That’s one reason we’re reviewing the comprehensive plan right now. With the exception of some agricultural land and county enclaves, almost all of our land is already zoned. But when you elect a person to the City Council — and I know this sounds harsh — you give that person the power to regulate you. Four members of that City Council can rezone your property and affect what happens to it.
On the Comprehensive Plan and water: So far, I haven’t heard any discussion by our Comp Plan consultant about water use — and I haven’t brought it up myself. But this City has a finite amount of water. With the Gross Reservoir expansion, it looks like there is enough water for the current Comp Plan, which tops us out at a population of 135,000 people (versus 106,000 people now). But that assumes that we will develop at our current density level. So, if you allow for more density on the same amount of land, we could run out of water. And more density is what we’ve been talking about with scrape-offs, high-rise buildings and transit-oriented development.
And who knows what effect the Gold Line will have on development? You don’t know how many people will use it. Expectations are for low ridership — perhaps 2%. But, on the other hand, we may have a lot of people who want live near a station so they can take that train to Denver or wherever. We are encouraging high-density development to go with it, but we only have so much water and that new demand may affect our future zoning in the City.
On neighborhood sustainability: Lake Arbor, where I live, is also starting to show some neighborhood decline. There is always the dilemma of how much people who are following the law and are conscientious about taking care of their properties, should help those who are not. I’m not talking about handicapped people or people who are impoverished. I’m talking about helping out the person who has bought five houses and now rents them out and does little to maintain them. And then there are the homeowners who absolutely will not take care of their property.
Some neighborhoods are different. The last time I was on Brooks Drive, I noticed some improvement. The street maintenance and sidewalk maintenance and the replacement work going on next to the park helps too. The other things that help are enforcing our codes. It can be simple things like requiring trees and bushes to be trimmed next to walks. If you are going to encourage people to walk, make it easy.
The City website has a program called Ask Arvada that lets you type up a “service request” to solve a problem or encourages you call if you have question? Council members get a report every two or three months that lists all of the comments, complaints and requests that come into the City. Anybody that calls that number or puts in a request gets it reported to the Council. We get 200 or 300 reports at a time. We know who called, their address, what they were asking about, who it was referred to and how it was resolved. If you don’t like what’s going on and you feel you want to complain, we get that information. And the City Staff gets it too, because they are the ones that give the information to us.
We’ve also set aside funds for a neighborhood revitalization program. We’ve been putting about $50,000 a year into it plus City Staff time.
I am highly in favor of the City’s sidewalk program, and I’m in favor of increasing that. It’s one of those things a city can do, and should do, to improve a neighborhood. And that includes the sidewalks on Ralston Road. We could spend $50,000 or $60,000 on walks and made a big improvement in the walkability of that road.
Final thoughts: The City has several projects in the mill that I am desirous to see finished, and the Council has several important decisions to make. Soon, we’re going to be facing a decision to prohibit or allow marijuana. We’ve got the decision to make about the governance of the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, which I think is going to be very important. I don’t know whether that is going to get contentious or not, but I think it will be. And more and more we need to cooperate with other metro cities on joint programs.
I think the fact that I know the background of most of the issues we are facing is very important. I know why the City made the choices it did in the past, and I know why we turned down opportunities we should have taken advantage of. For example, way back when, if we had added the Exmoor area (near 88th and Wadsworth) to the City we wouldn’t be having some of the problems we have now. And the tax revenues that Arvadans generate when they shop in those areas would now be going to help Arvada instead of other cities.
We are talking about redevelopment within Arvada and providing services to the people who live in our city rather than having them go to other metro cities for their needs.
Please vote for Don Allard for Arvada City Council.
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WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
For more information on Don Allard you can call him at 303-420-6559 or email him at email@example.com . Mr Allard does not have a campaign website or yard signs, so I’ve copied a recent Arvada Press ad in lieu of that (click on the image to enlarge it). He is accepting campaign donations and those can sent to “Committee to Elect Don Allard” 6407 W. 82nd Drive, Arvada 80003. Be sure to include your name, address, occupation and employer as required by State law.
Mr Allards’s opponent for the open At-Large Council district seat is Ascenzo Di Giacomo.
The Arvada Chamber of Commerce held a forum with both of the candidates running for the At-Large City Council seat on August 30th. You can view that discussion by going to this YouTube link:
And then on September 26th the Chamber held a second forum at City Hall. You may view that at this link:
or for better audio and video go to
starting at the 33 minute mark.
You can read all the interview notes of the candidates running for City Council and all of our other neighborhood association posts by going to www.RalstonCommunity.org . You can also join us with 800 other followers on Facebook at “CLRC Arvada”.
John Kiljan, CLRC Notes: 303-423-9875 or firstname.lastname@example.org
October 12, 2013
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