By Joseph Lekarczyk
In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that the author of this article is married to the Mayor.
It was a daunting agenda for the Board of Trustees (BOT) Tuesday night. It began with a ninety-minute workshop with the Sustainable Futures Commission’s presentation on net metering, and a review of the Planning and Community Development Commission’s recommendations for regulations to create a site plan review process for the proposed Commercial Eastern Corridor (CEC). Then it was on to the three public hearings and second readings on new ordinances (two for the proposed CEC and one for an electric rate increase). Add to that three first readings for new ordinances (one to create
regulations for a site plan review process for the aforementioned CEC, one concerning allocations of water from the Colorado Big Thompson water project, and the third concerning the moratorium on “recreational” marijuana related businesses), plus a resolution to amend the Technical Energy Audit for the wastewater treatment plant upgrade with Honeywell Engineering, and another resolution to put the wheels in motion for the “process” of the formation of a “proposed” library district, and you have the making of a long, dense evening. It was the kind of night that can turn a functioning brain into over-cooked oatmeal.
Lyons Substation Supervisor Sgt. Kevin Parker gave his last report to the Board. He noted that, “As usual things have been quiet in Lyons.” He will be turning the reins over to Sgt. Nick Goldburger at the end of this month, and the Town Staff will be holding a farewell party for Parker on Friday, February 1, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., in Town Hall to say good-bye and thank-you for his five years of service to the community.
Administrator Victoria Simonsen hopes the public will stop by for the soiree. Light refreshments will be served.
During the public hearings on the proposed CEC zone ordinances, several people spoke either against the proposal or for the need for caution. Lois Hickman asked the Board to, “Think more deeply, more broadly.” She expressed concern for the natural beauty of the area, mentioned the Arapaho Indians who were here before us, and opined that, “This is not a path to sustainability, it is a path to ugliness.” Roger Flynn cautioned the Trustees that “use by right” was a tool for the developer, while “use by special review” was protection for the citizenry. He asked that language be reinserted into the ordinance making all formulaic restaurants and bars (i.e. franchises, but not “Mom & Pops) be subject to use by special review. He further speculated that, “Hooters would be a use by right” situation. Likewise, Ric Breeze noted that he had been to most of the public meetings and workshops concerning this issue, and felt that “each time we go around, the safety net gets diluted. It should be what we want, not what the developer wants.” Breeze felt that use by special review gives the control to the Town. In parting, he noted, “I’ve never seen a town bend over backwards so much to do what the developers want!”
Former Mayor Nick Angelo indicated that he felt the ordinance “does not betray the original intent of economic development, nor does it betray the small town character.” An out of breath John O’Brien explained that he had just rushed over from a Lyons Economic Gardening Group meeting to “rise in support of the two ordinances.”
When the Trustees expressed their opinions, Trustee Connie Sullivan stated that, “We have the opportunity now to be more restrictive.” She added, “Regulations should be about what we want,” and she suggested that one way could be to require franchise restaurants be part of a “mixed use” project, and not just a “stand alone” restaurant. Trustee Kirk Udovich felt that bringing the franchise or formula business restrictions back into the discussion would be like “going back to square one.” He said that he was comfortable with the “drive through window” provision, which would trigger the use by special review, and it was suggested that amending the square foot trigger might be a reasonable compromise. Mayor Julie Van Domelen cautioned that the Board be aware of the rights and restrictions that are now in place with the current commercial Boulder County zoning. Trustee Sandy Banta pointed out that, “Most of the bigger lots were zoned municipal or agriculture.” Both she and Sullivan saw the need for the new ordinance, but expressed concern that, “even if we have a use by special review, we can’t eliminate things we don’t want.” In the end, after adding a “greater than four thousand square foot” use by special review trigger for bars and restaurants, the ordinance was passed with a 7 – 0 vote.
The second CEC ordinance and public hearing adopting the use by special review process, went a little quicker. O’Brien suggested that at the first meeting between a developer and staff, that a “best guess” timeline and cost of fees be given to the developer or investor so they could more accurately gauge the viability of a project. Chuck Keim agreed with O’Brien, and added that “unpredictability” was the bane of all developers, and thought that anything that would alleviate that would be beneficial. When it came to review criteria, Flynn felt that the phrase “overtake the character” was setting the bar too high, and suggested changing it to “doesn’t detract” or “adversely impact.” Udovich voiced his support for O’Brien’s suggestion for the timeline and cost estimates, and agreed with Flynn’s concerns about the “overtake” phrase. Simonsen felt that “adversely impact” might require the Town to prove that a particular proposed project would in fact have “negative economic impacts,” so in the end, the word “detract” was agreed upon, and this ordinance too, was passed with a 7 – 0 vote.
The first reading of an ordinance to create regulations for a site plan review of the CEC zone was continued until the February 4 BOT meeting. But the “housekeeping” ordinance about the Colorado Big Thompson water allocation and the amendment to the “recreational” marijuana businesses first reading passed unanimously. The marijuana amendment just added a “marijuana club” proviso to the already-in-place moratorium.
No one spoke during the public hearing for the electric rate increase. Simonsen reminded the Board that the last time a rate increase was proposed (2008) the then BOT turned it down because of the impending national fiscal crisis. Since then, the rate the Town pays for electricity has gone up every year, and as a result, the electric fund has been operating at a negative cash flow, and eating into the fund balance reserves. Simonsen said that the rate increase will be complicated and variable because the price the Town pays for electricity varies from summer season (high) to winter season (low), and individual use patterns will differ from one customer to the next. She said there would be a three-dollar per month increase in the “base rate,” and estimated that the “average residential user” would see about a nine-dollar per month increase in their use fees. The Mayor asked if the summer rates and winter rates could just be “averaged” so that the fluctuations wouldn’t be so drastic. She speculated that come summer, when users were expecting a fifteen percent increase, and their bills reflected a thirty percent increase that Town Hall and Trustees would be bombarded with irate phone calls. Trustee Dan Greenberg sympathized with the Mayor’s position, but felt that it was important for the public to understand exactly what the seasonal cost for electricity was, and this might lead to a more concerted effort to conserve and cut down usage. The Mayor reminded the Board and the public that this rate increase is just the first step (and increase) toward getting the electric fund back on a stable financial footing.
The Board then passed a resolution authorizing an amendment to the contract with Honeywell Engineering for the wastewater treatment plant upgrade, and a resolution for the formation of an Intergovernmental Agreement of a proposed library district between the Town of Lyons and Boulder and Larimer Counties and to set certain deadlines for its formation. The exact boundaries of the district will be finalized by June 15, and the issue of possible funding will be put to the voters on the November ballot.
The consent agenda, consisting of the January 7 BOT meeting minutes, the January accounts payable, and a Town of Lyons Arbor Day proclamation (April 19) was passed without much fanfare. The Staff and Trustees gave very abbreviated reports, and the meeting was adjourned at approximately 10:48 p.m.