By Joseph Lekarczyk
In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that the author of this article is married to the Mayor.
The Board of Trustees’ (BOT) workshop in the newly painted Council Chambers started at 5:30 p.m. Monday night. There were almost as many candidates (three) for the upcoming BOT election as there were trustees (four) in the room. Trustees Kirk Udovich and Kathy Jacobson were out of town on business, and Trustee Kathy Carroll couldn’t make it until the regularly scheduled 7 p.m. meeting.
By the time she rolled in, the candidates to trstees score was tied 5 to 5. Add to that the thirty or so people in the audience who were there for a transfer of license for a medical marijuana dispensary and a public hearing for the consideration of removal of the five-acre annexation vote, and this had all the ingredients of an exciting meeting. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the sheer length of the workshop/meeting (five and a half hours) dashed any potential for excitement.
The purpose of the workshop was to present the Gateway Corridor Committee’s recommendations for the Gateway Corridor (formerly known as the Commercial Eastern Corridor) Zone to the BOT. In a nutshell, the recommendation entailed requiring all new businesses in all zones of Town to be required to go through a “special use review” instead of the system now in place which has permitted uses and conditional uses (there were a few exceptions if the ownership of said business changed, but the business model stayed essentially the same). To a Trustee, this did not sit well. They felt that this was “too far reaching, not business friendly,” and “contrary to the most recent Comprehensive Plan.” The Trustees also felt that the criteria were “ too subjective and not transparent enough.” In the end, it was decided that more work still needed to be done on the language, and that staff and the BOT would continue to work on their task.
The Board, acting as the Medical Marijuana Licensing Authority, approved the transfer of license from Rocky Mountain Indoor Gardens (dba Bud Depot) to JTR Caregivers, LLC. Mayor Julie Van Domelen inquired of Jeff Kless (the new owner) if he was aware that there was an upcoming voter referendum to ban all medical marijuana businesses in Lyons, and Kless replied that he was aware, and that contingency plans were in place should the ban pass. In other action, the Trustees tentatively approved the first reading of an ordinance for the leasing of Town property (the railroad right of way behind Red Hill Motorcycle WERX) to Craig Englehorn and Matt Rooney, who plan to buy the building and open a distillery (making whiskey, gin, rum, etc.) and tasting room.
An Ordinance to lower the base rate for out of town water users and the Lyons Fire Protection District by eight dollars was continued until the March 19 BOT meeting, and the consent agenda, consisting of the February accounts payable and the February 21 BOT meeting minutes, was passed without much fanfare. There was yet another long discussion about the current status of negotiations between the Town of Lyons and Boulder County over the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA). Most of the Board felt pretty good about how the latest discussions have gone, but Trustee
Ed Bruder was still leery about giving too much control to the County. Van Domelen plans to meet with the County again (hopefully this time with at least one of the Commissioners present) but didn’t appear optimistic that an agreement would be finalized before a new Board is seated in early April. An update was given about the status of the GoCo grant for the proposed Lyons Valley River Park Project, and the Board decided on a “less confusing” version of the referendum question (banning medical marijuana businesses within Lyons) to be put on the ballot. By the way, because there are so many candidates running for office in the April election (12 for BOT, and 1 for Mayor,) Town Clerk Deb Anthony wants all voters to be aware that “the front of the ballot will have the candidates running for office, and the referendum question will be on the back of the ballot.” So everyone remember to TURN THE BALLOT OVER FOR THE REFERENDUM QUESTION! The Trustees also heard a presentation from former Longmont Finance Officer Betty Simpson and Lyons Finance Director Jody McClurkin about a new system for reporting monthly and end of year financial statements to the Board. The goal is to make them less confusing, so the Trustees can better keep an eye on how the projected yearly budget (expenditures and revenues) is going.
That brings us to the 600-pound gorilla in the room: the public hearing about whether or not to alter the current five-acre annexation rule. Currently, any annexation proposal (residential or commercial) of five acres or more must go to a vote of the residents to be approved. Many on the Board, though hesitant to “take away the people’s vote,” feel as if the provision, which apparently is not in wide use throughout Colorado (only a couple of other municipalities have a similar ordinance), is creating more of a “wall against any future economic development” than it is acting as a tool to “ensure desirable growth.” The BOT is considering keeping the five-acre rule in place for residential annexations, but doing away with it for non-residential (i.e. commercial and light industrial) in an effort to bolster the economic base of Lyons and increase sales tax revenues to pay for services the residents have come to expect. But this is a hot button issue, and plenty of people had plenty to say to the Board about “not taking away their right to vote.” Twelve people spoke, and it was 9 to 3 against doing away with the right to vote on five-acre commercial annexations. But, if we’re counting heads, it should be noted that three of the nine who spoke against admitted that they in fact didn’t live within Lyons, and therefore couldn’t vote anyway.
John O’Brien, Chairman of the Lyons Economic Gardening Group and former PCDC member, “stood in support” of the proposal, as did Marty Hine, also past PCDC member, and former self-avowed “most anti-growth advocate in Lyons,” who suggested maybe a compromise was to increase the size of the five-acre rule to ten-acres, thus allowing smaller plots to come in without a vote. On the same side was Colleen Jones, a landowner just east of town, who asked the Board to please consider changing the five-acre rule, just for non-residential. On the other side of the issue, Ric Breeze assured the Board that the intent of the twelve year old ordinance was, “most definitely not just about residential,” and he added that, “no guiding document (the Comp Plan) should take precedent over what the people want, or don’t want.” Richard Cargill added, “people will make the right decision if they have good information.” Roger Flynn assured the Trustees that, “all land use issues were in fact subjective.” Bob Brackenridge asked the Trustees, “why do you fear the vote?” And John Martin queried, “ the MMJ vote was not being taken away, why take away the annexation vote; maybe we want to be like Ward.” Trustee Sandy Banta came down four-square with the “anti” faction, stating, “I would never be in favor of taking away the vote.”
The Mayor admitted that “this is a crappy issue, we’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.” But, she expressed faith that when the Gateway Corridor Zone regulations were formalized, design standards were in place, and the IGA with Boulder County was signed, that with these and all normal safeguards, i.e. PCDC and BOT reviews, public hearings at all phases, etc. that there was little chance that some unwanted development would come in and change the unique qualities of Lyons. Both she and Trustee Ed Bruder pointed out that in the case that something particularly distasteful to the public got approved by a future Board, the citizens still had the right to put the issue to a referendum vote. So nothing was actually lost, only moved to a different point in the process.