1) City Council Advances Plan for Large Annexation
2) Your Input Mattered: Street Giveaway Plans on Hold
3) A 2016 Election Endorsement: Ed Perlmutter for Congress
4) Golden Bike Library Arriving in June
1. City Council Advances Large Annexation Plan
At its February 25 meeting, City Council approved a resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement to annex more than 100 acres on the north side of town(the undeveloped land between Mountain Ridge and Golden Gate Canyon Road).
The point of annexation is to make it easier to develop a property by granting access to utilities and services the owners can’t easily access otherwise, so deciding whether to annex a property into the city limits is one of the more important decisions a City Council makes. And because annexation decisions are such a big deal, they deserve vigorous community input before the Council makes any decisions.
Instead, City Council seems to be doing exactly the opposite, formally expressing its support for this annexation without the benefit of a study session discussion, town hall meetings, discussion in the Informer, or taking advantage of our community email newsletters (like Judy Denison’s and mine) to solicit input.
This specific proposal would allow the property owners to build a few more houses clustered next to the existing homes while zoning the rest for agricultural use. That doesn’t sound so bad, except that the proposal includes no guarantees that the rest of the property won’t also get developed later. The owners of the property (the Brunel family) are friends, and when they say they don’t intend to develop the rest of the property I believe them.
The problem is that the annexation is permanent. If the Brunel family ever sells the land, or if some of the family members change their minds, or if new family members who want to sell and develop the land come into the picture, today’s promise of protected open space turns into the very thing I suspect most Golden residents oppose. All it takes is a development-happy City Council – at any point in the future – to change the zoning (and change the comprehensive plan if they feel they need to), and all of that property turns into houses or a strip mall. Much of Golden was agricultural, until it wasn’t.
I encourage City Council to make a serious, energetic effort to engage the community on this proposal, making sure to understand what our vision is for that part of town, and then making sure that if we do annex the property that it actually accomplishes that vision. I know there is some discussion about seeking permanent protection for the property by purchasing the development rights through a conservation easement after the city annexes it. A conservation easement is exactly the right strategy, since it will provide permanent protection, but doing the annexation and then attempting to the conservation easement makes little sense to me; the annexation will likely increase the property value, so the city would be negotiating with less leverage (after the property owner has already been annexed) for a property that would then be more expensive as a result.
Council’s formal support for the annexation is one step of several before the deal happens, and you still have an opportunity to weigh in. If you have any thoughts about Council’s declaration of support for this annexation, or the apparent lack of enthusiasm for soliciting community input, or the idea of requiring a conservation easement as part of the deal in the first place (as opposed to something we hope might happen later), I encourage you to email or call Council and express your views.
Kudos to councilors Saoirse Charis-Graves and Pamela Gould, incidentally. Both supported tabling the resolution to give the community some time to learn about the proposal and weigh in before the Council’s vote.
2. Your Input Mattered: Proposed City Street Giveaway on Hold
In my last newsletter (back in December), I wrote about a proposal for the city to give Arapahoe Street between 13th and 14th to the Calvary Church. Much like the annexation proposal above, street vacations involve the community permanently giving away an asset – one of our streets – to a private entity. I expressed two main concerns: a) maybe we shouldn’t be permanently giving away a street in downtown Golden, and b) that City Council was gearing up to give away this city street with barely any public input.
Well, a bunch of community members weighed in expressing their concerns, and before City Council got to the decision point Calvary Church withdrew its request. Your input – making a fuss about something that looked like it was about to go through without any real discussion – had a real impact on what happened in our community.
This proposal could return, and hopefully if it does City Council will make a more vigorous effort to let folks know it’s happening and to encourage input from community members.
3. A 2016 Election Endorsement: Ed Perlmutter for Congress
The Presidential election is getting all of the political buzz these days, and for good reason, but it’s worth remembering that the November ballot will include a bunch of other offices and issues. One person I’m proud to support early and enthusiastically is Golden’s long-time Congressman Ed Perlmutter.
Ed has always been thoughtful and fair, he’s always been a strong advocate for Golden, and he has always been straightforward with us about where he stands and why. He’s incredibly hard-working, genuinely friendly and accessible, and champions many of my own views and values: supporting public education and public schools, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, ensuring that veterans get the health care they deserve, and campaign finance reform (including reversing Citizens United).
I know there are some Bernie supporters mounting a primary challenge against Ed, and I admire their energy and commitment, but as a Bernie supporter myself I can say without qualification that Ed is the right guy for CD7.
4. Golden Bike Library Arriving in June
From the Department of ‘Hey, That’s Pretty Cool’ comes a new two-year pilot program set to launch in June: the Golden Bicycle Library. Thanks to grant funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation and Denver Regional Council of Governments, Golden residents and visitors will be able to check out one of 40 bikes from the Golden Visitor’s Center. In the second year of the program, the city plans to create an additional bike library location at Golden’s light rail station (at the Jefferson County building).