June 20, 2019
Affordable Apartment Project Generates Opposition
The Kinzie multi-family project proposed for the intersection of Kimbark Avenue and Buckley Drive provides a test for the City Council’s resolve regarding affordable housing. The project would include 44 small for rental units in a three-story building. The developers intend to deed-restrict ten of the units (nearly twice the number of units required by the inclusionary housing ordinance) while the remaining market-rate units would also be affordable at the proposed $700 a month rent.
The project requires staff, not City Council, approval because it is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and wouldn’t require rezoning. However, some neighbors bitterly oppose the development, which they say would increase traffic and parking issues. Councilman Tim Waters requested an additional public meeting for Kinzie after meeting with constituents from his ward last month but didn’t attend although he was scheduled to offer introductory remarks at the meeting.
At that meeting, beleaguered city staff told angry neighbors that the Council would only be required to approve easement vacations for utilities and access. Angry neighbors have been showing up in force at recent Council meetings to voice their concerns. They had another opportunity on June 11 when the vacation ordinance faced its first hearing. They repeated their complaints about the project during the public comment section of the agenda, but the Council passed the ordinance on first reading without any discussion.
Will the Council follow staff’s recommendation and pass the ordinance at the public hearing on June 25? Or will the Council take its last opportunity to revise or control the project, bending to the criticism of the neighbors in spite of the fact that the project meets multiple goals included on the City Council’s work plan?
Council Continues Moratorium Discussion
On July 11 the City Council had a disjointed discussion concerning a proposed development moratorium to allow the City staff to finish drafting a sustainability evaluation system (SES). The moratorium concept had been proposed on May 21 by Councilman Tim Waters, who has pushed for the SES tool since his election last year.
The Council made no formal decision to impose a moratorium on the 11 but unfortunately the idea wasn’t definitively ruled out, either. Representatives from Longmont Area Economic Development and the Longmont Chamber spoke in opposition to a moratorium. Developer Wendell Picket called the concept “a cold bucket of water” and said developers were more than willing to work with the City on the SES system. However, supporters of a moratorium, which some called “a short-term time-out” were also present. Former City Manager Gordon Pedrow argued it was “crap” to suggest a moratorium would destroy the City’s economy.
The Council will discuss the SES at its June 25 meeting. It is possible the Council continue the discussion of the moratorium. At least a few members of Council appear willing to follow Waters’ suggestion and vote in favor of a moratorium on development applications until the SES has been adopted.
Prairie Dog Ordinance Impacts Property Owners
On June 11 Planner Don Burchett asked the City Council to consider amendments to the prairie dog ordinance approved in January. Residents have complained about prairie dogs migrating onto their properties, creating damage as they dig new burrows. In addition, a daycare facility has incurred expense caused by prairie dogs moving from an undeveloped parcel of land onto the daycare’s playground.
As currently written, the ordinance prohibits exterminations and relocations from April until June. In addition, the ordinance includes minimum notification and wait times before permits for exterminations can be issued. It takes time to hire an exterminator and the ordinance requires more time for public notice if the property contains more than 25 prairie dogs, as is the case for the daycare property. The ordinance does not differentiate between developed and undeveloped properties, which has led to the issues described above.
Mayor Brian Bagley expressed frustration with his fellow council members, who were attempting to articulate revisions to the ordinance from the dais. He said the Council had spent a year developing the ordinance and yet there were still negative intended consequences. He argued the staff should simply be directed to come up with fixes for the problems without Council micro-management.
Mayor Pro Tem Polly Christensen argued that the Council was simply offering policy guidance. After a lengthy discussion, Tim Waters moved that staff should be directed to bring back changes that would allow “owners of developed property to do what they need to do.” That motion passed unanimously.