Focusing on Westminster’s future, downtown and beyond

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community media
Posted 11/29/22

Ever so slow, the proposed 2040 Comprehensive Land Use Plan as well as the specific density plan for the New Downtown finally will be before the city council at a Dec. 5 study session. Over a year …

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Focusing on Westminster’s future, downtown and beyond

Posted

Ever so slow, the proposed 2040 Comprehensive Land Use Plan as well as the specific density plan for the New Downtown finally will be before the city council at a Dec. 5 study session.

Over a year ago, staff had overhauled the city’s comprehensive land use plan and was ready to present it to what is now the “former city council” (then Mayor Anita Seitz, Council members and former City Manager Don Tripp). Smartly, it was decided to defer to the “new” city council to decide the city’s future.

However, I don’t think anyone dreamed it would take another year to have it further prepped and scheduled for a semi-final review before it is considered for formal adoption. Now, both plans are ready for discussion — one tweaked and one left as is.

The key is availablity of water resources

Here in the West, more so than ever before, water resources play a dominant role in what type and how much new land development is to be allowed in a municipality. Even with its quite limited amount of remaining undeveloped land, Westminster is no different than most Western communities. You best know how much water is available for new development before city council approves a revised land use plan.

This would include the currently allowed volume of additional apartments in the New Downtown specific plan. In other words, don’t make promises and representations you cannot fulfill.

Currently, there appears to be a lack of trust between the city council and staff due to previous actions or inactions. The whole water supply picture is among the influences which produced this lack of trust. Staff has built a plan to allow future development which is probably too dependent on additional water conservation measures being implemented.

To compound the problem, the plan to implement the conservation policies has not even gone to city council yet. Known as “Code Forward”, the conservation measures may or may not be embraced by city council — especially if they are too severe. Why staff has waited all this time to bring “Code Forward” to council for review, comment and ultimate adoption is puzzling, to say the least.

1,500 more apartments could be a reality at the new downtown

Here is some free advice for city council and City Manager Mark Freitag. Remember the 2021 city election and the citizens’ feedback with all of those door knock discussions and comments? People are tired of more and more apartment developments springing up. Certainly, with the planned concentration of them at the New Downtown, citizens said “enough already.”

Well, now is the time when city council can and should do something about these concerns.

Currently, the “Specific Plan” for the New Downtown allows up to an additional 1,500 apartment units beyond the existing 1,300 units. The council has the authority to change the plan which is just another form of zoning and establishing density. Why not cut the number of units at least in half and transition away from the four existing apartment complexes with lower densities?

I know more townhouse development is coming on this site which makes good sense. Why not reduce the unit count and density by allowing more townhouse and paired-homes?

The community does not want nor need more expensive apartment buildings with rents which top out at $3,600 per month. Perhaps one more affordable apartment complex could be allowed. Of the four existing complexes, only one is an affordable development. With the new voter approved state housing fund, there will be opportunities to tap into these fund to finance more affordable units. Regardless, the density and number of apartment complexes needs to be significantly reduced.

“Show me the water”

In Westminster’s situation, it really boils down to “Show me the Water.”

Confirmation of sufficient water resources under the city’s ownership or control is paramount before allowing approval of the proposed 2040 Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The city council should be convinced with hard analytical data that there are adequate water resources to provide for the new plan. Even though the new plan represents a lower number of total residential dwelling units, it still warrants seeing specific numbers and the assumptions used to become satisfied there will not be a water shortage down the line in years to come. That responsibility falls on the city council, the city manager and appropriate staff.

For Westminster staff to be able to say there is sufficient water for the build-out of the city using the 2040 Comprehensive Land Use Plan, they are forced to build in new water conservation policies. A portion of the water conservation is to come from policies imposed on new development. Some may be imposed on us existing water customers.

I state it this way because we have not seen the set of policies yet. They are contained in the “Code Forward” document that has been waiting in the wings.

It really is a simple process. Bring “Code Forward” to a study session in the near future and have city council weigh-in on the recommended policies. Once that is sorted out and the amount of water saved by conservation measures has convinced the city council, then calculate what the city is assured of being able to serve. The re-calculated number of dwelling units will then dictate any needed changes to the proposed 2040 Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Then residents/businesses, current builders, future residents/businesses and future developers along with city council and the city manager can all sleep sound at night!

Kick-off for the Christmas season

It’s time to get in the holiday spirit which kicks-off with the annual Home Town Christmas event. One of Westminster’s long-time traditions is the lighting of Colorado’s tallest living Christmas tree next door to Fire Station No. 1 in Historic Westminster. Come join the festivities on Dec. 2 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at 73rd Avenue and Bradburn Boulevard for the tree lighting, carolers, a visit by Santa, vendors and more. Hosted by the Westminster Historical Society for decades, it will put you in the Christmas spirit.

Can you believe it corner

Let’s start with the Broncos. Can you believe that Nathaniel Hackett is still the head coach? At least someone had the sense to cut running back Melvin Gordon after how many fumbles?

Next, how about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to let Congress take a peek at Mr. Trump’s income tax returns after all these years? The price of the ticket to observe is….priceless!

Then, we all know that grocery prices have gone through the roof, but I didn’t know beef had gotten so pricey. In Lincoln, Nebraska, law enforcement officials announced the theft of several trailers loaded with frozen beef and that they had arrested a group of bad guys who had been operating a multi-million dollar theft ring. Now, we know why ground beef took such a jump in price.

Finally, did you see where Elon Musk has let Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene back on Twitter? Who needs any other entertainment given their antics??

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at bcjayhawk68@gmail.com.

Bill Christopher, downtown Westminster, comp planning

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