Parking, Composting and Opportunity Zones Hot Topics at Longmont Council Open Forum
A variety of issues were raised during the Longmont City Council open forum meeting Tuesday, but one that came up time and time again was parking.
“Sensible growth requires facing this problem head on,” said Rick Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald said that while he hopes that one day alternative modes of transportation are used more often, short-term action needs to be taken as the city grows.
He proposed a permit program for areas that are “hot spots” for parking. He lives on Emery Street, which often gets crowded as people going to the downtown area look for parking, and sometimes residents can’t park near their homes.
Fitzgerald also brought up the idea of a parking structure. He mentioned a once-discussed parking garage on the east side of Main Street and said it should be re-evaluated.
“I don’t see a real solution until a big garage is built,” he said. “Please don’t ignore this problem.”
Sharon O’Leary also said parking is a problem, and noted that industrial parking — larger trucks and cherry pickers, for example — is becoming a problem.
O’Leary also asked about the status of building a swimming pool and ice rink facility in Longmont. Mayor Brian Bagley said the city and St. Vrain Valley School District have had an initial meeting about the district’s “participation” in the proposed recreational facility.
However, the school district is not planning to put money directly toward a bond to build the facility. Rather, Bagley said it would agree to lease the space for a percentage of time per year for a certain number of years to help the city pay the bond.
Some of the council members were not excited about that idea.
“You’re talking about a huge, huge commitment,” said Councilwoman Joan Peck. “I want to make sure the school (district) steps up in a big way.”
Councilman Tim Waters said he thinks the community deserves the facility, but there is an “opportunity cost” for whoever puts the issue on the ballot.
“This did not go on a school district bond proposal for that very reason, as I understand,” Waters said, adding that he is concerned the issue could interfere with any city plans for other bond proposals.
Two other residents spoke about composting . Karen Phillips, who lives in a condominium, said she was excited to hear about a citywide composting system, before she heard it was for single-family units only. She suggested an ordinance that would require new multi-family complexes and businesses to offer composting services.
Mary Headley spoke afterward and criticized the council’s choice to use an opt-in system, where residents choose to receive composting pickup, rather than an opt-out system, where residents have to ask to not receive the services.
Longmont has a 17 percent participation rate in its composting program, “significantly lagging behind the rest of the county in waste diversion,” Headley said.
“Everyone always said they don’t want to be like Boulder, and that’s fine with me,” Headley said. “But how about trying to be more like Loveland? It is a leader in composting with more than 40 percent of residents opting in.”
Mayor Pro Tem Polly Christensen said it is time to re-examine the composting program and see what options the city has for expanding it and possibly using a different system.
Bob Allen, director of operations for the Department of Public Works & Natural Resources, said a consultant told the city that, with the opt-in model, it should slowly get to 25 percent participation. With an opt-out model, the city would decrease to 25 percent participation over time.
Councilwoman Marcia Martin suggested a bundle pricing system, saying her waste costs have decreased since adding composting because she now requires a small trash can and fewer trash pickups. Allen said a bundling program is probably the next step.
Three people presented an idea for skyTran, a futuristic public transportation model that would get private funding and run on solar power. It could turn two-hour commutes into 20 minute commutes, according to a promotional video played at the meeting. Paul Williamson said the idea isn’t different from railroads, which private companies built across the country.
Chris Sydoriak brought up the issue of opportunity zones, given that one contains part of the St. Vrain Greenway. She read a letter to the editor published in the Daily Camera and advised council to proceed “with caution concerning developers and investors.” Sydoriak also urged council to keep the public involved and let them provide input on proposals.
Some council members clarified parts of the opportunity zone program, which they said wasn’t accurately portrayed in the letter Sydoriak referenced, and said they are working to make the program work for everyone. Martin said they plan to meet with advisors to see how the tax benefits could reach small to midsize investors. Bagley said they plan to keep the community involved as the program moves forward.
Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, firstname.lastname@example.org