Let Confusion Reign

There was a proposed agreement to simplify the Hwy 119 corridor with adequate access points and signal spacing. It had nothing to do with urban sprawl, or as Longmont City Councilman Sean McCoy calls it “green field sprawl”. Watch the video below and see how it’s twisted and convoluted, if you can follow.

If you can make it through the stammering, you’re probably asking how does signal spacing and access points encourage “green field sprawl” exactly? And the Weld County Commissioners are in the business of growing a city (Longmont) beyond what Mr. McCoy believes it can handle? He threw out the “exceptional benefit” a couple of times, taking lessons from Ms. Levison? Again though, this isn’t a land grab, so what’s the point with this term? Then he brings up the never incorporated town of Freedom “in some peoples understanding” as he put it, what some people, like two?
And mentioning Freedom, an idea hatched to put the brakes on the Union Lifebridge development, he gives yet another indirect backhand to this church and its members.

Then he said we need to spend more time on urban renewal. What’s the largest urban renewal project that’s been in the news for the last few months? Twin Peaks Mall, a project he has continually voted against. So there’s some talking out of both sides of the mouth there.

But he’s not alone on this city council when it comes to applying a double standard when it comes to Lifebridge and the Mall.
…to be continued.

You’re Building What Where?

There was a front page article in the Daily Times-Call on Sunday June 29, 2008 entitled ” Landowners in Limbo” which tells the story about land and business owners around the area where the FasTracks station is supposed to be built.

I watched with interest the June 3, 2008 Longmont City Council when they talked about this subject. When I saw the map on the screen, it sure looked like the station’s parking lot was located where Budget Home Center currently sits. If you were like me, as you watched this, you probably assumed that some deal had already been discussed and that the land owners were aware of this plan.

Apparently, according to this article, they weren’t.

At about the 55 minute mark of the June 3rd meeting video, you can see the concepts for this area. This information was in a council packet at the time of this meeting, but is no longer part of the PDF on the city’s site. The agenda itself can be found at http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/city_council/agendas/2008/060308.htm

Councilman Brian Hansen did ask about the smaller property owners, to which the answer was that they could pool together and be part of the larger development, but ” they haven’t explored in any detail” this idea – and it sounds like they may not have shared this idea with the land owners either.

I’ve frequented Budget Home Center quite a bit over the years, and figured that the competition from Home Depot, Lowes, and Ace Hardware was just too much for them, and they might fade away for the purposes of this light rail station. According to Budget’s owner Butch Vernon, that is not the case. Besides not hearing anything from RTD, he’s hoping they will relocate his business or compensate him so he can relocate it himself.

Unfortunately, a spokesperson for RTD said they do use eminent domain and will resort to condemnation if no agreement can be made with the land owner. In other words, they’ll just take it if they want it.

Is that what the voters in Longmont really voted for? Light rail at any cost, regardless of the human and business debris it leaves behind? All you anti-big box store (like Home Depot) types who defend smaller local businesses (like Budget Home Center), where are you on this one? (I hear crickets, and hypocrites)

What is with this trend of trampling all over property owners rights in Longmont? Some examples: the attempt to take Emery Street to the detriment of surrounding property owners. The fiasco with Lifebridge and other property owners near Union Reservoir, stalling into oblivion plans to work their own property. George Marxmiller and the city’s virtual taking of some of his property and denial of release of his liability, making him risk everything. The property owners of the Twin Peaks Mall area, and the hoops they’re being required to jump through. And now this.

And who’s making all this noise and doing all this meddling? Little tyrants running around with probably little to not much property of their own, since they probably can’t afford to live in their own little nirvana to the southwest? So if they’re going to be miserable settling for Longmont, the rest of us have to share in their misery? The same types who want to mold Longmont into something other than what it is, and not something better. Some were even elected!

This is what you get when you just let bureaucrats, and their fawning citizen apologists, run roughshod unchecked and not held accountable. Not to worry, what are the odds of this happening to, or affecting, you? Probably higher than you think.

LA011: Butterball and Marxmiller resolutions, Twin Peaks Mall, and Uninformed Firestone

LA-w-ChrisJune 29, 2008 Show

Fuzz by Lords Of Fuzz

SkypeCast Info

Butterball vs. Clyde Ioerger Conclusion
Longmont vs. George Marxmiller Conclusion Continue reading…

Mall-itics Pt. 5

Continuing the coverage of the Mall Redevelopment Meeting of June 16th, I had to comment on one of previous speakers comments and of course the council politics part of it. I didn’t identify myself or promote my blog/podcast, just speaking as a citizen in this unprepared speech.

I just wanted to address the point that he made, that can the citizens, can the community, can they handle this? Can they afford this? And this is what I want everybody to tell their councilmembers: The city and the community can’t afford not to do this. They can’t afford for the mall to be the way it is right now. They can’t afford for it to get worse. And in 2 or 3 years, when they ( Panattoni) still own it, and everybody starts screaming that this has become a nightmare, fiasco, boarded up facility, you can tell those councilmembers that aren’t attending these meetings..and if I’m not wrong these meetings have been on (different nights of the week). There’s been three meetings, one of those three non-voting people have come to one meeting ( Levison), two of them haven’t come to any ( McCoy & Hansen), so I don’t want to hear the excuse that they want to listen, they want to learn. No, they’re just flat out against it. This thing is bigger than downtown, it’s bigger than light rail ( FastTracks), it’s bigger than the Lifebridge development, it’s bigger than most anything else going on in this city. It’s important, so all of you need to tell all your councilmembers exactly how you feel.”

The next speaker chimed in, and this wasn’t mentioned at all in the Times-Call article, and I’m sure the speaker would like her councilman, Brian Hansen, to be aware of her comments, as she said he’s basically ignoring her. She said she voted for Brian Hansen and she lives near him, and that he has his own thinking, but doesn’t poll his district to see what they want, and that he won’t listen to her. After the meeting, someone else asked how in the world he got elected in the first place. Hey, I’m just repeating what I heard.

The group got a little hostile towards a member of the consulting group when he was showing a design similar to 29th St in Boulder. The question was asked ” aren’t we all in unanimous agreement this isn’t what we want? Why are you showing this to us?” At first I thought it was a little reverse psychology in play; get the crowd up in a lather about adamantly not wanting anything resembling what you’re pitching to them. Then slowly turn them your way as you show some nice concept drawings of what they do want, an updated indoor mall. But apparently I was giving this guy too much credit, this did not occur, and the long slide show of other developments around the country was anticlimactic.

I just didn’t get the feeling this portion added much to the discussion. I think what people want, and I heard this from people on the inside, is that people, including councilmembers, just want to see a plan of what WE might get HERE, not so much what others are doing. To this, Panattoni’s Will Damrath did show a concept overhead rendering of a theater and alterations to the current mall. But he also said whatever they show us now, could change tomorrow. As important as community involvement is, tenant needs and demands rule. Unfortunately, we have some citizens and members of council that think they can micromanage the design, architecture, and building of a mall. Talk about ” inexperienced” (see Pt.2).

The Times Call story received a big response, about 39 comments in 3 days. Most are in favor of doing something with the mall, and there was a scattering of apologists for the councilmembers who vote against anything to do with the mall. I’d like to know, if not this plan, then what is their plan for the mall area? Panattoni has been endlessly answering the same questions, but I haven’t heard the councilmembers against this answer this one. I get that they a) don’t think it was blighted, and b) they don’t want a public/private partnership with this corporation. So what’s your idea? And don’t bring up Downtown or FastTracks. Tell us your plan for this area. Got one?

Mall-itics Pt. 2

I’m sure the final paragraph of Pt. 1 got the attention, and ire, of some. So why not use it as a starting pointfor Pt. 2.

During the June 10th Longmont City Council meeting, and this goes to the previous “truly ignorant comments” reference I made, Councilmember Sean McCoy said about Twin Peaks Mall owner and redeveloper Panattoniwe have a willing owner, but we have a very inexperienced owner.” Sorry if that was one long sentence, but the inclusion of “ignorant”, “inexperienced”, and Sean McCoy was key. I know I’ve been hard on this guy with his style of speech, but this was a prepared and thought out slam against this corporation. And it was a fairly misinformed comment, as I’ll show below.

Regardless of how ignorant this comment makes one of our representatives appear, the bigger problem is that he’s willing to throw up against the wall this misinformation hoping it might stick. Of course, there will be those that will lap up this nonsense as the red meat they occasionally require, free thinkers that they are, NOT. But it just lowers the bar even further of what is acceptable behavior in and out of council meetings. Whatever helps the cause, right?

Perhaps this new thing called the Internet is still unknown in some councilmembers households, but a quick check of www.panattoni.com shows that they’ve done a little more than just Harvest Junction here in Longmont, a project in itself that isn’t all that small. And a fairly recent project at that, or did Mr. McCoy miss that? I could see how Lowes and Best Buy on our newest boulevard could be overlooked.

But here are some other Retail projects of Panattoni: Piemonte at Ontario Center, Ontario, CA – Oak Valley Shopping Center, Beaumont, CA – and Raley’s Shopping Center, Elk Grove, CA. They did these Office projects too: Gold Pointe Corporate Center, Sacramento, CA – Cedar Ridge Business Park, Southlake, TX – Beltway 8 Corporate Center, Houston, TX – and the CalSTRS (that’s California State Teachers Retirement System) Headquarters. Flex projects include: Cornelius Pass Corporate Center, Hillsboro, OR – Broomfield Corporate Center, Broomfield, CO – and Laguna West Business Center, Elk Grove, CA. And there’s Industrial projects, too: Plainfield Business Park, Indianapolis, IN – iPort 12, Carteret, NJ – and Rainier Park of Industry, Sumner, WA.

I could see how they could be viewed as “inexperienced”.

On their partial client list, here are some names Mr. McCoy probably has never heard of: Ace Hardware, ADT, Allstate Insurance, Amazon.Com, American Red Cross, AutoZone, Ball Aerospace, Bank of America, Blue Shield, DeVry University, ETrade, Fidelity Title, Hartford Insurance, ITT Technical Institute, MITRE Corporation, Raytheon, Snap-On Tools, Wachovia Bank, and the list goes on and on.

So how does Mr. McCoy’s experience and clients compare? Normally I wouldn’t ask this, but he opened this door with his ridiculous comment. It took all of a few minutes of internet surfing to find that information. If Mr. McCoy can’t put much serious thought and effort into this elected position, maybe he should just stick to pointless pontificating and abstain from all serious discussions or voting.

LA008: DNC ’08, grocery tax repeal, Twin Peaks Mall, and the Transition movement

LA-w-Chris

June 1, 2008 Show
Fuzz by Lords Of Fuzz

Shout Outs
Jake at Border To Border Radio Podcast
www.bordertoborderradio.com
Jack at Lithuanian Out Loud Podcast
www.lithuanian.libsyn.com Continue reading…

LA006: The bands we play, Twin Peaks Mall, Firestone, and anti-LifeBridge

LA-w-ChrisMay 18, 2008 Show

1st segment
Fuzz by Lords of Fuzz

Recap of first 5 Podcast Shows
Discussed all bands/artists played Continue reading…

Green Built Mall

I’m working on a bigger story about Longmont Power’s solar rebate offer ( Times-Call story here) and the May 12th Twin Peaks Mall Area Public Meeting ( Times-Call story here) , but wanted to do a quick take on a combination of these two stories.

I’ve written in the past about my research into alternative energy, specifically solar for water heating and electricity generation here and here. And some of my opinions of the Twin Peaks Mall and its future here and here. Much more on all of that later, and a more in depth report of the above mentioned meeting with some quotes from citizens as well.

But I did want to address one comment about building the mall ‘green’. I’m all for conservation and I’ve been walking that walk (another link here) for some time now. But I’m also aware of bottom lines. So, knowing Panattoni is a fairly regular reader of my pearls of wisdom, I asked them about this specifically.

For you that aren’t aware, Longmont Power does a fairly decent job of delivering electricity at a somewhat reasonable rate, comparatively speaking. Don’t mistake me for a cheerleader for them; I’m not happy that they don’t offer the same incentives and rebates that Xcel offers to people outside the City of Longmont, which is substantial. But from a business point of view, since Longmont makes electricity reasonable, it just doesn’t pay to shell out the considerable expense for solar panels on top of the mall.

I sort of knew that answer before I asked, but asked anyway. They pointed out there are parts of the nation, the Northeast for example, that offer to erect panels galore for basically nothing to help ease some of the demand put on the grid. That’s a no brainer. But in Longmont’s case, it’s tougher to justify. And the ” feel good” factor, well, doesn’t really factor in much.

So, until the price point and efficiency of solar panels improves, and the incentives get a little sweeter (for businesses and consumers), it’s pretty slim that part of the mall will be green. Even with the price of oil as it stands today, although from what I’ve been told we’re mostly coal powered here anyway.

Hesitate To Emulate

I know, and you know, there is a contingent here in Longmont that wants to be Boulder Jr. Some of these seem to feel Boulder can do no wrong and that they walk on water. We also have a councilmember who works for the Boulder Valley School District who tells us we shouldn’t speak ill (” smack?”) of our neighbor to the southwest. But if some of us are going to look up to this city and their ways, we must also acknowledge their mistakes, learn from them, and not repeat them.

Previously, I mentioned the Twin Peaks Mall, and the path that it is on, which is similar in some ways to what happened in Boulder. Are we going to follow that example and see a slow bleed, years of dormancy, and a resurrection that was long overdue? Or are we going to learn from Boulder’s mistakes and avoid losing years of sales tax revenue, along with an eyesore in a high visibility area?

Another somewhat similar scenario is developing on Longmont’s eastern boundary. The “no growth” or “slow growth” seems to be more of a Castle Longmont mentality. Instead of a moat of water and alligators, or burning oil, this wished-for version is untouched, undeveloped, open space. Boulder County even tried to take land from Weld County as open space (paid with Boulder County taxpayer money, but not technically IN Boulder County) to stop development and continue this hoped-for buffer.

This concept costs a lot of money. This is prime real estate on a heavily traveled highway between I-25 and Longmont. It also takes a lot of influence on Weld County, which Boulder and Longmont don’t seem to have. Longmont turned away a large development ( Lifebridge), preceded by public trashing of the present and future Super Walmarts, and the message was sent that Longmont is somewhat closed for business and has gone protectionist and isolationist.

The message was heard, and Firestone’s (or Mead’s or anyone else in Weld County) reaction is the consequence. ” You turn them away in a prime area? We’ll be more than happy to fill the void“, was basically the response. A “void” is exactly what some in Longmont wanted, at the expense of landowners in Weld County who sit on solid gold along Hwy 119.

Mission accomplished, Longmont could easily now be cut-off and isolated, but probably not in the way some had wished. How is this similar to Boulder? Think Broomfield. Think FlatIron Crossing.

There is much to like about Boulder, but it isn’t infallible in its decisions and policy making. Try as some may to emulate Boulder, there is a huge difference that shouldn’t be overlooked: Longmont can’t afford to make the same above mistakes Boulder made; we don’t have the finances, influence, or political capital to blunder on their level.

I’m hoping that in 6-7 years we aren’t looking at a boarded up, fenced-in mall, and booming financial activity just OUTSIDE our sales tax collecting grasp. All sectors of the city will suffer from the choices that bring us to that. The time to realize it and act is NOW. Those on council or committees (past and present) may be term-limited out by then, but some of us will never let people forget who brought us to that point.

Time to choose your legacy.

Longmont And Its Future

In the previous story I talked about the Twin Peaks Mall and its shaky future. In this I’ll widen out the topic to include possible changes we could see in Longmont‘s short and long term future. These are not necessarily things I wish for, just the way I see things progressing based on trends both here and in other cities.

Six years ago, if I told you that just beyond McDonalds and the car dealerships near Hwy 287 and KenPratt Blvd would be a whole new multi-lane boulevard with stores and restaurants galore, where currently empty land sat, you probably wouldn’t have believed it, right? Around the same time if I told you that there would be a Super Walmart on Hwy 287 and Hwy 66, that seems to always have a fairly full parking lot, you probably wouldn’t believe that either.

Well, Harvest Junction and the beginnings of commercial development along Hwy 66 are here, and I expect more of the same, if Longmont wants to thrive and survive. Those two locations sit on two freeway exits from I-25, one a gateway to Boulder, the other a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. And both are gateways to Longmont.

The area east of Hover, where the mall and the older Walmart stand, is a different story. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it blighted, but it’s seen better days. I suspect that Walmart will close, especially when the new Super Walmart is built on the east side of town, and the mall will continue to languish. I just hope the same mistake Boulder made isn’t repeated here with a fenced in and boarded up shopping center in a high visibility area.

What to do with that land? I heard and liked the idea of a new theater, that’s a start. How about something more than a movie theater, how about a performing arts or possible concert venue? Make that area the entertainment center of the city, maybe of the region? The loss of shopping won’t be much of a loss with all of the stores right across the street on Hover, and may even lessen some of the competition on some of the businesses on Main Street.

Longmont needs a nice movie theater and is losing money to those cities around us who have wised up and put in state-of-the-art theaters with stadium seating. While I’m not sure Longmont could support something along the lines of the Budweiser or Broomfield Event Centers, I think the citizens could and would support a new performing arts complex. And I think non-citizens would come here for movies, plays, and concerts given the right circumstances.