Building Permit Issued for the Grove Despite Lawsuit; Citizens Protest

Grove protestBy Leah Burkett

Littleton residents were shocked to see construction beginning on the Grove Site at 2100 W Littleton Blvd earlier this month.  Despite an ongoing lawsuit to appeal the projects approval, the City of Littleton issued a building permit to Zocalo, who wasted no time beginning to build.

Frustrated citizens took to the streets for a good old-fashioned picket line in front of the Grove site.   Undeterred by the cold and wet weather, protesters gathered for the morning and afternoon rush hours on both Monday May 16th and Tuesday the 17th.  Tuesday afternoon’s protest ended with a march down to city council chambers for their May 17th meeting.

The City Council meeting was much longer than usual due to a public hearing on retail marijuana, but the troupers who stayed finally got the chance to talk to Council about the Grove around 11:30 pm.  The time investment was well worth the effort as the City Council finally agreed to have a discussion about The Grove and it’s approval. 

Councilman Doug Clark moved to withdraw the City’s approval of its development plan and related building permits.  Jerry Valdes seconded the motion, but before a vote was called, Mayor Beckman asked about the legal implications.  In response, the City attorney asked the council to table their vote on the motion to June 7th so that she could advise them on the risks of doing so prior to the vote.  Council then voted unanimously to revisit the issue on June 7th.

Until Advocates for Littleton know for sure what the Council will or will not do, the lawsuit will continue.

A trial is currently scheduled for September 1; however, a Motion for Summary Judgment (MSJ) was recently filed by the plaintiff, meaning the Judge has been asked to make a decision without the unnecessary time and expense of a trial. All replies to the MSJ must be wrapped up by June 1, at which time the motion and related documents will be forwarded to the Judge for review.  Attorneys at Foster Graham expect that a decision would be made on the MSJ no later than mid-July.  By that time, the matter may be decided or it will be definite that a trial will occur on September 1.  

The best possible outcome for citizens involved in the lawsuit would be for the City to either order a hearing at the Board of Adjustment or revoke their approval of the Grove. If the Council orders an appeal hearing or revokes approval of the Grove, the lawsuit could be dropped.

The City of Littleton is in quite a predicament.  Based on their approval, the developer has already made significant investment toward building The Grove.  Each day that Zocalo continues construction, the City’s potential liability increases.  The majority of council must become convinced to get on the right side of the issue.  There is little doubt that City would incur a huge liability to the developer, Zocalo.  However, it is the right thing to do.

It’s clear to anyone who familarizes themselves with City Code and the Grove Site Plan that its approval was made improperly and in violation of multiple zoning ordinances. The Council should hold the City Management accountable.

——-

By the way, the protest was covered by the media both days. Check out the reports by Fox news on Monday and CBS news on Tuesday:

Fox:  http://kdvr.com/2016/05/16/neighbors-sue-to-try-to-halt-development-project-in-littleton/

CBS: http://denver.cbslocal.com/2016/05/17/the-grove-lawsuit-historic-littleton/

Advertisements

Did You Know? Lifting the Ban on Recreational Marijuana Sales In Littleton?

MJCity Council considered a motion lifting the ban on recreational marijuana in Littleton that was enacted in July of 2014.

Currently Littleton has four medical marijuana shops.   If the proposed ordinance is passed by council the medical marijuana shops would have the option to apply for a retail (recreational) marijuana store license allowing them to sell both medical and recreational marijuana or they would be able to apply for a retail (recreational) marijuana store license and relinquish their license to sell medical marijuana.

The issue of selling both medical and recreational marijuana poses a series of problems – none that can’t be overcome but nonetheless problems that need to be considered before lifting the ban.

For instance, the medical marijuana requires the patrons to be 18 years of age and the recreational patrons have to be 21 years of age.  To have a dual operation marijuana shops would need separate entrances.  Council would have to decide whether or not they would allow for a common foyer for both types of patrons.

The city has determined that any marijuana shop has to be located within certain distances from schools, daycare, public parks, correctional facilities, half-way houses and from each other but that was not determined until after the current four shops were approved.   The proposed ordinance to lift the ban would allow those four sites, even if within the prescribed buffer zones, would be allowed to have a dual license.

The marijuana industry had three requests for changes to the proposed ordinance.   One dealt with the transferability of the license, second dealt with the quantity sold changing it from per day to per transaction, and thirdly, the packaging requirements had to be consistent with state requirements.

As with all legislation there is most likely a fiscal impact and with marijuana sales the fiscal impact can be great.  If Littleton lifts the ban on recreational marijuana sales the city’s sales tax revenue projections would increase by $231,000 if two stores converted,  $346,500 if three stores converted and  $462,000 if all four current shops in Littleton converted to both medical and recreational sales of marijuana.

The public hearing was almost three hours long consisting of a parade of owners and employees of medical marijuana shops in Littleton supporting the lifting of the ban.  All four shops in Littleton are running a respectable business and employing citizens with a living wage.  Although a tally was not taken there were a significant number of citizens that opposed the lifting of the ban from doctors and professionals that worked with addiction patients to concerned citizens about what this may bring to our city and children that far out weighed the revenue it may bring.

When it came time to vote Debbie Brinkman moved to postpone the motion indefinitely (a motion that had never been made and should have been made prior to the public hearing).  Her motion failed on a 3/3 vote with Doug Clark, Jerry Valdes and Bruce Beckman voting no.  (Yes votes were from Debbie Brinkman, Peggy Cole and Phil Cernanec.)

Doug Clark then made the motion to approve the Ordinance.  Jerry Valdes seconded. Clark, a non-drinker and non-smoker, was in favor of passing because citizens of Littleton supported past marijuana measures.  He believed he needed to reflect the desires of the citizens.  Peggy Cole said she could not support the ordinance based on the number of conversations she had had with citizens that were opposed.  Debbie Brinkman stated that she is adamantly opposed to marijuana.  Phil Cernanec said he would not say anything new or tremendously insightful.  He talked to the “shadow government” in his district and they said No.  Jerry Valdes said if the ban is not lifted now it will come back but right now Littleton is not ready for retail  (recreational) marijuana.  Bruce Beckman did not support the proposed ordinance.  Marijuana possession is still a federal crime but until a change takes place he was not comfortable lifting the ban.

The lifting of the ban on recreational marijuana was not passed on a 1/5 vote with Doug Clark in support.  (Bill Hopping was absent.)  Rest assured that this issue is not dead.  It will be back in front of the citizens of Littleton most likely in the form of a ballot question for the voters to decide.  The big question is – who will write the question?  The marijuana industry or the city council?

Cool Gardening Ideas: Weeding out fact or fiction

By Betty Harris

Recently a local gardener learned a technique of a safe and beneficial means of killing weeds and with significantly less costs to her pocket book and the environment. This involves smothering the plant matter with layers of cardboard covered with mulch.  Depending on where this is done one can cover with leaf mulch (which one should wet to keep from blowing off) or wood chips.   This should be done during the growing season.  This method has the additional effect of being food for worms which also improves soil without the addition of lots of compost later.  When the grass or weeds are dead – about 3-4 months – one can plant without tilling by cutting a hole in the cardboard where you want to plant a bush or tree and planting, then put the mulch back around the new plant.

The above mentioned local gardener visited a local nursery and decided to discuss this technique with a  worker and asked if this should be done in the winter or in the growing season.  She was told that the cardboard technique would NOT work and that RoundUp should be used instead.  She proceeded to give the gardener instructions on how to use the product while telling her also that the CSU extension recommends the use of this herbicide.

Since the gardener in question is also a bee keeper she wasn’t about to use this herbicide to kill weeds or grass in her yard so she told the clerk that she wasn’t ready to do this yet and left without buying any product.   She is relatively new to CO so was not that familiar with the CSU extension but went online and found that CSU doesn’t recommend RoundUp but rather provides info on line about how to kill weeds and grass without using it.

The gardener’s mail the next day brought a mailer from Heifer International and looking through the pamphlet she discovered that they use the same method at their facilities and teach this to people they are trying to help raise food around the world.

Should the gardener take this information and go back to the nursery and educate the worker?  She thinks so.  Maybe she should also provide the information to the owner or manager of this place.

Meanwhile speaking of glyphosate, it has recently been reported that Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were tested last month for levels of this chemical in their urine. Forty-eight MEPs from 13 different EU countries volunteered for the urine tests. Accordingly all showed this chemical in their urine. “On average, the MEPs had 1.7 micrograms/liter of glyphosate in their urine, 17 times higher than the European drinking water norm (0.1 microgram/litre). This means that everyone we tested was way above the limit for residues of pesticides in drinking water. “   These tests showed also which countries appear to have the higher concentrations in the urine of participants tested. Read more information here – http://ecowatch.com/2016/05/12/mep-glyphosate-urine-test/

Since this kind of results were reported for humans our beekeeper – gardener is likely to be justified in worrying about the small bees in her hives. Her love of country, a part of the same globe, drives her to care for all its creatures including bees. She extends this love and concern to fellow humans too.

Want to learn more about the chemical free means of murdering your lawn and growing more food for humans, insects and animals?  Contact the author below to find the next scheduled free class.

Betty@bettyaharris.com

Follow the Rules Please! – Legislative Procedures

Every two years, after newly elected council members are seated, Littleton city council reviews and updates their legislative procedures. Robert’s Rules of Order forms the basis of their legislative procedures to ensure that the meeting runs fairly and orderly with decorum allowing all members the same rights and privileges as all others. The rules exist to ensure the public that business is transacted properly and appropriately.
At the 17 May 2016 council meeting Debbie Brinkman, once again, operated outside the council’s own legislative rules, which went unnoticed. Ms. Brinkman made a motion to postpone indefinitely the ordinance on lifting the ban on recreational marijuana. Her motion was made prior to the main motion ever being moved or seconded.
A motion to postpone should not be made until the main motion is made and seconded. How can a motion be postponed if it was never offered and seconded?
Council’s legislative rules, rules they voted to conduct business by, states:“Motion to Table Indefinitely. This motion postpones consideration of the main motion (emphasis added) in such a way that the issue being discussed may be taken up at an unspecified, later date when a majority of the members present vote to “call it from the table.” This motion is not debatable and requires a majority vote of the members present for passage.”
Council has an obligation to the public to conduct their business according to their own legislative procedures.  The citizens have a right to expect that they will follow their own legislative procedures.  Not doing so can lead to severe consequences if challenged in court.  Council may be “right” in their decision but if they violate their process for decision-making it won’t matter how right they might be – their decision could be overturned for not following their own rules.

Follow the Rules Please! – Nextdoor Neighbor

   The community website, Nextdoor.com, has policies in place that protect the privacy of posts made by members. Members are neighbors who join the site through their named neighborhood. Government agency staff can post to neighborhoods in their service area, but they can only see their own posts and replies to their posts. They are not be able to see any other content on a neighborhood website. The Nextdoor website is private for the use by the neighbor members.
Recently, an agency member from the City of Littleton, under the Rumor Guard heading, posted a response to a member’s neighborhood post and called her by name. The agency post was also fed to the city’s website. The neighbor reached out to Nextdoor with an inquiry about a possible breach of the site’s privacy policy.
The agency member located content from a Nextdoor account, which was not visible to Nextdoor agencies. “That in and of itself presents a problem”, responded Nextdoor. After that, he quoted and named a neighbor member in a post, which is also a violation of Nextdoor guidelines. Nextdoor further advised the City that Nextdoor posts cannot  be posted to the City website. Nextdoor explained to the agency member that this is unacceptable, and that the post needed to be edited or they would pull it down. Neighbors are asked to contact Nextdoor if they see anything like this again.

Building Permit Issued for The Grove Despite Lawsuit

Last week, the City of Littleton issued a building permit to Zocalo to construct the Grove. Despite the fact that the lawsuit against the City and Zocalo is still pending, Zocalo has already begun to proceed with construction. The site has been staked out and dirt is being moved for foundation work. This arrogant advancement by Zocalo is at their own risk. If our lawsuit succeeds, Zocalo’s work may go to waste.
The Arapahoe County Court docket is very long; this lawsuit will take some time to be finalized. A trial date has yet to be established, and we may still try to fast-forward the decision with a motion for summary judgment. Should you wish to look it up, the case number is 2015CV32363.

Littleton Street Quality Rated Bad But Few Repairs in Sight

Street Chart
Littleton Community Scorecard 2015-16, p. 6

By Dave Schwan

Over just the past few years various city councils have approved quite a few high density apartment developments: Platte Canyon & Mineral, County Line near Santa Fe, Broadway & Dry Creek and more. These developments have added significant new residents and their vehicles being driven on city streets. Traffic and street maintenance have been top concerns for Littleton residents for years and yet council has been more concerned with increasing compensation, adding employees and increasing the frequency of the Littleton Report than maintaining the streets and dealing with the ever worsening traffic.

In the 2014 Littleton Resident Survey, respondents indicated that traffic and street maintenance were the among the most pressing issues facing the city and had become even greater issues since the 2012 survey.

The great need for street maintenance is supported by the 2015-16 Littleton Community Scorecard.   That report indicated that Littleton street pavement is among the worst in the state. Littleton ranked 4th lowest compared with 22 other selected cities in Colorado.  See above chart.

The Pavement Condition Report Index (PCI) is the industry standard for grading street quality. According to the report the goal should be from 70 to 75 PCI. Littleton’s streets rated 66, compared with Greenwood Village rated 78 & Centennial rated 75.

Yet, Littleton spends only about $1.4 million annually on street maintenance.  It would require $3.15 million annually to reach the industry standard and address a growing maintenance backlog. 41% of Littleton’s streets rated “fair” to “very poor.  That means that these roadways may require progressively heavier or thicker reconstruction which will be substantially more expensive.

Oddly, the city of Littleton has increased annual funding for street maintenance by just $400,000

  Instead the city is spending $6,610,090 on the following:

  • $1,687,000 to increase the city’s long-term total compensation plan
  • $50,000 to hire an assistant city attorney in addition to the current full-time attorney
  • $145,000 to double the number issues of the Littleton Report promotes how well city government is doing, and to develop an online newspaper
  • $465,000 for even more downtown “Wayfinding Signage”
  • $102,560 to hire a programmer/analyst for the Information Services Department
  • $126,810 to hire a system/database administrator for the Information Services Department
  • $68,140 to increase Human Resources staff
  • $2,305,000 to replace of existing portable and mobile radios for the police, fire and public works departments
  • $647,080 to add seven employees to staff Medic 10
  • $1,013,500 to fund fire projects

Reviewing the 2015 city general fund expenditures even parks & recreation rates greater spending than street maintenance.

Capture
Littleton Community Scorecard 2014-15

You might ask your council members, “What about our streets?” Go to littletongov.org for council member contact information.