Featured Business: Solid Grounds Coffee House

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By Carol Fey

Solid Ground Coffee Shop has a purpose—to be a service to the community and a place where people connect.  And it is just that.

It is located at 6505 S. Broadway, behind the McDonald Hyundai auto dealership.

The space is both roomy and cozy. You can snuggle yourself into a leather chair or circle up around a huge wooden table with a group of friends.  Need privacy?  There are even small meeting rooms where you can close the door.  All at once you can see studying, small business meetings, moms with toddlers, an exercise group from the Buck Center having lunch, an adult birthday celebration, and maybe even some artists demonstrating painting technique.

Each month Solid Grounds features a different artist’s work to decorate the walls.  That artist often hosts a reception for the community.  Additionally, Friday evenings provide live music.  The last Friday of each month is open mike night.

Solid Grounds was started nine years ago by the South Fellowship Church for community outreach.  Managed by Melissa Miller, the coffee house is now a proudly successful business with profits going to the church.  Melissa herself has been there 5-1/2 years.   The baristas also tend to stick around.  They are often college students who still work a shift or two a week after graduating.  Melissa believes that both customers and employees keep coming back because they enjoy creating the comfort of community.

 

Did You Know: Council Rethinks Stance on Written Minutes

After abandoning written minutes in 2014, city council voted to return to a written format at their February 21, 2017 meeting. The exact words of the motion:

For the purposes of the charter, this code, or state law, the term minutes shall mean action minutes of the meeting of city council or any of its authorities, boards, or commissions. Action minutes shall mean motions, the vote of any motion, and the name of any citizen speaking under public comment and/or public hearings and their stance.

The video recordings of meetings shall be kept in perpetuity.

To refresh your memory, council voted 4/3 (Beckman, Cole and Valdes dissented) on Mar 18, 2014 to define minutes as a video tape recording, and since that time written minutes, as they existed in the past, were not provided. But council has rethought its position, mostly because Councilman Doug Clark, who was not on the council when the definition of minutes was changed the first time, continues to vote no on the approval of the minutes which is a certification of the video recording of the meeting. He pointed out that the written Journal provided was never reviewed or approved by council and contained errors. He stood fast that council should be accountable for reading and approving the written record of their meeting. We are grateful to Mr. Clark for his steadfastness and we applaud the action of all councilmembers to provide action minutes in a written format.

City of Littleton Board of Appeals Chair Speaks Out

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I am Dave Mitchell and I come before you [Littleton City Council, watch video] as the Chair of the Building Board of Appeals and things have gone astray. There has not been an appeal of a staff decision for years…..years.

This board is an extension of city council and quasi-judicial and yet I have been told that we could not meet without staff present – told by the staff. Staff is in control of this facility and the city attorney so it’s difficult to have a meeting without their cooperation or without their permission???? Here is the current process/status: a contractor or home owner pulls a permit, does some work, and calls for an inspection. If the inspector says no, the permit holder asks for a review and has a discussion with the inspector and the inspectors’ supervisor (city staff) and they say no.

Please look at the photocopy provided. The holder wants to appeal and goes to the city website and what do they see – a way to contact the very staff that has already turned them down. They see an appeals board but good luck contacting any of them.

We have heard of the tail wagging the dog but how about the hairs wagging the tail that’s wagging the dog. By the way, this has gotten to where it is under the previous management and I doubt that the current management would approve.

The contact information for the board should appear first and clearly say that the permit holder has a right to appeal and then the staff information, if at all.

Historic Preservation Board Approves Littleton Mixed Use

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By Michael Price
At its February monthly meeting, the City of Littleton Historical Preservation Board (HPB) approved an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) for a new building to be constructed at 2679 West Main Street, site of the former Valley Feed Store.

The Littleton Planning Commission required the application for this COA during its August, 2016 meeting, where it approved the Planned Development Overlay by a 4-3 vote, with the provision that the property be included in the Main Street Historic District, which encompasses most of the buildings along Main Street from Bega Park to the Melting Pot Restaurant.

The owner and applicant are Jon Benallo and a company called 2679 West Main Street Partners LLC. Architect Josh Rowland of LAI Design Group of Englewood, CO presented the COA application to the Board.

The Planning Commission approved a four story brick and siding mixed use building, which would front on Main Street, contain 41,691 square feet, and have main floor retail and banking operations, second and third floor offices and five penthouse apartments on the fourth floor. The building measured 61 feet at its highest point, 98 feet along the Main Street frontage, and 173 feet deep along its north-south line. The property is zoned B-2. Most of downtown Littleton is zoned Central Area (CA), with different height limitations and other standards than B-2.
The HPB approves COAs utilizing standards and guidelines approved and published by the City and must carefully consider whether or not the Guidelines are being followed to grant a COA to allow remodeling or new construction to occur.

The property owner added it to the Main Street Historic District on December 9, 2016. On December 19, 2016, the application, presented to the HPB, revealed that several variations from the B-2 zoning requirements were recommended by the Community Development staff and approved by the Planning Commission in August, 2016. These included a 50 per cent reduction in the required number of parking spaces, a reduction in the size of each parking space, a reduction to the open space requirement, a reduction in the unobstructed open space along Main Street, a deviation in the third and fourth floor setbacks, as well as a deviation in the parking lot location.

During the December hearing, the HPB heard from Community Development staff, the applicant’s architect, and members of the public, most of whom spoke against the proposed COA approval. The HPB decided to continue the hearing until January when the applicant would resubmit the COA to more closely conform to the standards that the HPB would consider.

On January 18, 2017, the HPB heard the amended COA application. Fifteen citizens testified at the public hearing, 80% opposed. The HPB reviewed four main standards and 53 additional standards of the Littleton Downtown Design Guidelines, finding several areas where the building did not conform. These included a curb cut along Main Street, a side parking lot, a lack of overall relationship with adjacent buildings, the high visibility of the third and fourth floors from a point across the street, that the mass of the building, would dwarf all other buildings along Main Street and did not comply with the City’s Comp plan for downtown. Members of the HPB viewed this building as creating a new skyline for downtown, detracting from the Arapahoe County Courthouse and the Old Mill on Rapp Street as the tallest buildings in the downtown area, as well as minimizing the Carnegie Library (which houses the Melting Pot Restaurant), the western iconic building in downtown.

The HPB voted unanimously to deny the COA application.

On February 22, 2017, the applicant, through Community Development staff and its architect, resubmitted the COA application, with a major change to the proposed project. The revised application called for the removal of the fourth floor apartments, resulting in a three story building which at its highest point would be 44 feet. The applicant added an additional retail bay to the Main Street frontage, resulting in a building length along Main Street of 118 feet. The public hearing involved four citizens, all of whom requested that the HPB deny the revised application, citing a lack of consistency with the Downtown Guidelines, and that the building character and mass still did not fit with the buildings currently along Main Street.

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The HPB again carefully considered each of the four main standards, and reviewed again compliance with the 53 additional standards. A motion to approve the COA passed with a 4-3 vote.

The project now moves to a staff level Site Development Plan (SDP), where the Community Development staff ensures that lighting, landscape and paving standards are followed along the lines of Planning Commission approval. A separate COA will be done at the staff level for building signage.

 

Do You Hate Those Robo Calls?

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We don’t know who likes to stop what they are doing to run and answer the phone only to find out it is a robo call.  And during campaign season you can almost bet that the call is a robo call but what if it is a dear friend that needs your help?  So, you drop what you are doing and run to pick up.  But enough is enough!  There is a way to end those robo calls from interrupting your day and it is fairly simple and it works!  We have experience with Comcast Xfinity but the service is available for other providers.  If you have Comcast for your land line then go to:  http://customer.xfinity.com/help-and-support/phone/nomorobo/If you have another provider then go to http://www.nomorobo.com and see if it will work with your service provider.

We have tried this and it works.  The phone rings and if there is not a second ring it was a robo call that ended!  We have conditioned ourselves now – we don’t even flinch until we hear a second ring.  Try it; life without those annoying robo calls is so much better!

FTR: Why is There Zoning Anyway?

 

By Carol Fey
One purpose of zoning is to give current and prospective property owners assurance of what the property near theirs can be used for.  If you buy a house, you want to know that a junk yard or a 12-story apartment building isn’t going to be built next to your house.

Yet in Littleton, we treat zoning as if it’s an obstacle to a developer’s supposed right to do whatever he wants.  Some members of city council claim again and again, “The developer has the right to develop his property!  He has the right to make money!”

But does that developer, who knows full well the zoning of a property when he buys it, have the right to build something very different from what zoning allows?   Or to go before the Planning Commission and claim that his sidewalk-to-sidewalk development will have no negative impact?

How did we get to the place where the supposed rights of a developer to do whatever he wants is more important than the rights of citizen property owners to expect city government to enforce city code, to protect citizens’ property values and lifestyle?

FTR: LIFT Resignations

At the 10 January 2017 council study session, Bruce Beckman announced that there had been three resignations from the LIFT board and a fourth member that was not seeking another term.  Since that meeting another resignation has been delivered making five vacancies.  At present, the LIFT board has no executive director, no projects, one urban renewal area and two out of seven members.  What happens next?  We are not sure.

The law states: 31-25-104(2)(c) Vacancies other than by reason of expiration of terms shall be filled by the mayor for the unexpired term… The mayor shall file with the clerk a certificate of the appointment or reappointment of any commissioner, and such certificate shall be conclusive evidence of the due and proper appointment of such commissioner.

What we do know is that there will not be another LIFT meeting until there are enough members for a quorum!