BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER On an unusually warm Dec. 23, Greenwood Village Mayor George Lantz, accom...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER Until now, the subject of landscaping maintenance requirements on residen...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER In the spring of 2016, the High Line Canal Conservancy (HLCC), whose miss...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER On October 7, at the request of Council Member Judy Hilton, who was absen...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER There is almost no place left in Greenwood Village where new one-acre sin...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER Greenwood Village Mayor Ron Rakowsky’s 350 closest friends and family gat...
The Greenwood Village City Council passed its 2020 budget on October 7. Total revenue for 2020 is expected to...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER At a public study session last April 15, Jeremy Hanak, GV’s public works...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER On August 19 in their regular public study session, the GV city council h...
CONTRIBUTED BY RALI CARES A unique educational experience designed to educate parents and adults about possibl...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
On an unusually warm Dec. 23, Greenwood Village Mayor George Lantz, accompanied by City Council Member Judy Hilton, welcomed over 200 people to the city’s third annual Festival of Lights celebration. There were snacks for everyone and games and crafts for children who came from all around the area to enjoy the festivities. The Animal Farm Band sang and played music while children danced around.
Also on hand to support their community were Ron Rakowsky, GV Mayor Emeritus, and Brent Neiser, chair of the city’s parks, trails and recreation commission. Neiser also serves as chair of the consumer advisory board of the Consumer Financial Protection Board in Washington, DC.
As he lit the menorah, Rabbi Avraham Mintz explained that the festival of lights symbolizes the light of truth, sharing and coming together as a community here and all over the world.
Until now, the subject of landscaping maintenance requirements on residential lots in Greenwood Village was addressed, but not consistently, in two different places of the city’s municipal code. After residents complained about two houses in GV where landscaping was not installed or maintained properly, the city council decided to create a new law to address neighbors’ concerns. A new city ordinance, passed unanimously on November 4, states that “front, side, and rear yard landscaping shall be installed within six months of completion of exterior elements, including roofing, siding…” but it specifically excludes from that requirement “properties in the R-2.5, R-2.0, and R-1.5 areas of the city.” No one on the city council mentioned the exemption prior to the vote.
In a staff report to the mayor and city council on October 24 from Tonya Haas Davidson, city attorney and Derek Holcomb, AICP, community development director, it says, regarding the exclusion of the larger lots, “What this means is that in the rural areas, one needn’t complete any landscaping if one doesn’t wish to.”
The Villager asked Tom Dougherty, GV district 4 city council member who introduced the ordinance on November 4, why the larger properties were singled out for exclusion from the prescribed requirements for landscaping that apply to all other residential properties in the city.
He said, “While I personally believe that the situation the ordinance is designed to address could arise in any residential area of the city and, therefore, should apply city-wide, some councilmembers felt strongly that this was not a concern in the rural areas of the city.” Dougherty continued, “It is the practice of council to endeavor to reach consensus on issues whenever possible. In the interest of securing some protections for residents faced with such situations (no landscaping on a neighboring property for an unreasonably long time), and given the concerns of some councilmembers, the council decided to limit application of the new ordinance to properties zoned smaller than R-1.5 so as to essentially exclude the rural areas of the City.”
When the subject was discussed in a city council study session on Oct. 7, Dave Bullock, who represents district one, which includes rural GV, said, “I had requested that the rural district be exempted from this….This is strictly a standard residential neighborhood type of deal.” He asked Dougherty, “Why are you trying to impose your standards on our neighborhoods?” The other district one representative, Jerry Presley, did not say anything about the subject at the study session.
In the spring of 2016, the High Line Canal Conservancy (HLCC), whose mission is “to preserve, protect and enhance the 71-mile legacy Canal — in partnership with the public,” initiated a drive called, “71 Miles Supported by 71 Founding Partners”. The campaign included recognizing those who gave or pledged $25,000 by having their family name engraved on one of 71 sandstone mile-markers along the Canal. The plan succeeded. Commitments have been received for all 71 miles, resulting in donations and pledges to the HLCC of $1,775,000 from individuals, families, and groups of neighbors. Those donations are being used to leverage jurisdictional partner funding dedicated to long-term planning and protections for the Canal. The names of founding partners are listed on highlinecanal.org/our-partners.
On August 5, Suzanne Moore, Greenwood Village’s parks, trails, and recreation director, requested and received agreement for GV to participate in funding the cost of directional signs along the Canal. Then she showed the city council a mock-up of the planned mile markers and Councilman Dave Bullock expressed his objection, saying ““For the most part, I think the Conservancy has done a really good job….But I have to say that this move that they’ve done here is quite distressing to me because for an organization whose primary objective was to preserve the unique character, they basically commercialized the High Line Canal.” Council Member Anne Ingebretsen agreed, saying, “At what point does it stop? I don’t think it’s any different from what you see on the sides of buses, advertising….I think this is a mistake…I think that the majority of people who…use that canal…they’re not there to look at commercials. This is just commercializing the High Line Canal.”
Dave Kerber, who, like Ingebretsen, represents GV district 2, said, “Denver Water doesn’t have the right to put them (the mile-marker signs with donor names) up just because they own the land…We are the…sovereign that owns the land…Denver Water owns the area. I don’t know if they’re sovereign, I don’t know if they’re like the Papal States or what….I’m with Anne and Dave (Bullock) that naming rights for our signs just rubs me the wrong way…”
No other members of city council spoke to agree or disagree. In response to a request for clarification from City Council Member Tom Dougherty, GV City Attorney Tonya Haas-Davidson made it clear that the mile-markers with donor names were legal and permissible under the law and GV’s sign code.
We asked Harriet LaMair, executive director of the HLCC, about the three GV city council members’ expressed concerns. LaMair told The Villager,“Greenwood Village residents along with their mayor and council have been tremendous partners in our work to preserve, protect and enhance the High Line Canal. With their support, the nonprofit High Line Canal Conservancy has provided critical leadership through this collaborative and multijurisdictional effort to protect and improve all 71 miles of our regional legacy. As the only organization dedicated solely to the High Line Canal, we are deeply appreciative of the generous philanthropic support that is helping ensure the Canal is one of our region’s premier green spaces for all citizens for generations to come. Over 3,500 local citizens attended public meetings and their number one request was for improved and consistent signage along all 71 miles. We look forward to continuing our work with Greenwood Village, Denver Water and the hundreds of thousands of private citizens who cherish the Canal!”
None of the other 11 jurisdictions along the 71-mile span of the Canal have objected to having founding partners’ family names on mile markers. GV officials met with the HLCC between August and October to address city council members’ concerns.
On October 28, the GV City Council unanimously approved a written agreement with the HLCC that contains a single commitment from each of the two parties. It states that the city will allow the HLCC to place founding partners’ names on the (five) sandstone mile markers on the portion of the High Line Canal that runs through GV. The HLCC “agrees not to commit any portion of the Canal within Greenwood Village’s corporate boundaries in any manner as part of any future fundraising campaigns or agreements without the express written permission of the city council.”
In its five years of operation, over 2,000 donors have contributed to the HLCC, representing each of the 11 jurisdictions that the Canal touches, from rural Douglas County to Green Valley Ranch. According to Lindsay Moery, HLCC’s director of development, “the investment of significant private dollars leverages public dollars and commitments.” In the year 2018 alone, 76 percent of all funds raised by the HLCC were from “individual donations, foundation grants, special events and other,” with 24 percent coming from government.
Public funds are being used for neighborhood bridge enhancements, trailhead improvements, underpasses and other capital needs. Conservancy funds have been put toward Canal-wide programs such as canopy care, signage and recreational, educational and stewardship programs, and leading comprehensive planning, most notably the 4-year effort to produce The 400-page Plan for the High Line Canal, a multi-jurisdictional plan that is being touted nationally for its creative approach to repurposing the cherished old canal for stormwater management as a green infrastructure park benefit.
The most important role of any conservancy, according to a 2015 study called “Public Spaces/Private Money” by the Trust for Public Land, is fundraising, particularly from the private sector. The Trust for Public Land is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization “that helps state and local governments design, pass, and implement legislation and ballot measures that create new public funds for parks and land conservation.”
On October 7, at the request of Council Member Judy Hilton, who was absent, Greenwood Village City Attorney Tonya Haas Davidson presented a proposal during the city council’s study session to raise the age for possession and sale of tobacco and e-cigarette products from 18 to 21 in Greenwood Village.
Maura L. Proser, DrPH, MPH, public health prevention and policy manager of Tri-County Health Department, which serves over 1.5 million people in Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas Counties, appeared at the GV city council study session to speak in support of Hilton’s proposal. Proser said, “We know that youth are using tobacco products and nicotine products at very alarming rates. We have seen more than a twofold increase in youth using electronic devices from 2013 to 2017. We are expecting that number to increase when we see the 2019 data that will be collected this year from high schools.”
She reported that the City and County of Denver recently raised the age for sale and possession from 18 to 21 and noted that doing so keeps the age for buying tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, consistent with the age to legally purchase alcohol and marijuana. Although it is not legal to sell marijuana in GV, it is available in other nearby communities including Denver.
Proser explained further that “Nicotine impacts the brain while it’s still developing.” She also talked about “the social factor,” noting that “15, 16, and 17-year-olds hang out with 18 -year-olds in school. They don’t hang out with 22-year-olds,” so raising the age of purchase to 21 will reduce youth initiation and youth use of tobacco. Similarly, Proser said that while some 15 to 16-year-olds might use fake identification to pass for being 18, it’s much more difficult for a teenager to pass for 22.
Pointing to the change in the law in Denver, Proser said, “We want to look at consistency across the area…Nobody wants to be that city where Denver’s kids go to buy tobacco.”
City council member Anne Ingebretsen asked, “Is Centennial looking at doing this as well?” Proser said they are considering it. Council Member Jerry Presley asked what the strategy was in going to local governments instead of the state, pointing out that if GV changed the age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and Centennial kept it at 18, it might not be as effective. Proser agreed, saying that that’s why Tri-County was “trying to work on all of our communities.” She reminded the city council that the statewide “smoke-free air” standard came about after “momentum built in local communities.”
Council Member Steve Moran asked Police Chief Dustin Varney whether this change would be difficult to enforce. Varney responded that it would not. Ingebretsen wondered whether enforcement of the raised age for purchase and use of tobacco products and e-cigarettes might damage the relationship that GV school resource officers have developed with teen-aged students? The city attorney pointed out that it was already illegal for high schoolers to buy or use tobacco products because they are mainly under the age of 18, thus the change would not impact most high-schoolers.
Council Member Dave Kerber posed the oft-asked rhetorical question, “How do you respond to the argument that you can serve in our armed forces and die (at the age of 18), you can vote, you can get married without your parents’ permission, but you can’t smoke?”
In the end, all the members of the city council agreed that the law should be changed to raise the minimum age to buy or possess tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21 in Greenwood Village. As of today, the tentative published agenda for the next GV city council meeting on October 28 contains a new city ordinance to do just that.
There is almost no place left in Greenwood Village where new one-acre single-family residential development is possible.
After a series of events that true believers saw as godly miracles in answer to their prayers, the Resurrection Anglican Fellowship (REZ) church was able to purchase a 4.5-acre property at 9200-9250 East Belleview Avenue last year for $1,890,000 from Alpert Development Inc. to become their long-sought permanent home.
REZ’s plan was to sell off part of the property, which was zoned residential, as two 1-acre, single-family detached residential lots. After working out details about access to the property from Belleview Avenue and the impact of headlights from the new homes into the adjacent Coral Place neighborhood, on May 6 GV city council approved the necessary amended special use permit, planned unit development, subdivision improvement agreement, and final plat to allow the residential lots to be developed.
On October 1, REZ architect and lead representative for the project Lawrence Depenbusch told The Villager that a neighbor had expressed interest in the lots within two days after city council approved the plan. Both lots were under contract within 30 days. He said the design is nearing completion for one of the houses and he expects construction to commence next year.
Greenwood Village Mayor Ron Rakowsky’s 350 closest friends and family gathered at the Doubletree Hotel on Orchard Road in Greenwood Village to thank him for his 17 years of service to the city as an elected official (eight on city council and nine as mayor) and wish him a long and healthy retirement.
Distinguished guests in attendance were Margaret Rakowsky, the mayor’s wife of 53 years, their son Robert Rakowsky, their daughter Catherine Bollin and son-in-law Kip Bollin, Ron’s brother John Rakowsky and his wife Cathy, and Ron’s brother Tom Rakowsky and his wife Daria.
Jim Sanderson, GV’s city manager from 2002 to 2017, who also served five years as public works director and five years as police chief, came out of retirement to talk about how Rakowsky had reached out and grasped the reins of regional leadership in his years as GV’s mayor. Rakowsky chaired the Mayor’s Caucus, chaired the Arapahoe County Justice Coordinating Committee since its inception in 2004, served on the executive board of the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), the board of Peace Officers Standards Training, as director of the E-470 board representing DRCOG, and on the South Metro Fire District’s chief selection committee. Ron Rakowsky, by his sole effort, far expanded the reach of influence and high regard afforded to the eight square miles and 16,000 souls who comprise the City of Greenwood Village.
Rakowsky was instrumental in getting the $66 million Arapahoe Interchange project funded and completed, Sanderson told us. He was personally involved in bringing crucially important large corporations to GV, including Charter Communications, the city’s largest employer, CoBank and Fidelity Investments, Inc., also in the top tier of employers, and AMG National Bank, which occupies a highly visible and important niche in the world of finance and public policy.
Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Sharpe, who preceded Rakowsky as GV mayor, and was also crucial in getting the Arapahoe County interchange project done, talked about his unique and distinctive personal qualities. Rakowsky is widely known to have been a deeply involved and helpful mentor to dozens of younger people as they have progressed in their careers. One who was present and became just a tiny bit emotional as he spoke about how Rakowsky taught him so much was South Metro Fire Rescue Chief Bob Baker. In describing Rakowsky, quoted John Maxwell as saying, “A leader who develops people adds, but a leader who develops leaders multiplies.”
George Lantz, who will take over as GV mayor after November 5, said that Rakowsky is “a wonderful character with a great depth of experience who has demonstrated with his work and effort true love for the people of Greenwood Village.”
When Mayor Ron’s turn to speak to his family, friends, and fans finally came, he first thanked the Colorado Emerald Society Pipes and Drum band, who played as guests arrived, because that is his way. He talked about how mentorship is a significant part of leadership, describing it as “recognizing that all are equal and have something to offer.” He thanked everyone in the room and closed with, “It has been a singular honor and special privilege to serve this city as mayor for nine years.”
Bob Melton, the owner of Rakowsky’s favorite restaurant, Benedict’s at 8181 E. Arapahoe Road in Greenwood Village, and Alex Alcala, Benedict’s general manager, physically brought Rakowsky’s favorite table to the luncheon and even set it up next to the image of a fireplace, so it looked like it does when the mayor sits there with his friends and takes on the many challenges of our community, as he has hundreds of times through the years.
GV City Manager John Jackson emceed the event. Other speakers who shared warmly about the outgoing mayor included former Centennial Mayor Cathy Noon and Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet.
Among the large group of recognizable attendees, we saw business leaders John Madden and Earl Wright, dozens of current and former elected officials including U.S. Senator Cory Gardner and former U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman; from Arapahoe County, Nancy Jackson, Jeff Baker, Bill Holen, and Kathleen Conti, along with Dave Walcher; from the state legislature, Meg Froelich and Matt Soper; from Greenwood Village, Candy Figa, Mike DeChadenedes, Denise Rose, Steve Moran, Dave Pfeiffer, Judge Elizabeth Shifrin, Gary Kleeman, Dave Bullock, Jerry Presley, Anne Ingebretsen, and Dave Kerber. The current and former mayors of Cherry Hills Village, Russell Stewart and Laura Christman, along with Republican leader Joy Hoffman and her husband James were also in the crowd.
The Greenwood Village City Council passed its 2020 budget on October 7. Total revenue for 2020 is expected to be $54.8 million. Expenditures for the year are projected at $50.2 million, resulting in an increase in the city’s fund balance of $4.6 million. The city’s mill levy for residential property taxes will remain at 2.932 mills, one of the lowest in the state.
The executive summary included with the budget says, about the total revenue, “The amount represents an increase of $600,379 or 1.1% when compared to the prior year’s amended budget. The rather modest increase is primarily the result of lower than anticipated growth in sales tax during the current fiscal year, as well as, a significant reduction in intergovernmental and grant-related revenue.” It goes on, “An ongoing exposure facing the city is its dependency on sales and use tax revenues. More than 60% of the city’s total revenue is attributable to sales and use tax collections, making the organization especially reliant upon, and vulnerable to patterns in consumer and commercial spending.”
One capital expenditure for 2020 that was changed from the proposed amount after the city council budget workshop on September 23, was the budget for a city hall interior remodel. Initially proposed to be $1,500,000, it was reduced 90 percent to $150,000 by the city council “for additional vetting, as well as the refinement of anticipated costs.”
At the end of 2020, GV’s cumulative fund balance is projected to be $46.7 million, of which $21.3 million is considered unassigned, meaning it is “available to meet the needs of the community without regard to spending limitations otherwise imposed by the city or external agencies.”
Included in the restricted amounts in the remaining $25.4 million in GV’s fund balance is a $10.2 million operating reserve, much like a “rainy day fund.” There is also $9.9 million for capital projects to which the city has committed but not yet completed.
A set-aside fund for the acquisition of open space, created by city council policy, will have $1.2 million by the end of next year, including $500,000 added to it in 2020. In recent years, city council only added $100,000 to it annually, but at the September 23 budget workshop, it was decided to quintuple the amount added in 2020. That may be related to the fact that GV is exploring the acquisition of several acres of open space in the general vicinity of East Belleview Avenue and South Colorado Boulevard.
A new addition to the list of restricted and committed amounts of the citywide fund balance is $1,664,236, added after the September 23 budget workshop, for traffic safety projects, “based on collections/expenditures associated with the photo red light program.”
At a public study session last April 15, Jeremy Hanak, GV’s public works director, presented the city council with a list that he and his staff had prepared of 25 rank-ordered proposed roadway project recommendations from all areas of the city. He also gave them a list of recommendations for eight transportation demand management projects, ten first-mile/last-mile projects, and three technology projects. Costs of the 25 roadway projects ranged from unknown to up to $2 million, but more than half were listed as $100,000 to $500,000.
The report was the culmination of a 2-year effort that cost $286,000 in fees to consultants (who were ultimately fired in January), along with countless hours of staff time and contributions by volunteers who comprised an 18-person community working group (CWG), which held at least eight meetings. The CWG was formed by the city council, who appointed its members, to give a voice to city residents and local businesses. It also included one city council member, Dave Kerber.
The goal of the entire effort, dating back to August 22, 2017 when the consultants, Fehr & Peers, were officially hired, was to produce an Updated Transportation Plan for GV. It was scheduled to be adopted in August 2018, one year ago. As of today, no Updated Transportation Plan has been adopted by the GV City Council, nor has one even been proposed. We asked Melissa Gallegos, GV public information officer, when a plan is expected to be adopted. She said, “Staff’s goal is to develop a proposed plan by the end of the year for city council review.”
When the April 15 meeting ended, the city council had not formally adopted the recommendations or committed to doing any of the 46 projects on Hanak’s list.
On August 19, the Greenwood Village City Council gave tentative approval to the 2020 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) which shows planned transportation projects for the year and the funding amounts allocated to them. There are eight new streets and transportation projects listed for 2020 with a combined cost of $1.2 million.
The number one project on the rank-ordered list Hanak gave city council on April 15 was for lane balancing options on westbound Orchard Road at Quebec Street, where consistently surprised drivers find they are forced to turn left and go south from both the left and middle lanes, and only one lane continues west. It is not on the list.
Four of the eight CIP roadway projects for 2020, with a combined cost of $800,000 of the $1.2 million total, are within or at the boundary of the Greenwood Hills neighborhood where Kerber and the other district 2 representative, Anne Ingebretsen, live. None of the four projects appear on any of the three lists of 46 priority recommendations.
Three of the eight CIP roadway projects for 2020, with a combined cost of $360,000, appear in some form as numbers eight, 19 and 22 on the list of 25 rank-ordered recommendations. The other 22 roadway projects and the 21 first-mile/last-mile, transportation demand management, and technology projects are not part of the 2020 CIP.
On February 4, consultants Corona Insights of Denver gave city council the results of the 2018 citizens survey that they were retained to compile and analyze. Their 27-page report, available on the GV website, said, on page one, “Increasing road capacity was the top transportation priority.” None of the eight new streets and transportation projects on the 2020 CIP increase road capacity.
Although six of the ten first mile/last mile projects recommended to city council are for improved pedestrian connections to and from the Arapahoe and Orchard Light Rail stations, sidewalks,\ and bicycle lanes, the only project planned for 2020 is a concept design to improve the bike lane on Dayton Street at the intersections of Belleview Avenue and Orchard Road. The number one item on that rank-ordered list of first mile/last mile projects is “study potential circulator bus to provide connections within the Village,” which could make light rail an option for commuters into GV. That subject has not been raised for discussion in any public meeting of the city council.
The permanent population of GV has remained at 16,000 for the past five years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Traffic around the city is significantly impacted by the 45,000 people who come to work every morning in GV and go home every weekday afternoon. Though the city has two light rail stops at Orchard Road and Arapahoe Road, there are limited sidewalk connections from the stations to where people work. Bike lanes are sparse and also not well connected, according to employees who work in GV that spoke to The Villager on Bike-to-Work Day June 26 and pointed out again by Kurt Hotto, a resident of the Beacon Hill neighborhood, on August 5 during the open forum portion of the regular city council meeting.
According to a 2016 South I-25 urban corridor study prepared for the Denver South Transportation Management Association, there were 243,000 cars per day travelling on Interstate 25 between Belleview and Orchard in 2016. That number is projected to swell to 299,000 in 2040 if there are no positive changes to commuting habits. The study says that on I-25 between Orchard and Arapahoe, there were 230,000 cars daily in 2016, expected to grow to 282,000 by 2040.
The only “Yelp” review of the Orchard Light Rail station was posted in 2016. It says, “Probably the quietest station on the whole RTD Light Rail System.”
The Villager asked Kerber about how roadway projects were chosen for funding in 2020. He said that the four projects in his Greenwood Hills neighborhood “were already being developed for the CIP outside of the CWG process,” and “the city council was never going to delay needed projects while we waited for the recommendations of the Transportation Plan.”
Although the city council did not formally adopt the list they were given on April 15, the projects on it are described in detail and rank-ordered, based on the recommendations of the public works department and the two years of public input the consultants got from the GV community in its well-attended citywide input meetings held in 2018. The city council did not discuss the list in any public meeting after April 15.
In response to our question about why no action was taken to deal with the highest ranked roadway project on the list, westbound Orchard from I-25 to Quebec Street, Kerber said, “We did discuss that in the CWG meetings but concluded that this was perhaps the most studied road in Greenwood Village with studies done in 2009, 2011 and for the Orchard Station proposal. To spend any more money or to allocate time to study it yet again appeared to some of us to be not worthwhile. There are a few things that can be done in that area, striping, signs etc, but they did not fall within the CIP structure.”
The city has not acted to address the ongoing and persistent problem facing motorists in GV daily at that location and there is no indication that it has a plan to do so.
In the Greenwood Hills neighborhood, the city spent $50,000 in 2019 for a design to fix the broken cement on the traffic circles on South Monaco Street “to improve the appearance to match the traffic circles on Cherryville Road in District 1,” according to the proposed CIP, and $225,000 is planned to be spent to make those repairs in 2020.
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