BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER On Feb. 3, the Greenwood Village city council appointed two teens to fill...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER The Gardner School for children aged six weeks to five years received app...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER The Greenwood Village Police Department went from making 653 traffic stop...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER Last fall, former GV Mayor Ron Rakowsky formed a committee of four city c...
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...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
On Feb. 3, the Greenwood Village city council appointed two teens to fill positions created for young people on its arts and humanities council and its parks, trails, and recreation commission. They will each have all the responsibilities, including voting rights, as the adult members of the boards on which they will serve.
Harry Scott, 16, is a student at Cherry Creek High School. He told The Villager that he applied for the youth position on the arts and humanities council because he wanted to connect with the community and he has diverse interests within the arts. Harry enjoys drawing and video games. He also plays both the guitar and piano.
Madeline Poole is a 17-year old Cherry Creek High School student who became interested in serving on GV’s parks, trails, and recreation commission when she read about it in the city’s monthly newsletter. Madeline told us that she is interested in learning more about and exploring community service.
Both teens were appointed to two-year terms.
The Gardner School for children aged six weeks to five years received approval from the Greenwood Village City Council on Feb. 3 to build a new one-story, 16,000-square foot facility on a 2.14-acre site at 5580 South Park Place, on a cul-de-sac between Park Terrace Avenue and DTC Boulevard. It will also have an outdoor playground.
The site is currently a paved, unused parking lot surrounded by offices on the south and southeast, apartments and condominiums on the north and west, a senior living facility to the north, and vacant land to the east.
At a neighborhood input meeting last July 11, nearby residents expressed concerns about the additional traffic that will be generated by the school, but concluded that this plan “was preferred to previous development proposals.” City council member Tom Dougherty described the current status as “Traffic is bad there and it will get worse anyway.”
The facility will have a capacity of 206 children with drop-off between 7:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and pick-up between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. The plan includes 44 parking spots, which is what is required by GV’s zoning code, but some city council members questioned whether that would be adequate to accommodate parents picking up and dropping off, since the school expects to have 33 employees at capacity.
Founded by Scott Thompson of Franklin, TN, 17 years ago, the Gardner School describes itself as “academically focused early childhood education that will stimulate your child’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth.” It has 20 locations in and around Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus (OH), Louisville, Minneapolis, Nashville, and Washington, D.C. In addition to traditional day-care and pre-school, it offers enrichment classes in music and gymnastics starting at age 18 months and in cooking, karate, computers, and dance starting at age two years. Children ages three and up wear uniforms.
All lead teachers at the school are required to have a four-year degree in early childhood education or a closely-related field. The school will have a cafeteria, a computer lab, and an enrichment studio. The plan submitted to the city even mentions that it will have a private room for nursing mothers.
Representative of Kimley Horn consultants, who represented the school through the approval process with GV, said that it is a “premium provider,” priced higher than most other pre-schools, and is mostly used by professional two-person-working families.
The operators told The Villager that they hope to begin construction in April and be ready to open their doors by spring, 2021. We asked what interested parents should do to find out more about the new Greenwood Village facility. We were told that interested parents should inquire through the website, thegardnerschool.com.
The Greenwood Village Police Department went from making 653 traffic stops citywide in the month of Dec. 2018 that resulted in 216 citations and 197 warnings to making 1,877 traffic stops in Dec. 2019 that resulted in 1,604 citations and 159 warnings.
That is an increase in traffic stops of 187 percent, an increase in tickets written of 643 percent, and a decrease in warnings given of 19 percent.
At the city council study session on Feb. 3, new council member Libby Barnacle addressed the whispers that have been going around the city, asking GV Police Chief Dustin Varney directly, “Are there quotas that your officers have to reach as far as tickets?”
The chief responded, “There are performance standards that I ask them to do…I don’t believe there’s a quota. I know there’s others that probably view this different…I call it performance expectations…. If council disagrees with that, tell us and we can go in another direction.”
It was very clear from the discussion that followed that there is unanimous and enthusiastic support by the mayor and all eight members of the city council for Varney’s increased enforcement efforts in the city.
The chief presented traffic accident data for the year 2019, compared to the average for the three previous years. It showed that non-injury accidents in 2019 decreased five percent to 1,455 compared with an annual average of 1,533 during 2016, 2017, and 2018. There were 13 injury accidents in GV in 2019, compared with an average of 23 per year in 2016. 2017, and 2018.
Referring to the 1,604 tickets issued in the month of December 2019, Varney said, “That’s 51 tickets per day, but that’s also 47 people doing it.” He compared it to the 255 tickets his chart showed were written during the month of January 2019, which he felt didn’t reflect adequate enforcement to achieve the level of safety required.
Varney said that studies show that increased focused patrols also result in fewer overall crimes. Data showed that burglaries citywide decreased from 96 to 84 and thefts decreased from 436 to 404 in 2019 compared to 2016, 2017, and 2018. The largest decrease in crimes was for criminal mischief, which went from 113 incidents in the years 2016, 2017, and 2018, to 69 in 2019.
In an article in The Villager last June, we noted that most traffic tickets that come to municipal court result in a $140 fine and court costs of $25. If officers continue to issue tickets in 2020 on pace with the last month of 2019, that translates to annual revenue from traffic tickets written by police officers of $2,694,720, excluding court costs, in addition to the revenue from photo red-light tickets at four different intersections.
In a follow up to a discussion begun at the Dec. 2 GV city council meeting, Varney said that traffic enforcement efforts have been increased in areas identified by citizens or city council representatives. He cited as noted problem areas: Monaco Street (between Belleview Avenue and Orchard Road), Orchard Drive (between Orchard Road and Holly Street), and Holly Street (between Belleview Avenue and Orchard Road), all in the Greenwood Hills neighborhood. He also listed Clarkson Street, Cherryville Road, and Dayton Street.
Anne Ingebretsen explained how the increased enforcement began. “A couple years ago when Dave Kerber and I came back on the council, we asked (the police chief) to focus on …problems in the residential areas of district 2,” referring to the Greenwood Hills neighborhood. Ingebretsen continued, “That focus only lasted a couple weeks,” so she and Kerber last few months, to “refocus on these troubled areas, and indeed they have. I’ve never seen as much focus in the residential area (Greenwood Hills) as I have in the last few months”
Council member Libby Barnacle complimented the police department and said her recent experience on a ride-along with the police “was eye-opening.” She said she saw the police “investigating people who didn’t quite look like they were behaving appropriately, didn’t appear mentally with it.” Her concern was that “the roll call right now is the same as it was ten years ago.” She said she “will continue to…push for additional officers and additional training.” Barnacle added, directed to Chief Varney, “Anything you need, I’m your girl.”
Council members Tom Dougherty and Donna Johnston shared that several GV residents had reached out to tell them that they noticed the increased traffic enforcement and were happy about it.
Council member Jerry Presley wanted to know, “At what point does it become a political decision made by city council to tell the police department to issue tickets if somebody is over x-number miles an hour?” When Varney cited the importance of officer discretion, Presley said he had a dilemma because some residents wanted drivers on Clarkson Street “to get a ticket if they’re so much as one mile-per-hour over the speed limit.”
Ingebretsen suggested that the police should be “very strict, no nonsense” in the residential neighborhoods. Barnacle, noting she is a former prosecutor, said, “I say we stay the hell out of their (the police department’s) business.”
Dave Bullock said that the GV city council should not be prescriptive in telling the police how to do their job, noting “city councils in places like Chicago and New York have dictated to their police officers that they can’t arrest people if they spit on them or throw water on them…”
Mayor Lantz summed up the discussion, telling Chief Varney, “We really like what you’re doing in the neighborhoods and everyone is very pleased.” Lantz pledged to follow up in a few months to re-evaluate the situation.
Last fall, former GV Mayor Ron Rakowsky formed a committee of four city council members, led by district four’s Tom Dougherty, to look into how GV should determine its brand identity, image, and market position. New Mayor George Lantz is continuing the effort.
In a study session on the subject last month, Nathan Bishop, GV economic development officer, posed questions to the entire city council about the purpose of branding, what audience GV should target, the desired outcomes of the effort, and how success would be measured. Dougherty recommended that the effort be “focused on commercial and business residents”, with an eye toward answering the question, “How do we keep and retain and help (those that are already in the city) grow, and attract new (businesses) that are the type we want?”
Before proceeding down that path, the city council decided to wait for the results of a consultant’s study it recently commissioned. On Jan. 8, GV retained Corona Insights, who conducted the city’s 2018 citizens’ survey, for $20,000. Their job is to form focus groups comprised of large and small businesses from different locations around the city to “acquire actionable data on current business environment,” including the level of satisfaction and perception and use of the city’s brand.” It is also Corona’s responsibility to conduct and moderate the focus groups “to get the most applicable information out of participants and value to the city’s business outreach efforts,” followed by the issuance of a report analyzing their findings.
In a discussion about Corona’s mission, Council Member Anne Ingebretsen harkened back to the citywide referendum of June 2017, saying, “If you go out into the business community and you say, ‘What kind of city do you want Greenwood Village to be?’ and (the business community) says, “We want you to be the kind of city that the residents just voted that they didn’t want to be,….You have to recognize that that’s potential feedback…” Rather than allow for the possibility of such unwanted responses from business, Ingebretsen suggested they should instead ask the business community more generic questions like “What are we doing well?” and “What do we need to improve on?”
Council Member Dave Kerber also approached the branding idea through the lens of the June 2017 referendum. He said, “We went through an election and citizens told us what kind of community we wanted to have and they told us what kind of business community they wanted to have.” He described his concept of branding as “taking the vision we have in the comprehensive plan (revised after the 2017 election), put that into words, and say, this is who we are.” Like Ingebretsen, he suggested asking businesses general satisfaction questions like, “Are we doing anything stupid? Could we do something we haven’t thought of that makes you happy?”
When Council Member Jerry Presley said that he saw the branding effort as being “for economic development purposes,” Kerber pushed back, labeling that as a “marketing approach,” which he was against. In his view, GV should “create the brand as to who we are and then present it to the businesses… If they don’t want it, then they can go somewhere else.”
Council Member Dave Bullock questioned the selection of Corona as the consultant to conduct the city’s business focus groups. He previously said that Corona representatives did not pay attention to some of the input he gave them when they created the questions for the 2018 citizens’ survey. Said Bullock, “If we’re going to spend money with them again, they better doggone well listen.”
Under the schedule outlined in the contract, Corona is to conduct the focus groups this month, prepare draft findings in March, and present its results to the city council in April. After it reviews those results, the city council plans to revisit how it wishes to proceed with its efforts on branding.
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.
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