BY FREDA MIKLIN
In an interview with The Villager on July 29, Greenwood Village district four City Councilmember Tom Dougherty told us that he has decided not to run for re-election after serving two two-year terms because, “It has always been a challenge to have a busy law practice and devote the amount of time that I think I should to city council responsibilities.” Losing three close family members in the past two years, including a brother in Texas to COVID-19, caused Dougherty and his wife Traci, Assistant Principal at Cherry Creek High School, to take stock of their lives. They also want to have more flexibility to travel to see family. Their son, a budding composer, is moving to London to attend graduate school at the Royal College of Music. Their daughter is in Uganda volunteering in a public health program in a small village without running water or electricity.
Dougherty talked about his four years on the city council, telling us, “The conversation after the 2017 election was dominated by Orchard Station. A committee was formed to review and propose changes to the city’s comprehensive plan from beginning to end to codify the very strong message about what GV residents wanted and what they didn’t want in terms of development, which was an emphasis on the single-family nature of Greenwood Village.” We wanted to know how that policy impacted the Orchard Station area, which has remained largely unchanged during the past four years. He said, “I would like to see some sort of coherent plan for the development of or redevelopment of that entire part of the city. If we continue with individual parcel piecemeal development or redevelopment, I think the most that we can hope to do is ensure that the quality is up to GV standards.” He talked about the 10-acre property just south of the Landmark Towers as being, “the largest single parcel remaining in GV and a tremendous opportunity to make a statement and find a use that fits and maybe even use it as the spark plug to spur redevelopment and reinvigoration of everything that’s around it.”
The outgoing councilman told The Villager that he believes that The Arapahoe Entertainment District (AED), which runs from Syracuse Street east to Yosemite Street on Arapahoe Road, is something that he “will look back on and feel like I made a significant contribution.” Dougherty explained that he used his experience as a land use attorney, looking at that area and asking, “What do we want to have in this part of town?” He was even the one who came up with the name AED, envisioning it as a place where GV residents could go for entertainment instead of having to leave the area, something he told us constituents told him they wanted when he was campaigning back in 2017. He credited Councilmember Anne Ingebretsen with “showing leadership” and “nurturing the idea” to bring it to fruition. What is still left to do, he told us, is to improve pedestrian and bicycle access to the area. That has not been improved by the city or by the private property owners who will benefit from the GV sales tax rebate the city has agreed to give them, which, in the case of Pindustry at 7939 E. Arapahoe Road alone, could exceed $2 million. On the question of using city tax dollars to repay businesses for the cost of improvements to their private property, instead of public improvements that tax rebates have been traditionally used for, Dougherty said that it was “a creative use of the public-private partnership approach…(in which) GV is investing with our business community to achieve a result that’s a win for the city, a win for our residents, and a win for our businesses.”
Dougherty talked about a well-known frustration among empty nesters in GV. “I have absolutely explicitly heard from older GV residents who want to downsize and say, “I love GV. I don’t want to move from GV, but there really are no options for me to downsize. I’ve heard this from people who lived here for a very long time, have huge equity in their homes, and have said, frankly, “I can afford to pay for something nice, but I have no choices here. We have some undeveloped properties in GV where that sort of residential product has been considered and I’m hopeful that those sorts of projects continue to be discussed because I think it’s our responsibility to our residents who’ve been here for a huge portion of their lives and want to stay here but have no option. I think high-quality GV-type (residential) products could be developed to address that need.” He named the 10-acre parcel of land just south of the Landmark Towers in Orchard Station as one location and the Dayton Station property on the north side of I-225 as another.
On the subject of renewable energy, which has been a part of the GV council’s ongoing debate since January involving ground-mounted solar panels, Dougherty said, “I hope that the council and our residents, in terms of their engagement with city government and their voting, think more broadly…I think we have to recognize that this is the direction that not only the state and the nation are going…and I don’t think we be dismissive of that…Younger Coloradans are…interested in working for companies that support those issues and living in places that have sustainability programs. Our peer jurisdictions recognize that and are taking steps…because it makes economic sense…I’m hoping that we think more broadly and open-mindedly about the future.”
Dougherty reminded us that, just before the pandemic, he wanted to focus on branding, his idea being, “Put the green in Greenwood Village.” He saw it, and still does, as having three main “green” components:
the parks and open space around the city;
the tax revenue generated by businesses in the city;
the green aspect of sustainability, including providing bike trails and electric-vehicle charging stations, support for recycling, and support for solar energy at businesses and homes.
When we asked if there was interest from his peers for supporting aspects of sustainability in transportation including bicycles and encouraging the use of light rail, Dougherty told The Villager, “There are…some strong differences of opinion on city council with regard to those sorts of issues.” He noted that his constituents in GV district four “want more opportunities to bike to places safely and connectedly without having to venture out onto a place where they are uncomfortable biking,” adding that he often hears from GV residents who wish that their kids could bike to school safely.
Looking ten years down the line, Dougherty predicted, “In order to preserve what is special about GV, I hope that we recognize that we don’t exist in isolation…We are not a fortress where we can put up walls, we have to engage with the rest of the world… We are an island in the middle of an ocean in the metro area and the waves of that ocean are increasingly washing up on our shores in the form of adjacent development.” He named, “Transportation challenges, be it I-25 or light rail…and what our employers need to be able to attract and retain their employees” as “considerations that we have to factor into our city planning,”
In closing, Councilmember Dougherty wanted to let the citizens of GV know that, “I was elected by the residents of district four, but I viewed my responsibility as looking out for the interests of district four and more broadly, the entire city… I hope that everybody whose matter I weighed in on felt that I treated them with respect and gave them a fair hearing…Whatever our next council looks like, I really do hope that they recognize that the best way to preserve what is so special about GV isn’t to hold onto the past, but to figure out how best to embrace the future.”