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District 1’s Wishlist for 2021 City Council Priorities

The new City Council will soon set its priorities for the next two years. Having walked over 250 miles to connect with as many neighbors in District 1 as possible, I heard many, many shared priorities – I’ve listed them below:

1. Demand creative solutions to achieve the best Hughes outcomes, avoid legal fees, and unnecessary expenditures

Hughes did not come up often in conversations with neighbors in District 1, but smart planning/investment by the City DID. The amount of money required to address the Hughes space – either through a purchase agreement, in legal battles, or through creative solutions – will affect every resident of Fort Collins for years to come. Approaching this issue with creativity is key to making sure we meet as many of our goals as possible. The City Council should work to:

2. Invest in district and/or precinct-level transit, arts, culture, and natural area planning

Infrastructure was something that came up in every neighborhood. Every neighborhood had some quirk or externality that was being offset by a small but highly dedicated band of volunteers. Often, this band of volunteers knew more about the day-to-day than the City staff tasked with servicing those items (understand that this is no slight on our fantastic City Staff, but rather a commentary on how skilled and dedicated these volunteers are!) Volunteerism is great, but ultimately: these volunteers should be backed up by the City in a more systemic way to retain institutional knowledge and offset burnout.

Here are some key points of action:

3. Invest to eliminate blighted commercial zones

Every small business owner I talked to espoused the rather dire nature of commercial real estate. Some businesses that would like a storefront cannot obtain one. Meanwhile, we have blighted commercial zones along College (Drake, Cherry, Willox) that have existed for years with no recourse or improvements. These areas don’t add charm, they actively detract from the City and are targets for crime and vandalism. I believe the City Council should work to:

4. Invest in pedestrian safety throughout the City

This particular wish-list item came up so often that I developed a habit of driving all the major cross-streets in a neighborhood before I’d do my door-to-door campaigning. Pedestrian safety needs take a lot of different forms across the City. Many neighborhoods are seeing traffic patterns change as a result of habit or demographic shifts or larger projects that had externalities.

Here were the key issues I heard about on the campaign trail:

5. Pair responsible infrastructure with responsible development

This is the most common complaint I heard during the campaign and in almost every discussion I’ve had with neighbors and fellow HOA board members in my time on the Maple Hill HOA.

Large Sub-Area-Plan-fulfilling projects like Montava need mindful support, not free passes or endless roadblocks.

Demanding that developers pay for and plan for literally every aspect of fulfilling the plan artificially limits growth, eliminates opportunities for affordable housing, and blasts property values through the roof. Developers DO need to pay their fair share, BUT also need to have the City’s support to mindfully accomplish the City’s plan.

This doesn’t mean giving a free pass to developers, but rather: the City should accept accountability for the free passes already given to past developers that we’re now surreptitiously asking modern-day developers to shoulder and do the math with regard to the benefits for City-level goals.

Identifying creative solutions to achieve everybody’s goals without sacrificing open space, the climate action plan, or affordable housing is work worth doing. Pitting any of these big-picture goals against each other is a false dichotomy driven by extremist politics.

For example: neighbors in Maple Hill have a 5-minute commute to their local elementary school (Tavelli). Across the street in Richard’s Lake, neighbors have a 30-minute commute (Cache La Poudre). Neither neighborhood can access their local schools, parks, businesses, or bus system by a connected trail system. This is also true of every neighborhood North East of Mulberry and Lemay.

How do these simple facts affect the neighbors’ quality of life, the City’s service area goals, and the climate action plan? What’s the cost to residents and the City? Can it be quantified?

While a small contingent of neighbors opposed to growth at any cost does exist (mainly in the County), more often I heard from neighbors who are asking very smart questions about why infrastructure did not keep pace with development and why those daily impacts to their quality of life continue to be ignored.

The City cannot continue to ignore areas where the City kicked the infrastructure can down the road (e.g. most of North East District 1 and many edge areas of the City near the growth management area). As I mentioned during the campaign, the status quo for these neighbors is far too expensive. This would immediately become apparent if a cost analysis for infrastructure projects was conducted for neglected neighborhoods. The cost of these infrastructure projects will only increase over time, the City can offset the cost and complexity with smart investments now.

We have sub-area plans for a reason. Stick to them and look for opportunities to organically achieve those goals. Augment the sub-area plans as better information comes along. Don’t snub opportunities to achieve multiple City goals with polarized NIMBYism. District 1 has carried more than its fair share of externalities because development here is notoriously costly (thanks to the special utility districts, oddities of getting water, and utter lack of transit infrastructure). Worse: the County is NOT pulling its own weight with regard to trails or transit.

We have nearby and regional models for excellent transportation and natural area development infrastructure where municipalities have partnered with County governments (Arapahoe and Douglas Counties) where the bike and regional trail system was closely tied with the natural areas programs and areas set aside in advance with development tie-in costs pre-allocated. The solutions exist. Let’s make them happen.

Here’s the low-hanging fruit I see:

6. Key regional issues need their own dashboards + education hubs

This last one is a bit of a pet project, but having run as a well-intentioned neighbor for a non-partisan City Council position interested in getting more smart, passionate, well-intentioned neighbors to run, here’s what I noticed needs to be fixed:

All in all, I am very hopeful for the future of our City and will double-down on my work to provide a platform for neighbors’ voices to be heard.

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