Arvada City Council approves IGAs for Red Rocks CC Park, public improvements for Trailstone development

Council voted down a mixed residential/commercial proposal in Candelas, fielded resident’s concerns about DEI work

Rylee Dunn
rdunn@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/30/22

It was a busy night on June 27 for Arvada’s City Council, as it passed multiple intergovernmental agreements, approved a low-income housing development and narrowly voted down a mixed-use development proposal in Candelas.

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Arvada City Council approves IGAs for Red Rocks CC Park, public improvements for Trailstone development

Council voted down a mixed residential/commercial proposal in Candelas, fielded resident’s concerns about DEI work

Posted

It was a busy night on June 27 for Arvada’s City Council, as it passed multiple intergovernmental agreements, approved a low-income housing development and narrowly voted down a mixed-use development proposal in Candelas. Council also heard about a dozen public comments from residents weighing in on the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work.

Mayor Marc Williams joined the meeting via Zoom, while all six other members of council attended in person.

Vance Street Flats

Before the council meeting, members of council convened in their capacity as the Arvada Housing Authority and unanimously approved a special limited partnership and an agreement to enter into a housing assistance payment contract for the Vance Street Flats development, a 50-unit low income housing development located at 5854 Vance St.

Arvada Housing Authority Director Carrie Espinosa said that the development was awarded low income housing tax credits in 2021 to support the financing of the project. In support of the application for those tax credits, the Arvada Housing Authority agreed to become a special limited partner to provide a property and sales tax exemption.

The housing authority also agreed to assign seven housing choice vouchers with the preference that the vouchers are used for people experiencing homelessness, Espinosa said. She added that services for those vouchers will be provided by the Arvada Homeless Navigation program.

Smoking ordinance

Council unanimously approved a change to the Arvada City Code regarding an ordinance governing the legal age to purchase tobacco. The minimum age for buying tobacco products was raised to 21 in accordance with state law and federal law.

“This is basically a cleanup to get our ordinance actually consistent with state law and to also alight with the federal law in raising the minimum age for tobacco products to age 21,” Arvada City Manager Mark Deven said. “We have noticed as we work through our ordinances that we had an inconsistency with what was being allowed in the Arvada City Code.”

Red Rocks Community College park IGA

Council unanimously passed an ordinance authorizing an intergovernmental agreement between the City of Arvada and the State of Colorado, the Department of Higher Education, the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education to allow Red Rocks Community College to sign a 100-year lease of a parcel north of their Arvada campus for the construction of a health and fitness focused park.

The Holistic Health and Fitness Park is a public park project with Red Rocks Community College that will feature classes and other recreational activities.

Arvada’s Director of Vibrant Community and Neighborhoods Enessa Janes said the focus of the park is to invite people to learn and recreate outdoors.

“The park is designed to provide spaces for folks to recreate outdoors and have classrooms outdoors to learn about health and fitness as well,” Janes said. “There have been design elements that include spaces for yoga, spaces for reflexology, there’s been elements including an incline to increase cardio exercise in the park.

“Altogether, the focus of this park is to invite people to exercise outdoors, to mediate and to learn about health and fitness,” Janes continued.

Councilmember Bob Fifer said he was glad to see the project move forward before he leaves council.

“This has been years in the making,” Fifer said. “I remember when this was just an idea. It’s nice to see before I leave that this is happening.”

Trailstone public improvements

Council approved a resolution authorizing an IGA that will support the construction of public improvements for the Trailstone development in candelas. This will allow for the construction of a sanitary sewer and receptor, reconfiguration and diversion structure of the sanitary sewer connection, sidewalk landscaping and trail improvements in the Candelas area.

Tri Pointe Development proposal

With a 5-2 vote, council voted down a mixed-use proposal for an undeveloped parcel in Candelas proposed by Tri Pointe Homes. The development would have featured 33 apartments, 42 townhomes and 4-5 retail shops. Councilmembers John Marriott and David Jones voted in favor of the proposal, while Councilmembers Fifer, Lauren Simpson, Lisa Smith, Randy Moorman and Marc Williams voted against it.

The dissenting councilmembers cited concerns including parking, safety around a school bus stop and density. Tri Pointe first came before council in 2020 with a fully residential vision for the parcel but was denied then because of the lack of retail in that proposal.

Williams said that Tri Pointe’s amended proposal was very close to earning approval from council and urged the developer to make changes to the proposal and come back before council shortly.

Public comment

A lengthy public comment portion of the council meeting centered around discussions of the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work. On May 10, council discussed next steps for hiring a DEI consultant and taskforce but has not announced any movement on those objectives since. Arvada previously hired a DEI consultant, We The People, but fired them just a day after their contract was signed.

Many who spoke at council urged council to move forward with the hiring of a consultant and appointment of a taskforce, arguing for the need for DEI work within the city.

“Looking around at the staff, at the city councilors, even at the gallery, you might notice there are almost no people of color in this room, and that’s not an accident,” Arvada resident Whitney Leeds said. “This city is neither welcoming nor safe to people of color. And even if no one in here made a racist comment, even if no one in here even supported a racist policy, the very makeup of this room, right now, is itself a testimony to the need for a DEI taskforce.”

Arvadans for Social Justice Founder Amy Travin said that council needs to do more than have discussions about DEI work.

“Who do you care about in the community and in our city?” Travin asked. “Do you care about everybody that lives here? Literally every individual? And if there is evidence that is not happening — that we’re not caring about every individual who lives in our community, and that you are not serving everyone in the community — why are you so afraid to start providing services to them? Why are you so afraid to just take a look?

“I ask that you start acting,” Travin continued, “not just having the conversation.”

Daniel Mondragon, a 40-year Arvada resident, thanked the city team for the internal work they’ve done and urged council to move forward with a taskforce and for the city team to examine the language used in city documents.

“I thank you for the internal work you’ve been doing… the community has been waiting for next steps for the creation of a taskforce,” Mondragon said. “For meaningful dialogue, not just the opportunity for us to make comment and then no dialogue happening. We can work together; staff, leadership and community, to ensure that the Arvada of tomorrow is welcoming, safe and inclusive for all.

“It is time for us in our documents here to look at incidents of exclusion and look for opportunities in inclusion,” Mondragon continued.

Kia Ruiz, an Arvada resident who serves on the city’s sustainability committee and the community emergency response team said that she has experienced significant barriers during her time living in Arvada and urged the city team to move forward with tangible DEI work.

“I don’t spend my disposable income in Arvada,” Ruiz said. “There are very few businesses I go to that I feel welcomed at. I’ve got to be truthful about that. I have friends that are opening businesses, I actually turn them away from Arvada because of things that I have experienced here. That is the culture, that is not how city government operates.

“It’s the policy and processes with how city government operates that I urge you to get the DEI consultant to examine and then work with a taskforce on,” Ruiz continued. “A DEI consultant would ask everyone working in all strata of the government to ask what they’re experiences are. Generally, leadership is like ‘Everything is fantastic’ and you find your guests and your volunteers are like, ‘No, not so.’”

Not everyone who spoke was in favor of the city moving forward with DEI work. Gary Schofield said he didn’t see a need for DEI work because division in the city isn’t between people of different racial backgrounds, but rather people with differing political views.

“I’d like to tell you my opinion on this DIE or EI system that’s going on,” Schofield said. “But I’ve done that… I really don’t believe that it happens here in Arvada. One of the reasons I’m speaking tonight is because the division I’m seeing in Arvada are between residents of different political sides.

“I will tell you that no, Arvada is not as racially diverse as even Westminster,” Schofield continued. “Or Wheat Ridge. Do we marginalize people? No. I think the city council has done an excellent job in taking care of everyone’s needs. I am an Arvada resident, a Colorado resident next and an American. I believe in our country and I believe in what you all have been doing at city council.”

Councilmember Bob Fifer responded to public commenters and said that he did not hear any discussion of accessibility in discussing DEI work, and urged the public to “look at all the matters together.”

“One thing I will give back to those speakers tonight that I did not hear which kind of concerns me is I consider accessibility — those that have disabilities — are not in those discussions,” Fifer said. “We have over $80 million in ADA grants that need to be fixed and no one’s talking about that.

“For us to take our time to get through the EDI (sic) process, I am advocating for all accessibility to Arvada, which includes those who are disabled, those that have hearing impaired, those that have visual issues, racial, marital status — its everything, so we need to be inclusive,” Fifer continued. “And I just want to be very clear because I appreciate everyone’s comments, but we can’t even keep handicap spots open for folks to get into the store…Let’s not just focus on race, let’s look at all the matters together.”

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