Aug 152012
 

If you were in attendance at the city council meeting on August 6, you may have had trouble finding a seat. The chamber was standing room only, filled to the brim with citizens young and old. Yet the reason for this was not what one might expect–no contentious issue was brought before the council, no complaints were voiced–rather, the atmosphere was one of camaraderie and joy. On that night, the city of Greenwood Village displayed its true values, celebrating science, art, education, and youth.

There is something to be said about the fact that our city is willing to take the time from its busy schedule to honor certain individuals for their contributions and to teach others about their role in the community. Last Monday, the city council welcomed a troop of Boy Scouts, showing them all the best parts of City Hall and answering their seemingly endless questions. The council also awarded two individuals,  from opposite ends of the age spectrum, for their efforts to advance the arts in our city. Finally, Tasha Schoenstein, a brilliant young woman with whom I have had the pleasure of taking some classes, was honored for her scientific successes. Often, government is perceived as simply wanting to take our money and to give itself more power, but after last week’s meeting, I know this is not true of Greenwood Village. Watching the Mayor and the Chief of Police walk young scouts through City Hall, observing the pride in the eyes of the council members as they looked down upon the people being honored, it was hard not to be amazed at our community. At a time when so many are concerned with financial woes or other problems, our city came together so as not to forget some of our most basic values: education, art, and youth. That our city government is so aware of these things and so concerned with their continuing growth is more than I could ever hope for. As I prepare myself for my last city council meeting as an intern, I have a new found respect for the people and the government I have gotten to know over the past few weeks. I am happy to say that the decisions they made last meeting are ones I would have made in a heartbeat.

  •  Posted by on August 15, 2012 at 10:44 am
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Jul 252012
 

In discussion of the village’s trails during the City Council’s study session on July 16, concerns were voiced about the allowance of weapons on the trails. While possession of firearms or other weapons is prohibited in parks, federal regulations require that they be permissible on trails. At the study session, there were questions as to why the federal government was able to force this policy upon the village and if here were any way to disobey. I, personally, believe that all weapons ought to be banned from city trails; however, I recognize that the national government has, under the constitution, the power to say otherwise and that Greenwood Village must comply with these laws.

There are several reasons why the federal government has this power. Firstly, the second amendment states that all citizens have the right to bear arms. While the government has the power to regulate guns, it cannot ban them in all cases, and this stipulation provides the basis for being able to have firearms on the trails. One might ask why weapons can be banned in parks but not on trails, and the reason is that trails are used for transportation, which brings us to the second reason the federal government can dictate that firearms be allowed on Greenwood Village trails.

The reason is that the federal government has the power, given by the constitution, to regulate interstate commerce. Even though local trails are not usually thought of as being related to commerce among states, several Supreme Court decisions have expanded its federal government has control over a broad range of issues under the guise of the commerce clause. The Gibbons v. Ogden decision stated that the movement of people could be a form of commerce. This meant that any and all roads, paths, and trails by which humans travelled or were transported among states could be regulated by Congress. After that, the Supreme Court decided over the course of several decisions that, even if interstate commerce was likely, Congress could regulate areas where there was a simple potential for commerce. Combining the two decisions, it means that the federal government has the power to regulate any area that could ever possibly be used as a mode of transport to get people from one state to another. Though it is unlikely that the village’s trails would be used to walk from Colorado to New Mexico, it is a possibility, so Congress can pass policy that affects it. For these reasons, the federal government has the power to demand that Greenwood Village allow weapons and firearms to be carried on its trails.

  •  Posted by on July 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm
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Jul 092012
 

City government is inherently intimate. Our local representatives are not thousands of miles away in the Capital; they are our friends, neighbors, and peers. While this closeness is an asset, making city council more understanding of the people and their needs, it also gives rise to a fundamental issue–whenrepresentatives are expected to be actively involved citizens of the community, conflicts of interest are bound to be common. Indeed, this issue has been raised in each city council meeting that I have attended, most recently the one which took place on July 2nd. At the heart of this discussion lies one core question: what constitutes a conflict of interest in city government?

It is inevitable that city council members will be involved in a variety of local issues, so is it truly reasonable to expect them to recuse themselves from every item in which they have any interest? It is, in my opinion, absurd to call a conflict of interest as any connection to the item at hand. At this lowest level of government, this definition will force city council members to recuse themselves at every meeting. The only way to avoid such a problem is to impose strict limits on that which constitutes a conflict of interest. After all, having a connection to an issue does not always mean that a person is unable to judge upon it fairly. This ability is only compromised when the person stands  to gain or to lose something by the decision, yet even this is not completely true. The members of the city council are upstanding, honorable individuals who, I believe, would not succumb to their personal interests unless they were going to suffer or profit greatly. They ought to be trusted with the responsibility of deciding for themselves whether or not a personal interest will disable them from doing their job. Because city government is so close to the community, conflicts of interest arise with a rather inconvenient frequency. In order to allow city council member to do the job they were elected to do and not constantly be required to recuse themselves, these conflicts must only be taken into account when the person affected by it deems it to be of importance, or when others clearly believe that it impairs their judgement due to extreme personal involvement. Otherwise, a mere connection or other conflict of interest need not cause worry.

 

  •  Posted by on July 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm
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Jun 102012
 

During the city council meeting on June 4, a rather controversial issue was raised–that of the DTC Apartments. While one does not usually imagine the construction of an apartment complex as being an extraordinarily contentious issue, the unique set of circumstances in which this case arose makes it particularly interesting.

The site in question for the complex is at 5455 S. Valentia Way, bordering that of The Georgetown–a group of townhouses built by the proposers of DTC Apartments, across a street from One Cherry Lane, and short walk from the Orchard Light Rail Station. When the property was first purchased by the applicant, a restriction was placed on the deed such that the land could only be used for multifamily housing. At the time, zoning in the area allowed this use; however, the Comprehensive Plan passed by the council in 2011 stated an intent to limit residential use of properties in this area, making a new multifamily residential area less viable.

The applicant first submitted a plan to the city of Greenwood Village last August. A concept review of the 368-unit proposal warned against high density, and, even after changes, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of the resolution in early May of this year. This recommendation was based on several issues, most of which were resolved in later revisions and the judgement of the commission that the current zoning restrictions mustn’t affect the site in this case. These included density–which was reduced to 272 units from 368–and the labeling of the development as “luxury,” which was removed. The new plan also addresses the commission’s earlier concerns that Building E was too long and that the main entrance too narrow by splitting the Building E in two and widening the entrance. Requests that views from neighboring properties not be blocked were met with the removal of one floor from all building plans. While a traffic study found that the complex would have an impact locally, it seemed minimal. Only two nearby intersections would be at or over capacity within twenty years, and they would overflow with or without the development’s completion. The singular facet of the plan for the development not in compliance with the technical requirements set by Greenwood Village was the absence of loading zones; however, loading zones are not present in most multifamily housing complexes, and, despite this fault, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the City Council approve the resolution and the plan.

While the only technical problem with the plan was the absence of loading zones,  many concerns were raised by both the council and citizens living near the site. The majority of these concerns centered around the development’s impact on the area, including traffic and dropping neighboring property values. Some council members were dissatisfied with the green space in the plan, for while it met the technical requirements, it was largely on the perimeter or the site leaving many units with views of only the interior parking lots. In my opinion, however, this layout of the open areas is the best option, as it makes the exterior of the property and the view from neighboring properties more scenic. It would be a renter’s choice to live in an apartment with a view of pavement, but this view would not be imposed on others who were not given the choice. Another major concern was that property values in the area would decrease as a result of the development; however, I believe the opposite to be true. As a high end development with easy access to public transportation, it will be an uniquely attractive place for people to live, even when renting becomes less popular. The notion that it is not up to the standards of this neighborhood is absurd, seeing as the site borders that of the Pinnacle of DTC–a multifamily housing complex that is far more dense, less physically attractive, and has fewer high end services and amenities than the proposal.

The site in question may only be used for multifamily housing, and the inevitable construction of a complex there will be far better than an empty lot. While the council was split in their decision and ultimately decided to continue discussion at their next meeting, I am of the opinion that the resolution should pass. This is, to me, clearly the best option for all parties involved, and I am confident that, should the resolution pass, the development of the DTC Apartments will prove successful and beneficial to the area and the city of Greenwood Village.

  •  Posted by on June 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm
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