Residents voice needed changes for Strategic Plan in Westminster

Councilors recommended certain residents to speak on issues important to them for the strategic planning retreat. Here’s what they said.

Luke Zarzecki
lzarzecki@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/24/22

Westminster will host its yearly strategic planning retreat at 9:00 a.m. on Jan. 29 and Jan. 30 at City Park Recreation Center in the Longs Peak Community Room. The meeting will not be livestreamed, …

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Residents voice needed changes for Strategic Plan in Westminster

Councilors recommended certain residents to speak on issues important to them for the strategic planning retreat. Here’s what they said.

Posted

Westminster will host its yearly strategic planning retreat at 9:00 a.m. on Jan. 29 and Jan. 30 at City Park Recreation Center in the Longs Peak Community Room. The meeting will not be livestreamed, as the city cannot offer live streams for off-site meetings.

“Each year, City Council reviews its vision for the future through a Strategic Plan to achieve that vision. The plan defines the city’s vision, mission, core values, and goals. Each goal is further defined and specific initiatives are identified as priorities for City Council that help achieve the associated goal,” said Andy Le, a spokesperson for the city. 

Prior to the retreat, the Westminster Window asked the mayor and each city councilor to connect us with residents of Westminster to offer their take on what should be added — or stay the same — in the strategic plan. 

Every councilor sent between two and 11 contacts of folks, besides councilors Lindsey Smith and Bruce Baker, to speak about the issues important to them. Smith did not respond and Baker declined the request. 

Each resident spoke from the perspective of a Westminster resident. Although many wear different hats, such as a school board member, a non-profit supporter or a pastor, they spoke with the goal of improving the city. 

There are many more issues and many more perspectives, but with a city council with such diverse views, the Window thought this method was the best way to tackle the project. 

Below are the prevalent themes that came from the conversations. 

Communication 

For communication from residents to the city, Lori Goldstein encourages council to listen to Westy Rise, which she says is made up of 40-50 people from all walks of life put into six groups. The team of residents gives the city recommendations based on the conversations in those groups.

“How do we maintain the quality of life for everybody from the bottom of the city to the top of the city or the south end of the city to the north end of the city?” she asked. 

For communication from the city to residents, a first step could be to live stream the strategic planning retreat. 

“Especially with Covid running around, not everyone’s comfortable attending,” said Tom Jurgens. 

Dave Carpenter thinks the language of the strategic plan needs to be simplified so everyone can understand it. 

Bev Bishop said the bilingual communication efforts need to remain, to be inclusive to the entire community. As well, she thinks a city staff member who is entirely dedicated to communicating with residents is needed. 

Bishop enjoys the media literature produced by the city. So does Cindy Staudt, who would like the city to continue with print publications and email newsletters that inform what council and staff are up to. She said both mediums serve different folks. 

Food Access and Housing 

Goldstein says the food desert in South Westminster needs to be addressed. 

“They have to go up to 104th to buy groceries or they have to go over to (80th and Sheridan),” she said. 

Bishop agrees and mentioned many of the grocery stores in that area closed. It creates problems for those without access to cars. 

“There is very, very much a lack of places for people in this part of town, especially with limited incomes, and limited opportunities for education and food,” she said. 

Carol Campbell said residents cannot afford to save for home ownership because rent is too high. She said the situation is similar to Los Angeles, and she doesn’t want that. 

“I have a friend whose daughter is living in an apartment in Westminster, and she has a one-bedroom apartment and it’s like 1,800 bucks a month, and she makes $40,000 a year,” she said. “It’s very difficult.”

Emily Brooks thinks making housing affordable will help businesses and the community. She notes how Westminster Public Schools officials have testified saying their staff can’t live where they teach. 

“Will my employees have to live an hour away from work to have an affordable place to live?” she said. “Why wouldn’t we want to have the people that are teaching our children be part of our community?” 

 

Development

City Council and the Planning Commisions do not approve Prelimiary Development Plans under ten acres, according to Dave Carpenter. Anything under ten acres is administratively approved. He thinks that needs to change. 

“...(the threshold should be lowered to) five acres or two acres to allow more people to participate in the public process,” he said. 

Westminster’s new downtown. The development sparked many debates of development.
Westminster’s new downtown. The development sparked many debates of development.

Some residents warned of too much density in Westminster. Cindy Staudt thinks the city is leaning on the side of urban in the urban vs. rural debate. 

“Not that it has to be a battle but they’ve been trying to make it so urban that I think they’re not paying attention to the people who move to places like this so they can be suburban,” she said. 

Council and the city’s focus needs to come back to center, and Carpenter thinks the center is the original Westminster. 

With most attention brought to new development, Carpenter thinks the original Westminster needs more attention with previous city events brought back to the area, like the Orchard Festival.

Westminster’s Grange Hall, which is one of the oldest grange halls in Colorado.
Westminster’s Grange Hall, which is one of the oldest grange halls in Colorado.

Parks and Trails

Jurgens does not want to see privately owned parks, and points to the Uplands development. He worries the Uplands development will be an island on its own, and not integrated into the rest of the city. 

As well, residents pointed to the many trails that need completing. 

“There are many regional trails on our master plan that aren’t built. I think we can look at that because people do use those to commute as well as recreate,” Carpenter said. 

Water 

Many different opinions on water issues surfaced, with the struggle of maintaining infrastructure while making water rates affordable at the heart of the conversation. 

“I don’t know if anybody’s looked at what the plant water, that’s 50 years old, looks like but it’s pretty bad off,” said Jurgens. “I’d hate to be in a position where we’re like Flint, Michigan, where things don’t work.”

“I think it’s more than we should be paying, but I also understand infrastructure needs to be worked on,” said Staudt. 

“I want to see the planning for infrastructure necessities, you know, things get old, especially water pipes,” said Goldstein. 

Campbell is in favor of the water rates and educating folks on conservation tactics. She also thinks the government needs more conservation programs. 

“(the government) need to say, `Okay, I understand that you’re upset with your rights. I understand that you can’t afford to do this. Well, here’s what we can do to help you,’” she said.

Zoning 

Jeff Cramer sees a need for zoning changes to allow for more nonprofit opportunities, as well as vacant spaces to be used for emergencies, such as food distribution during times of crisis. 

“...when we have our crises that rise within our city that we have some other immediate options to be able to facilitate and quickly mobilize and handle you know needs within our city,” he said. 

“We have maybe a handful of places and that’s it,” he said, in reference to nonprofit zoning. 

Transportation 

Taking up lanes on roads to accommodate bike lanes frustrates Staudt. A specific area is on 100th near Stanley Lake heading north where she sees the sidewalk wide enough to accommodate both bikers and walkers. 

“I have seen no more than 20 bicycles using the bike lane, yet they’re squishing all the traffic into one lane and it has backed up,” she said. 

Carpenter agrees that bike lanes should not take up car lanes, and if bike lanes are to be added, then expand the roads. He also thinks the previous plan was too anti-car for Westminster.

Jurgens thinks council needs to address traffic from the future Uplands development.

“When you look at effects on traffic, I don’t see (council) robustly dealing with traffic consequences: Lowell Street,” said Jurgens. 

Buisness 

Juliet Abdel asked council to update municipal codes and to priortize economic resiliency, as it relates to the chamber of commerce, the city and council. She would like to see a group made up of councilors, chamber members and business owners that takes actionable steps to support the local economy. 

“Update municipal codes relative to development to ensure the goals and policies of the Westminster Forward plans are actionable relative to land development, is integral to our existing and future businesses; and the ability for us to continue to provide a competitive environment for our local economy,” she said. 

Carpenter agrees.

“I’m not looking for economic incentives but really making sure that our businesses that have survived the pandemic are being partnered with the city to go in and make sure that they’re able to expand or make their minor changes to their business,” he said. 

Grover Sardeson thinks there are too many bureaucratic hoops to jump through. He said he has heard stories of businesses trying to work with the city on issues such as outdoor dining and nothing came from the efforts. 

“Make sure that the roadblocks to a business, the regulatory aspects, are minimal,” he said. 

Becky Silver of Aar River Gallery
Becky Silver of Aar River Gallery

Public Saftey and Homelessness

Staudt would like to see more support for the police, and Steve Donelson echoed that sentiment. 

“(there is) not quite as much support for police as I had seen prior to the last three or four years,” Staudt said. 

Donelson thinks many residents agree. 

“I think people are concerned about making sure that police and fire departments in Westminster are strong,” Donelson said.

As well, Carpenter thinks homelessness needs to be addressed in tandem with crime rates. 

“Unfortunately, where the highest crime rates are (where) the highest homeless population,” he said. 

Sardeson said he thinks there needs to be more mental resources for the homeless, which he thinks can also solve crime. 

Unity 

Many residents noted that the city is divided on issues and they do not want to see politically driven decisions made by council. 

“People don’t want to see these factions, they don’t want to see this divisiveness,” said Donelson. “People want to see common sense, we can agree to disagree.”

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