Growth, water drive fears for Westminster’s future

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 9/7/21

Recently, I was thinking about the future and wondering how things might play out with the November election. One thing that popped up in my mind is Westminster’s water rates. While a recent tie …

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Growth, water drive fears for Westminster’s future

Posted

Recently, I was thinking about the future and wondering how things might play out with the November election. One thing that popped up in my mind is Westminster’s water rates.

While a recent tie vote of the city council blocked a 3.9% water rate increase proposed by the City Manager and staff, I know rate increases are inevitable. The question is how much and how fast will rates go up.

Westminster already has one of the highest water rates in the metro area and if the current city manager, mayor and two city council people have their way, rates will continue to jump up. This is tied to the assumption that Westminster needs a new $250 million water treatment plant and would build it. That would lock us water customers into 20 or 30 years of new major debt AND huge rate increases.

Higher water rates impact our quality of living

The punch line in this thought process is that Westminster’s water rates will not be going down in the future if the status quo is maintained as a result of this November’s election outcome.

In turn, higher water rates would have a ripple effect one that is already at play. More lawns in the summer will be brown and uninviting. Per the current city staff’s thinking, turf would be removed from yards and replaced with who knows what. As an aside, the Thornton City Council just allowed artificial turf in people’s yards. This is ridiculous.

Weeds will become more prevalent which is saying a lot. This year’s lack of proactive weed enforcement is disappointing. There is way too much weed growth in the public rights-of-way and some private property. There are numerous city park sites that have yet to be developed. With water becoming scarcer and more expensive, will they ever get built? This is not fair to the homebuyers who paid park development fees in the price of their homes.

Instead, the city is spending over $5 million on a “nature play” park on less than one acre as part of the 40 acres south of the Westminster rail station. Go take a look. It is immediately east of Lowell Boulevard at roughly 70th Avenue.

Where has our beautiful city gone?

This image leads me to a comment a long-time realtor friend of mine recently made. She said, “Bill, where has our beautiful city gone?” She hit the nail on the head.

With all the high-density apartment development, the stark “New Downtown,” city streets in such disrepair, escalating traffic volumes and the above-mentioned impacts, I cannot agree more with her point.

I know many of you have a similar feeling.

However, it is more than simply the physical part of our community. As another friend said the other day, “the people in this part of town (historic Westminster) want to return to the “good old days.” We both acknowledged that such a change is beyond accomplishing.

However, a return to a more attentive, listening city council that walks the talk could be realized. More communications with a robust dose of transparency and timeliness would be another part of the recipe.

Oh, let’s not forget to drop the “know it all” attitude and that knee jerk reaction that if certain councilors take one side of an issue, then the other must take the other side.

When I was city manager, I was blessed with elected folks like Vi June, George Hovorka, Rod Sheffer, Chet McPherson, Ann Merkel and Nancy Heil who sincerely cared about Westminster and its future.

They weren’t part of Emerge or had their eye on higher office. They didn’t play partisan politics. They cared about the residents, the schools their children attended, having adequate parks, open space and recreation facilities. They saw to it that police, fire and medical response teams were adequately compensated and equipped.

When water resources were in decline, they had the wisdom to slow growth down until more water could be acquired. They responded to citizens’ complaints and concerns right in the city council meetings. They listened and they communicated with each citizen, business person, developer, clergy, school officials and more.

You see, all of that was the “beautiful city” my friend was referring to.

Tri-County Health Board makes a smart call

Last week, I criticized the three Adams County Commissioners who voted to undercut the public health experts and leave each school district to “fend for themselves” regarding Tri-County’s previous mask mandate for students. Thank Heavens members of the Tri-County Health Board subsequently had the political guts to do the right thing and rescind their previous “opt-out” opportunity about mask mandates by boards of county commissioners.

Effective September 1, ALL students attending schools in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties were ordered to wear masks when in school. This includes kids who are 2-11 years old.

The policy will be in effect for the balance of 2021 but could be lifted if conditions warrant. Elected officials know very little about public health matters and should leave such decision-making and policy-setting to people and organizations that are trained and have the expertise.

Another council candidate joins the race

You probably heard it here first. Karen Kalavity has thrown her hat into the ring in Westminster’s city council race. She is a landscape architect and expresses strong environmental beliefs. Now, there are nine candidates for four council seats and two candidates for the mayor’s seat.

New apartments just keep coming

Westminster city government has an apartment fetish.

City leaders just keep approving more apartment complexes and consuming limited water supplies. They can’t seem to get enough apartments, but yet City Manager Don Tripp tells us Westminster has a “growth management plan.”

What is it with Westminster officials? Recently, I have become aware of an estimated 927 more apartment units in one phase or another which have not been mentioned before.

There are 261 units under construction on the west side of Westminster Boulevard south of Circle Pointe office buildings known as Millennium at Circle Pointe.

Then there is the recently approved senior apartment development (85 units) at 108th Ave. and Wadsworth Parkway known as Applewood Pointe Senior Living.

Thirdly, don’t forget the former Nolan’s RV site west of Federal Boulevard close to the Westminster Train Station (estimated 271 units). City Council recently considered an incentive package for this development in executive session. So, we don’t have the particulars yet on any incentives.

Finally, and this one was a shocker to me, the former Rock Bottom Brewery and adjacent properties at The Promenade are being torn down, but guess what for?

You are right, more apartments (310 units) to be known as Avalon Bay. This apparently was approved in 2015 and is being processed administratively. That is why you didn’t see anything on a council agenda.

Like I said, Westminster leaders just can’t get enough apartments. Maybe Westminster should change its name to Apartmentville or Apartment City.

What has happened to our beautiful city?

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at bcjayhawk68@gmail.com.

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