John Scarffe, Nederland. The Nederland Board of Trustees appointed Avi Rocklin as the new Town Prosecutor during a regular meeting at 7 p.m., October 3, 2017, at the Nederland Community Center. The Board also heard a presentation on Wild Bear Ecology Center’s proposed nature center and discussed mixed-use zoning codes for the Town.
Mayor Kristopher Larsen was absent, so Mayor Pro-Tem Charles Wood took up the gavel. The Board approved the consent agenda, which included canceling the November 7, 2017, regular meeting because it falls on Election Day.
Town Administrator Karen Gerrity told the Board that the former Town Prosecutor submitted her resignation on July 28, 2017, after more than 18 years of service. Upon receipt of her resignation, town staff created and posted a Request for Proposals for a Municipal Court prosecuting attorney.
The town received 12 responses to the RFP and selected three finalists, according to background. Interviews were conducted, and Avi Rocklin, attorney at law, was selected.
She is a seasoned municipal prosecutor and currently provides services to the Town of Timnath and Town of Eaton. Rocklin said she has worked with Weld County and is excited to work with this community.
Todd Ficken with F&D International, the engineering firm that oversaw the NedPeds project, dropped by to thank the Board for its courage and perseverance during the project. He said the project is 99 percent done, except for closing out the Federal Highway Grant, which involves a lot of paperwork.
Ficken thanked the Trustees for their patience, and he thinks right now it’s working. “I want to commend the Board for their courage to persevere through this. I think this is an amazing thing.”
Wood said he has heard mostly good about the NedPeds project. “It was an experience for all of us. I think you made it possible to happen.”
Wood introduced a presentation by Jill Dreves with Wild Bear Ecology Center in Nederland. Dreves said that we’re here today because Wild Bear is swapping five acres from the north side of Mud Lake to the Southeast side and shifting from the County to the Town.
In 1999, Town of Nederland voters approved the preservation of Mud Lake Open Space including an environmental center to be developed by Wild Bear Nature Center, Dreves said. Wild Bear’s current property is located on the north side of Boulder County Parks and Open Space property.
It was a $1.5 million purchase. Boulder County contributed $400,000 and Wild Bear paid $1 million.
Wild Bear has been a steward to Mud Lake, Dreves said. “We removed over 30 tons of trash from Mud Lake Open Space in 2000. Now it is one of the healthiest wetland habitats in Boulder County.”
Wild Bear’s nature center vision is part of the Town of Nederland’s Envision 2020 and Comprehensive Plan, Dreves said. Now, Wild Bear Nature Center is working with Boulder County to swap its currently owned five acres from the northeast corner of Mud Lake property to a buildable 5 acres on the southeast corner to build a permanent nature center facility.
“We are proud to have accomplished so much in the Nederland community, including the preservation of Mud Lake in 1999 and establishing Boulder County’s only non-profit all-ages nature center located in downtown Nederland. Wild Bear was on its way to building a permanent nature center,” Dreves said.
In 2007, the Center received a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado and approvals of the conceptual design of the nature center on five acres north of Mud Lake; however, a sink hole opened up on Wild Bear’s five acres, and the Department of Mining Reclamation informally determined the site to be unbuildable. Most of the mining activity had taken place around Wild Bear’s current site.
“After this incident, we began to question whether this was the ideal site for the permanent nature center. Should we be closer to the Town of Nederland and the Elementary School?”
Within the Town of Nederland, the area has not been developed by Boulder County at all. Wild Bear could create a trail as another corridor to Mud Lake. It provides a resource for neighborhoods to walk to.
The goal is to be netzero and help achieve the 100 percent renewable goal. Now we are working with Boulder County again to swap our five-acre site.”
Wild Bear is planning to build a permanent nature center on the newly proposed five acres on the southeast corner of Mud Lake Open Space.
“We are ready to pursue the vision of creating the permanent nature center on the proposed new five acres. Wild Bear needs to move out of the temporary center.
Wild Bear is ready to create a center that is within nature and not in a commercial space fronting an asphalt parking lot. Wild Bear pays $42,000 per year in rent and its lease will expire in March of 2019, and Wild Bear will be coming up with a capital campaign.
“Our plan is to continue to be a good steward,” Dreves said. “We are ready now to build a nature center for our town.”
Dreves has been talking with the County for a year now and learned that what we’re doing is really a County decision. In terms of process, a public hearing will take place in November and one in December. It will be a dual process.
“Once we own the land, we will be solely working with the Town, and I hope we can work together and we won’t present some surprise thing,” Dreves said.
Dreves said that to get involved in creating this important resource to our community and its visitors, direct emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.wildbear.org.
Trustee Dallas Masters asked about a clause in the original IGA stating that any change in the use of the town property shall not be approved without electorate of the town. Have you cleared that with legal?
Dreves said: “We are not changing the original agreement. The Town voted to annex the land in 1999. If we were going to build a shopping mall, then we would need a new agreement. We went through it a lot with Boulder County legal. We can’t change the use.”
Wood thanked Dreves and said he has been working with Wild Bear and is the closest homeowner to where they want to move. “I think this would be a benefit for the neighborhood to have something that fits with the environment, and I have confidence that Wild Bear will work with the community.”
Dreves said the site is forested to the east so they aren’t visible from the highway. “The agreement we have, this is public land. The community owns our land. The agreement is that it should be all one.”
Gerrity introduced the use code modification to enable mixed-use by right in available zones. The Town’s 2013 Comprehensive Plan identifies present and anticipated needs for housing, as well as the promotion of a range of quality, affordable and desirable housing opportunities for residents of all ages and walks of life, as one of six overarching policy categories that deserve special attention in the coming years.
The Comprehensive plan also states that incorporating affordable housing into new developments, diversifying the housing types, and exploring the expansion of mixed-use or higher density zoning may provide viable solutions in the future.
Being that there is still a grave need for affordable housing opportunities within the Town, the Board of Trustees wishes to explore the expansion of mixed-use or higher density zoning to address this issue, Gerrity wrote.
Gerrity said that it’s a good idea to have a discussion about this and talk about mixed use and higher density zoning to see if there are ways to create affordable housing.
Trustee Alan Apt said they have discussed the idea of trying to encourage mixed use development and decrease the hurdles. That’s the concept, and he cited the example of the lofts above the liquor store.
Wood said, “If we change the code, it would become use by right. Masters said that Trustee Kevin Mueller wanted to see this brought to the Board, “and I’m the one who encourages mixed use. You have to go through the special review process. I think it’s a no brainer to do this in the Commercial and Business District (CBD).
“I highly recommend general commercial and CBD,” Masters said “I would have loved to see the new building on first street be three stories with living on top.”
Trustee Julie Gustafson said she wants to make sure this goes through the Planning Commission, because they have a lot better idea than I do how the issues intersect.
Trustee Alan Apt said that it makes a lot of sense. A lot of communities are doing this. We should move forward to adopt this.
Trustee Topher Donahue asked why not have it all just be use by right? What is the argument against that?
Nederland resident Kathleen Chippi said that this is the question she’s been having. It always was use by right. Randy Lee was on the Board, and he offered the amendment to restrict all these. That amendment was voted down by the Board at that time, but then the former Town administrator was enforcing that it was no longer use by right.
Wood said that Neighborhood Commercial is already defined as mixed use. It makes a lot more economic sense. Donahue suggested making all three use by right and see what they come back with.
Master said that Neighborhood Commercial is pretty well defined. The Planning Commission could look at the details.
Wood said the Board will meet with the Planning Commission on October 25, 2017. They should get this to the Planning Commission for Neighborhood Commercial, general commercial and the central business district.
Donahue said, “It’s not just a theoretical thing. People have to wait around a long time to get it on our agenda.”
(Originally published in the October 12, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)