Littleton passes first new comprehensive plan since 1980s

Non-binding document joined by first-ever transportation plan

Posted 10/21/19

Applause broke out in the Littleton City Council chambers on Oct. 15, as the council unanimously approved the first new citywide comprehensive plan since "Ghostbusters" was in theaters. The …

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Littleton passes first new comprehensive plan since 1980s

Non-binding document joined by first-ever transportation plan

Posted

Applause broke out in the Littleton City Council chambers on Oct. 15, as the council unanimously approved the first new citywide comprehensive plan since "Ghostbusters" was in theaters.

The comprehensive plan, or complan, is a document that aims to set goals and priorities for the city to guide future efforts to revise city zoning and codes. The city's previous complan was ratified in 1984, and most recently revised in 2014.

For the first time, the complan is accompanied by a Transportation Master Plan, or TMP, which seeks to integrate planning and development efforts with their impact on the city's transportation network.

The guiding documents could mark a turning point for land use and transportation improvements in Littleton, said Mayor Debbie Brinkman.

“In the past couple years, we've dealt with things we don't reference in our complan or code,” Brinkman said. “With things like metro districts, we have to look to state statute. Nobody wants to run a home-rule city off of state statute.”

The two documents, which together clock in at more than 400 pages, spell out a sweeping vision for Littleton's future, with a heavy emphasis on “core values” like preserving neighborhood character, history and open space. The plans also call for a focus on ensuring “inclusive” housing options that are accessible for a wide range of ages and income levels.

The transportation plans call for a far more comprehensive transportation network that is more amenable to biking and walking, more integrated with public transit, and more accessible to people with disabilities.

The plans, however, are not binding, and are meant to guide impending revisions of city codes and zoning, efforts expected to be kicked off in 2020.

“This is the end of the beginning,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Valdes about ratifying the documents. “There's a tremendous amount of work that needs to happen now.”

Both documents are the result of Envision Littleton, an 18-month input process run by project manager Kathleen Osher and consultants from Kendig Keast Collaborative.

Project staff reached out to the community for input a variety of ways, Osher told council, including numerous social media posts, mailings, a banner over Main Street, and a slew of in-person appearances at locations ranging from city events to Bemis Library and Littleton Adventist Hospital.

The result, Osher said, was a total of more than 8,300 conversations with residents and hundreds of responses to a online survey. The result, while just a fraction of Littleton's population of more than 45,000, was superior to other municipalities that have sought similar input.

“It was really surprising to me how much of their time people are willing to donate to have those conversations,” Osher said.

Councilmember Kyle Schlachter said he was satisfied with the level of citizen feedback.

“It would be great to get 45,000 opinions on this, but I don't think that's feasible or necessary,” Schlachter said. “We listened to everyone who wanted to speak, and gave an opportunity to everyone. Not all comments were put into the documents, nor should they be, because it won't be all things to everyone.”

Representatives of stakeholder groups who spoke at the meeting were largely supportive of the documents.

Pat Dunahay, the co-chair of the Littleton Business Chamber, said the plans should prove helpful.

“The only thing worse than rules is no rules,” Dunahay said.

The plans also drew praise from Planning Commission chair Mark Rudnicki, South Suburban Parks and Recreation District Executive Director Rob Hanna, South Metro Housing Options board chair Kyle Henderson and Historical Preservation Board member and city council candidate Pam Grove.

The plans are not without their detractors, including city council watchdog Pam Chadbourne, who has maintained a drumbeat of criticism against the plans. Chadbourne said the plan's new land use map unfairly prioritizes developer interests in downtown and along the South Platte River.

“It's false that citizen comment built this plan,” Chadbourne said. “We don't want to be urban.”

Julie Falkenberg, who said she lives in the Bradley House subsidized apartment complex near Bemis Library, said she didn't hear about the process until it was too late to comment.

“I don't think everyone was as involved as this likes to claim,” Falkenberg said.

Mayor Brinkman said the documents aren't carved in stone, and city council can and should revisit them often to make sure they reflect citizen concerns.

“This was never intended to be perfect,” Brinkman said. “If we were trying to be perfect, we'd never get it done.”

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