Ruby Hill-Godsman September 2015 Meeting Notes

Panoramic view of neighbors attending the Ruby Hill-Godsman neighborhood association meeting while a presenter points at some concepts on an easel.

Present

Officers: Sharona Thompson, Ruby Hill President; Scott Bolt, Godsman President

Members: ~33 neighbors and guests

Also Present:

  • Anita Bañuelos, Aide to District 7 Councilman Jolon Clark
  • David Richter, District 7 representative for the Parks and Rec Advisory Board
  • Mark Fleecs, Police District 4 Commander
  • Officer Tyler Blakesley, Police District 4 Community Resource Officer
  • Jenny Gentry, Senior Vice President of Finance & Administration at Colorado Public Radio (CPR)
  • Jim Bershof, Principal at Oz Architecture
  • Lauren Cameron, Public Relations Manager at CPR
  • Curt Upton, Senior City Planner for the City of Denver
  • Bruce O’Donnell, President at Starboard Realty Group
  • Steve Charbonneau, Executive Director of Community Mediation Concepts

Discussed

  • Opened with introductions
  • Police District 4 Commander Mark Fleecs talked about his background and experience in his 24 years with the Denver Police Department. He became the commander of District 4 on August 1st of this year and is concentrating on violent and gang related crime and property crime in our district. He is enjoying building community connections and developing relationships in our neighborhood.
  • Officer Tyler Blakesley introduced himself as our Community Resource Officer (CRO). He is focused on community outreach and crime prevention education and provided tips on deterring theft from vehicles, which has increased in District 4:
    • Lock your cars and roll up the windows
    • Don’t leave anything of value in the vehicle; take it with you or lock it in the trunk. This is especially true for a purse, iPod, GPS, computer case, or money
    • If your car has been broken into, check the glovebox for your insurance and other papers, which can be stolen for identity theft
    • If your car has been broken into, call the police even if nothing is taken. This helps them track what’s going on. You can also make a report online.
  • Sharona announced that due to time constraints, we would meet with Officer Blakesley and David Richter at another time to discuss some of the issues we have concerning crime in the park.
  • Marie reported on several meetings she’s attended over the summer:
    • From a Department of Agriculture meeting, Marie learned we are in a prime swath of land inhabited by Japanese beetles. There is not much we can do to control them. The beetles first appeared in Denver in 1995 in infested nursery turf and are here to stay. The Overland golf course, Ruby Hill Park, and Platte River make this area great for the beetles.
    • From the last Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC) meeting, Marie reported that an incinerator is being built in City Park and people in that area are upset over the lack of public involvement or feedback elicited by the City.
    • From the District 4 Commander’s meeting, Marie learned that we are #2 in terms of crime in the city (Mont Bello is #1). She also reported that our new Commander, Mark Fleecs, is very responsive and will answer questions if you show up to the Commander’s meeting or call him. She also encouraged the community—on behalf of the Commander—to call our City Councilman (Jolon Clark – (720) 337-7777) and ask for two more police academy classes as our district has a need for more officers.
  • Steve Charbonneau introduced the main topic of the night’s meeting: facilitating a discussion with CPR regarding their property off Jewell near Ruby Hill Park. Steve explained the normal process for beginning a project and talked about how this process is different—it is a pilot program in which CPR would like to hear feedback from the community before filing an application with the city to rezone the land for a new headquarters building. CPR has met four to five times with the leadership of the Overland and Ruby Hill neighborhood associations to understand what is important for our community and would like to get a working group of up to four neighbors to further help them define the parameters for the property.
  • Jenny Gentry from CPR then gave us more context. She spoke about CPR’s current reach, their offices in Centennial, and their desire to be closer to Denver. She outlined the process after they gather feedback from the neighborhoods—they would like to go to the City to get a new zoning designation so they could build an office building at the location, then would start the design process, then the fundraising process (which could take as much as three years). The whole project would be a longer term project, but CPR is tentatively targeting their 50th anniversary in 2020 as a nice way to celebrate with a groundbreaking ceremony.
  • Jenny unveiled three boards showing two concepts for how the land could be used, and a third board showing the total footprint for land usage.
  • Jenny then opened it up to the audience to talk about their concerns, ideas, and questions about the potential project:
    • Concern: Employee traffic on our neighborhood streets. Jenny said they currently have about 100 employees and their arrival and departure hours are pretty staggered. However, this is an issue that will be considered.
    • Idea: Could CPR help with our Bee-safe Neighborhood efforts by planting bee-friendly bushes, trees, or flowers on their lot? Jenny noted that the current NPR headquarters has beehives on its roof in Washington, D.C.
    • Concern: Currently those getting to the park use a path through the property. Will access to the park through the property be addressed? Will they landscape such that it’s a more pleasant area to walk through?
    • Question: Will CPR be able to do anything about the public works lot east of the CPR property? Jenny noted they have control over that…but put it on the list
    • Concern: What will happen to the existing wildlife? There are coyotes, foxes, skunk, raccoons. Will there be fencing that will prevent wildlife from getting to the river? Other neighbors noted that having the property occupied could deter wildlife from preying in the backyards of neighbors bordering the CPR lot.
    • Question: What would you do with the other part of the land that would not be developed? Concern over it being dry and potential fire danger. Jenny mentioned they don’t yet have plans for that area. They’ve talked about solar panels, but would like to explore some more ideas.
    • Question: What about the steep hill on jewel, would something have to be done? Jenny said that would be part of process in working with traffic and city issues. They would factor in consideration in the location of the driveways. She acknowledged the steep hill could affect winter driving for employees (as it does currently for neighbors).
    • Concern: How much lighting and glare will neighbors have to deal with? Will they plant trees, hedges to block the light? Creating parameters for this would be part of what the working group would help with.
    • Concern: How would building additional parking affect the current amount of drag racing at the park? A large area of blacktop could encourage even more nighttime recreation and vehicles doing donuts or racing.
    • Question: Is CPR aware of the mountain bike park going in next to their land and the Ruby Hill Rail Yard in the winter? How will this affect those activities. Jenny mentioned that the proposed parking lot for the building could potentially be used during off hours for park activities.
    • Idea: Jenny brought up that currently about a third of CPR employees use public transportation and that if a pedestrian bridge across connecting light rail and our neighborhood was built, this could alleviate traffic.
    • Idea: Could the CPR building have signage announcing neighborhood meetings, etc.? Jenny mentioned that they have given thought to including publicly available rooms within the building for use by the community for meetings. Zoning requirements will determine the feasibility of signage.
    • Question: How much input will CPR solicit before this takes place? Curt answered that right now, the process as managed by the City hasn’t started yet. CPR is doing this on their own before they submit an application for zoning. They want a level of comfort before they create their plan. Once the process starts, public hearings, planning, and design will begin, but the working groups are our way to provide input before all that.
    • Idea: Could CPR place signs on their fence to let neighbors know what’s happening?
    • Thought: a neighbor bordering the property on Raritan brought up the fact that the presence of an office building could be a deterrent to theft and wildlife from his backyard. He liked the thought of the security that could come from the neighboring occupied land.
    • Question: Would CPR build a privacy fence to keep light and people from seeing into neighbors yards? Curt spoke on lighting requirements. This comes from the zoning ordinance, there are requirements about lighting where building lights or parking lights can’t shine in people’s yard. It’s possible to undertake a custom zoning approach in which the City can take minimum standards and go even further based on the working group’s parameters for things like noise and light because the building would be an office use next to residential.
    • Question: What about people camping in the field at night? Trees and bushes may make nice places to hide or camp. CPR occupying the land may help.
    • Question: What happens if CPR gets the land zoned and 10 years later, leaves? Will we have to deal with some other unwanted business taking advantage of the zoning? Curt mentioned that the location is the highest elevation in city and is the perfect site for this type of use, so CPR is unlikely to find a better spot.
    • Idea: Jenny mentioned that CPR is looking at building a self-supporting tower, no more guy wires and static.
    • Question: How is CPR planning for growth? Will they come back in five years and need to build more onto this land? Jenny said they would go through a ten year plan for staffing, studios, performing space, meeting rooms, etc. with the architecture firm when they get to that point. She noted that the land would permit a basement, which doesn’t count for square footage and could house vehicles and trailers and technical stuff underground.
    • Concern: Construction noise.
    • Idea: It would be nice to walk the site to get a feel for the area for those who are not familiar with it.
    • Question: Would there be security in the parking lot at night?
    • Question: Is CPR aware that Ruby Hill used to be a landfill? Jenny said the park was but the top was not, and when CPR bought the land they did a Phase I Environmental Assessment which found that the property is clean.
  • Steve ended the feedback session with the promise to continue to update us as the process moves forward. Neighbors were encouraged to fill out information cards with their contact info and whether they were interested in being part of the working group.
  • Walt Giesel from civicsatisfaction.org invited neighbors to sign a petition for the Colorado Care Yes initiative.
  • Scott closed the meeting by asking people to attend the I-25 and Broadway Redevelopment meetings to speak for a pedestrian bridge that would connect broadway station to our side of the river. We need enough people there saying all the same things so they will listen. He also mentioned that at 1601 S. Federal, there will be 60 units going up and that he’s invited the developers to come to our October meeting to give us a presentation on the development. He’s been coordinating with Mar Lee neighborhood and their councilman, Kevin Flynn.

Photos from the Meeting

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