Friday, July 14, 2006

St. Anne's vs. City of Arvada: Recap and Conclusion

The Arvada City Council met on July 10. The resolution to vacate the eminent domain threat passed 9-0, and the resolution to approve the letter of intent to sign a lease with the church passed 4-3. This post is my summary of the meeting and my recap of the dispute. The city meeting itself is available for a few weeks at the KATV website.

The course of the discussion revealed that some proposed sale agreements with the parish involved the promise that no commercial buildings would be built on the property in perpetuity. After reading some urban renewal plans and seeing a residential building planned for the site of the current school(see maps below), that's some comfort, but not much.

I learned that the city council was worried that the parish council wasn't treating the parking lot affair as if it was their problem. This was quite reasonable on the parish's part, since it was the city council that made the promise to the library, not the parish. Doubtless the parish council had other things on its platter. As time was running out for the city council it had to take drastic measures to make the sale the parish's problem and to force the close of negotiations.

The church distributed a flyer the weekend before the Fourth of July rallying parishoners against the eminent domain threat. Being out of town that weekend, I never saw that letter. It seems it contained some bad information, such as the claim that a parking garage was planned for either the parochial school's land or the AURA land across the street. The church brought significant pressure against the city government, with good reason. Eminent domain piques most everyone. The protest was so vigorous that city officials and managers had to cut their holiday weekend short to respond.

The parish seems to have secured a good deal. The Olde Town Arvada area will have a light-rail station within the decade, and prices will certainly skyrocket. Though the agreement itself is unavailable as of this writing, a fifteen to thirty-year lease appears to be in the works, with repairs and renovations on the lot to be paid for by the city. The cost of the renovations runs between five hundred to seven hundred thousand dollars. The total bill runs to $1.2 million, though it is unclear if the difference is being paid to the parish as part of the lease.

After the council voted down the eminent domain threat, the letter of intent was up for council discussion. The first two councilmen to speak engaged in passive-aggressive self-pitying, emoting how wounded they had been by the harsh words and criticism they had received. One councilwoman seemed to claim that because the nearby (public) park was built largely benefitting parish schoolchildren, and the nearby (public) library was built benefitting for the parish schoolchildren, the parish owed it to the city to do whatever the city wanted. Her emotional blackmail was not calculated, but it seemed to be an unconscious expression of excessive emotionalism.

Councilman-at-Large Marc Williams, formerly on the board of the county library system, responded to such officials' attempts to play the victim thusly:

Maybe it's because I'm an attorney and deal with conflict frequently that frankly this didn't bother me. That the public had their input, that they had the right to contact us, I think the vast majority of the contact we received was wholly appropriate. Yeah, you get called dummies every once in a while, and told your actions are stupid

...but the reality is that that's why we ran for office and that's why we're elected and if we can't stand the heat then we gotta get out of the kitchen. You all did what you should do. When you have an issue with your elected officials, you tell them what you think. And if we don't like it, and if we don't act on it the way you think we ought to, then you ought to vote us out of office if you think that's the appropriate action.

Well said. I'll try to remember his name the next time he is up for re-election.

To make one last follow-up, under the aerial maps post I have added one more selection from the Webster Site Request for Proposal outlining the demographic which urban renewal planners were attempting to attract. I also highlight the document's curious omission of the parochial school from the locale's map, which would surely be relevant to any developers' plans.

I hope this wraps up these eminent domain posts permanently. Thanks to all interested for reading.

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