Light pollution not welcome in Central City  

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The end of recycling and other issues at Council Meeting

By David Josselyn

The Central City Council met for a budget work session on Tuesday, November 21, 2017, at 5:00 pm to go over the bulk of the proposed 2018 Budget. One notable item is the Citizen Trash Service account which is proposed as $66,000; a $24,000 reduction from the expected cost of trash and recycling. Manager Miera informed the Council that the number does not include the cost of covering recycling fees for residents. In 2018, residents will have the option to either enter into a residential contract with a recycling company or take their recycling to the Gilpin County Transfer Station on Highway 119. The County offers free recycling to all its residents. A work session on December 5 will allow public comment on any Budgetary item. The proposed budget is published on the City’s website.

Regular Council Meeting

The Central City Regular Council Meeting of Tuesday, November 21, convened at 7:17 pm in City Hall Council Chambers. Council members; Jeff Aiken, Mary Bell, Judy Laratta, Shirley Voorhies, and Mayor Kathy Heider were present. In attendance for Staff were City Clerk Reba Bechtel, City Attorney Marcus McAskin, Finance Director Abigail Adame, City Manager Daniel Miera, Community Development Director Ray Rears, Public Works Director Sam Hoover, Utilities Director Jason Nelson, Fire Chief Gary Allen, and County Sheriff Captain Tom Ihme.

Mayor Heider called for a moment of silence in memory of Nancy Spain who passed away Monday evening, November 20. Nancy was well known in the community and is the wife of Bob Spain who sat on the City Council. Mayor Heider next led the Pledge of Allegiance and then asked for any amendments or additions to the evening’s agenda. There were no additions or amendments to the agenda.

Consent Agenda

The Mayor called for a motion to approve the consent agenda which consisted of the minutes from the November 7 meeting, regular bill lists through November 8. Alderwoman Voorhies moved to approve the Consent Agenda and was seconded by Alderwoman Laratta. The motion passed unanimously.

Public Forum

Mayor Heider opened the floor to the public for anyone who wished to speak to a topic on that night’s agenda. No one chose to speak to the Council at this time.

New Parking Lot in the Works

Attorney McAskin reviewed Ordinance 17-11 which would approve a lease agreement between the City and 321 Gregory Street, LLC, for the property commonly called the AGE Lot. The land is the section of Gregory Gulch just east of the Century Parking Garage down to D Street in front of the Grand Z. The agreement allows the City to offer incentives in the form of rebates to the owner for development of a surface parking lot. The project is scheduled to begin in 2018.

Mayor Heider opened up the public hearing for the Ordinance, but no one took the opportunity to address the Council.

Alderman Aiken moved to approve the second reading of Ordinance 17-11and was seconded by Alderwoman Voorhies and Alderwoman Laratta simultaneously. The Ordinance passed unanimously.

Let There Be No Light

Director Rears reviewed Ordinance 17-12 which would amend the Sign Code to prohibit Electronic Messaging Centers (EMCs) in the downtown and Gregory Gulch historic districts. This Ordinance approves EMCs in industrial zones which are not yet established within City Limits, but could be designated as such along the Central City Parkway, and Commercial Zones, but not within 500 feet of the road. The limitation includes the length of the Parkway between mile marker 7 and the end of the road on Nevada Street. The KOA Campground is in Commercial Zone, but inside the mile 7 marker and would not be allowed an EMC.

Mayor Heider opened up the public hearing for the Ordinance and four people chose to address the Council.

Bob Brandstetter, a resident on Casey Street first addressed the Council. Brandstetter said he lives in a historic house and over the years the building across the gulch (now the Grand Z Casino) has added garage lights, added lighted smoking areas, and now there are 13 new light fixtures on the exterior of the building. There used to be shielding on the garage lights, but it has eroded away. Bob praised the paint job saying “The Z looks nice.” He told the Council that EMCs would add to the light pollution and would probably be a violation of the historical designation of the City. Brandstetter gave the Council pictures taken from his house showing the changes in lighting of the building. Mayor Heider then showed the council blown up images of those same pictures for easier reference.

Jack Hidahl was called to speak as next to sign up, but he deferred his position to Commissioner Engels.

Ron Engels, “proud resident of the National Historic Landmark District of Black Hawk and Central City” next addressed the Council. He informed the Council that an act of congress created the National Historic Landmark District and gave us the burden of the stewardship of the district. “We have an obligation to preserve, protect, and cherish it.” He thanked the Council for prohibiting EMCs from the historic district. Engels then addressed the Grand Z lighting saying, “If the current light levels are allowed in the current code, we have made a mistake.” He urged the Council to make changes if that is the case. Engels then lifted up Breckenridge as an example of a well-lit historic district.

Jack Hidahl, resident of the City, next addressed the Council. He said, “Ditto the remarks of the previous two speakers and I yield the rest of my time to the other two who went over a little bit (on their allowable time).”

Sharon Cate, resident of Central, addressed the Council. She is “Disappointed to hear in previous discussions that there are two sides in conflict instead of finding common ground.” She reminded the Council that a person just bought his third casino and he is “doing just fine” and did just fine before installing the new lights. “They are ugly,” said Cate, “the lights come into our living room, into our bedroom.”

Mayor Heider moved to approve Ordinance 17-12 with amendments prohibiting EMCs and adding gas-filled tubes as a prohibition and directing staff to find ways to mitigate light pollution and drafting a dark sky ordinance; and was seconded by Alderwoman Voorhies. A vote was called and Aiken, Voorhies, and Heider voted for; Bell abstained, and Laratta voted against. Aiken then questioned what he just voted on since the amendments were not previously discussed. Manager Miera clarified that direction to staff would not be written into the Ordinance. Director Rears queried Council regarding which sections would be removed from the Ordinance and gave his understand as returning to the original language regarding EMCs which would prohibit them entirely and adding gas-light tubes (neon) in the prohibition. Rears then reported that there was a complaint about the lighting at Grand Z and the City is working with a sign company to measure the brightness of the signs in question. At this time, they are not sure if the owner is in compliance. The City will do their own measurements as a cross-check and report back to the Council. If the City’s measurements are out of the compliance, the burden of proof will fall to the owner. Rears also reported that the owner of the property has said they will work on installing shielding on the garage lights in response to resident complaints.

City Attorney McAskin asked for a recall of the vote since there was some confusion and reminded Council that you cannot abstain on an Ordinance vote. The vote ended up being three to two with Alderwoman Bell and Alderwoman Laratta voting against.

We Like Lottery Money

Director Rears introduced Resolution 17-29 which acknowledges the City’s support of the Colorado General Assembly’s reauthorization of the Colorado Lottery Division in 2018. Central City is expecting to apply for Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) funds in 2018, which come from Lottery proceeds. The Colorado Municipal League is asking the State Congress to reauthorize the GOCO funding from the Lottery program.

Alderwoman Voorhies moved to approve Resolution 17-25 and was seconded by Alderwoman Bell and Alderman Aiken simultaneously. The Resolution passed unanimously.

Staff Comments

Attorney McAskin informed Council that the Independent Ethics Commission has claimed jurisdiction over home-rule municipalities in the past, but the majority of municipalities and their lawyers disagree with this assessment. McAskin asked if Central City would be interested in joining an amicus brief asserting that the Independent Ethics Commission does not have jurisdiction over home-rule municipalities. The Council said yes.

Council Comments

Alderman Aiken reported he received a call from a constituent that the steps by the Masonic Lodge going up to 1st High Street “were like ice” during our last storm. Manager Miera responded that they will look into that and the City has funds in 2018 to repair staircases and improve drainage. Miera added that the City is in the hiring process for a part-time employee to take care of public areas in the winter.

Alderwoman Voorhies then reported two requests from residents. One resident desires to bring back the community newsletter. The second resident requests adding some pull-outs and beautification to the Central City Parkway. Voorhies then reminded the Council and public that the Tommyknocker Bazaar is coming next week, starting November 30 with the children’s parade and tree decorating, and then the tree lighting and community pot luck featuring the Peak to Peak Chorale on December 1. The Bazaar itself will be on December 2nd and 3rd.

Public Forum

Mayor Heider opened the floor to the public for anyone who wished to speak to the council on any items not on the agenda. Three people chose to address the Council.

Resident Barbara Thielemann, and co-chair of the Tommyknocker Bazaar, first addressed the Council. She said, “It takes a village to put on this event.” Barb then thanked the Council for reviewing Main Street’s request for additional funding to pay a full-time coordinator in 2018.

Ron Engels, resident of Central City, next addressed the Council saying, “Thank you for the action you took on Ordinance 17-12.” He added that if it ends up that the lights on the Grand Z are permissible, “can you do an ex-post facto and make him turn down the illumination?” Engels that said he was taking off his resident hat and putting on his Opera hat. “Thank you for the continuing support of the Central City Opera Association,” he stated. Engels then addressed a question that came up during the budget work session and informed the Council that the funds provided by the City to the Opera are earmarked for marketing and outreach campaigns. For the last couple years, they have been used for the Boomer Bus. “I feel the funds have been very well spent in bringing new people to the opera and the city. We can’t thank you enough for your support.”

Lynn Poe, resident of Prospector’s Run, then addressed the Council. She reported that Prospector’s Run also has a light problem in a light pole that repeatedly goes off in an unsettling way with sparks. The Fire Chief is aware of the situation. Poe reported that one night, the pole caught fire and Chief Allen parked himself by that pole and watched it all night to ensure it did not reignite until Xcel arrived in the morning. “That man deserves a medal.” She then stated, “We feel ignored for three years. I don’t want to wake up someday with my house on fire” because of that light. Manager Miera informed Council that it’s an above ground utility line that belongs to Xcel Energy. The City has been trying to work with Xcel to repair the light, but Xcel has a differing opinion on what fixed means.

Mark your calendars

Mayor Heider adjourned the regular meeting at 8:28 pm. The next regular Council Meeting will be Tuesday, December 5, 2017.

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