Citizens push back on LIFT

Urban-renewal board postpones vote on study areas

The site of the former Quality Auto Sound is one of many commercial lots included in the Littleton Boulevard area that could potentially benefit through urban renewal. Photo by Jennifer Smith
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The city's urban-renewal authority pulled back the reins on its process June 16, agreeing to postpone a vote after being barraged with criticism from members of the public.

“It's better if the citizens are happy with the process and the decision,” Pam Chadbourne told the members of Littleton Invests for the Future. “One way to do that is to let us participate. … This is a public process. We are paying your expenses.”

Like Chadbourne, many of the disgruntled residents are active with the Sunshine Boys and/or Citizens for Rational Development, grassroots groups that closely monitor the actions of Littleton's governmental entities. Many of them are leery of urban renewal, particularly of the term “blight” and the potential for eminent domain.

“The collateral damage is just like a big bomb that goes off in the middle of town,” said Jose Trujillo, a former councilmember who hosted the Sunshine Boys' meetings in his restaurant on Main Street until he retired last year.

There are some new faces joining the chorus, however, including Phil Sieber, a Littleton resident and Columbine Valley's town planner.

“When you blight an area, you are affecting the image not only of that area, but also the areas around it,” he said. “It can have a detrimental effect on other areas that can't benefit from urban renewal.”

The LIFT board was scheduled to vote that night to approve the study areas laid out by their consultant, Anne Ricker of Ricker/Cunningham. She defined four: the Santa Fe corridor from Prince Street to just south of Mineral Avenue; the Broadway corridor from north of Powers Avenue to south of Littleton Boulevard; the Columbine Square area along Belleview Avenue, including the shopping areas on both the east and west sides of Federal Boulevard; and the Littleton Boulevard corridor from Windermere Street to Bannock Street.

“I cast the net widely so that I can bring back as much information to you as possible,” said Ricker.

She did suggest that the board eliminate any property owned by the city, South Suburban Parks and Recreation, South Metro Housing Options or a religious institution, along with the newly remodeled car dealerships on Broadway and any single-family houses that are not being used for a commercial purpose.

Still, even some on the board are wary of how much of the city is being covered.

“Part of the problem is I don't understand the enormity of it,” said boardmember Dennis Reynolds. “Four areas. Why don't we just blanket the whole city?”

The board ultimately agreed to hold off the vote until next month's meeting, on July 21, especially since they hadn't even seen the maps for three of them until Ricker handed them out at the end of that night's meeting.

“We're obliged to get this off on as solid a basis as we can,” said Reynolds.