Littleton residents have until Sept. 16 to give feedback on a pair of sweeping documents that will help guide development and growth in the city for decades to come. City officials unveiled the …
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Littleton residents have until Sept. 16 to give feedback on a pair of sweeping documents that will help guide development and growth in the city for decades to come.
City officials unveiled the drafts of the city’s revised comprehensive plan, or Complan, and its first-ever Transportation Master Plan, or TMP, in mid-August. The city’s current Complan was ratified in 1981 and last updated in 2000.
Residents can read the drafts and provide feedback by going to littletonplans.org/envisionlittleton.
The new draft documents represent the culmination of a year and a half of community feedback, data analysis and stakeholder meetings, all part of the Envision Littleton process — a long-term effort to set goals and priorities for the city that will guide future efforts to revise city zoning and codes.
City council plans to ratify the documents in mid-October, said Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman, and should begin working on zoning and code revisions in early 2020.
Laying the groundwork for zoning and code revisions has been sorely needed for a long time, Brinkman said.
“We don’t want development to happen to us,” Brinkman said. “We want it to happen in a way that’s consistent with what residents want their town to be. What we heard loud and clear was that citizens want to retain our small-town character and quality of life, and these documents help us get there.”
The Complan lays out policies and actions for various aspects of civic life, including housing, infrastructure, recreation and business.
Priorities in the housing section include encouraging a greater consideration of neighborhood context and character in zoning decisions, and minimizing “obstacles to developing diverse and attainable housing options.”
Brinkman said the plan will help guide efforts on the horizon to address housing affordability, and to regulate short-term rentals and accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
Economic priorities include revitalizing underperforming shopping centers, and working closely with the business community to ensure a diverse and successful tax base.
The TMP establishes a lengthy list of goals to improve Littleton’s transportation network, through a comprehensive mix of approaches including expanding highway capacity, improving bike and pedestrian amenities, and facilitating public transit.
The challenge for improving transportation infrastructure, Public Works Director Keith Reester said, is funding. Transportation projects can be hugely expensive, he said, and the city’s capital projects fund as it stands won’t be adequate to tackle the city’s to-do list.
“It’s going to take a lot of matching funds to secure grants,” Reester said. “If we can’t meet that challenge, nothing will change.”
Stakeholders weigh in
Stakeholder groups are still digesting the documents.
The draft Complan’s revised land-use map still feels a bit vague, said Littleton Business Chamber co-president Pat Dunahay.
“It feels like they largely just remapped what already existed,” Dunahay said. “I wish more thought and consideration was given to commercial property.”
Dunahay said the chamber feels the new land-use map’s definitions don’t give a clear explanation of how much of a “multi-use” property should go to commercial users, and that the city has allowed too much commercial property to shift to residential in recent years.
“People think the days of brick-and-mortar stores are over, but we don’t believe that,” Dunahay said. “There’s still a need for high-quality, well-managed commercial uses, and if we don’t support that, they’ll go elsewhere.”
Historic Littleton Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Littleton’s historic places, gave the Complan high marks.
“The plan is full of references to preserving historic assets, so we’re pleased with that,” said Margi Clute, one of the group’s board members.
Clute said HLI was heartened to see support in the Complan for preserving “midcentury modern”-style buildings along Littleton Boulevard between Broadway and the railroad tracks. Numerous buildings along the corridor were identified as architecturally significant in a study published earlier this year.
“It’s a part of our history that’s threatened by development, and this is our chance to landmark those buildings,” Clute said. “I think the plan is very well done.”
South Metro Housing Options, Littleton’s public housing authority, also gave the Complan a good review.
The Complan “does a good job of tying different challenges together, as most of the challenges do not exist on an island,” SMHO executive director Corey Reitz said in an emailed statement. “For example, transportation, housing, education and health care are all connected. Housing located near transportation can be very valuable so people have easy access to light rail or bus lines.”
Reitz said SMHO is thankful the plan addresses challenges around affordability, the ability of seniors to age in place, homelessness and the city’s aging housing stock.
“Overall I think the (Complan) coordinates very well with SMHO’s strategy in addressing the housing needs of Littleton,” Reitz said.
SMHO is currently moving forward with plans to seek federal approval to divest of dozens of single-family and duplex homes around Littleton in coming months, with the stated goal of using the proceeds to pursue more public housing stock in coming years.
Arapahoe County’s Board of County Commissioners is still working its way through the documents and was not ready to respond, a spokesperson said on Aug. 22.
Littleton Public Schools offered a muted response, through spokeswoman Diane Leiker: “LPS was asked to provide feedback as part of Envision Littleton for the transportation master plan. LPS may have provided feedback in other areas, as well. LPS truly values its partnership with the City of Littleton and looks for ways to work together to best serve the community.”
Though finalizing the Complan and TMP are huge steps, Mayor Brinkman said, at the end of the day, it will be the code and zoning revisions that have the greatest on-the-ground impact.
“That’s where the rubber meets the road,” Brinkman said.
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