Longmont City Council suggests visions, general goals for the community‘s future

By the year 2038, if not sooner, Longmont should have earned a reputation of being “the world‘s greatest village,” a label that City Council members informally agreed upon on Friday.

By then, Longmont should be a community “where children are most fortunate to be born and raised, where people will have food and shelter, and everyone has the opportunity to thrive and feel they belong.”

At that point, the city also should be a nationally recognized center of science, technology, engineering, the arts and “entrepreneurialism.”

Those were among the general goals and visions that emerged during the City Council‘s annual retreat, held this year in the community room of Fire Station No. 5 at 617 Barberry St.

Each of the seven council members presented several specific ideas about what they thought Longmont should look like in 20 years‘ time.

Mayor Brian Bagley, for example, suggested “a variety of little clusters” of economic development efforts where the city would work with property owners, such as it does in a partnership with the Longmont Downtown Development Authority.

Two of those clusters of what Bagley called “economic vibrant epicenters” might be for the “midtown” and “uptown” areas outside the current LDDA boundaries, the mayor said. Another could be for some properties adjacent to the St. Vrain River corridor — while leaving “a big swath of natural area” for wildlife along the river.

Bagley suggested the city could work to get property owners together and tell them: “This is your area. Figure out what you want to do,” and how it would contribute to the community.

Councilman Aren Rodriguez advocated creating a new entertainment center for the community, something he said might be possible if the city could work with Boulder County to revitalize and improve the facilities at the county fairgrounds at 9595 Nelson Road.

The fairgrounds would be “a perfect spot for a vibrant entertainment asset,” Rodriguez said, adding that it could become “kind of a jewel” in the region that Longmont could claim as its own.

Councilwoman Bonnie Finley said she‘d like to see the city work with current and potential property owners to redevelop the site and neighborhood of the in southeast Longmont — possibly as a mixed-use development.

“It‘s a mess. It‘s a big mess,” Finley said, but “it‘s the entry to our city.”

Councilwoman Marcia Martin proposed creation of what she called an “aspiration center” east of First Avenue and Main Street, a project that eventually could include a cultural center, a performing arts center, a convention center, a venue for the arts, an “ideas center,” and a learning center location for college and university extension offerings.

Such a lower downtown-area center could be “an economic engine for Longmont,” Martin said.

Councilwoman Joan Peck said she liked Martin‘s idea but asked: “How are we going to get people there?”

Peck, who‘s been working actively on getting the Regional Transportation District to move faster toward getting to Longmont, as well as other transit and transportation improvements in and near the city, said the council needs “to push it.”

Councilwoman Polly Christensen agreed with the need for better transit options, both to and within the city, saying, “We can‘t just keep widening and widening and widening the roads” to accommodate transportation needs.

Christensen continued her own long-standing call for taking steps to increase the availability of in Longmont, saying: “We need to consider where we can increase density, where we can increase height,” while providing transition-zone protections for existing residential areas, such as the historic neighborhoods east and west of the core downtown area.

Councilman Tim Waters said one of his goals, through the city‘s services and programs, would be for Longmont to become “the most compassionate community in Colorado” — one in which no residents would need shelter or food.

The city staff merged those and the other suggestions from the council members into several common themes and translated them into written vision statements about general goals — draft statements the council may yet put through a final edit.

Among the overall vision statements and themes that wound up in the council‘s general goals categories on Friday:

• Longmont should have “an integrated systems approach that leverages human and social capital to: provide high-quality pre-K learning opportunities for all our children so they have a good start in life.”

• The city should “incentivize and provide housing and support services that end the risk of homelessness in our community.”

• Longmont should “focus on making sure our most vulnerable residents have the opportunity to thrive.”

• By 2038, Longmont should have a fully “developed” Main Street from Pike Road on the south to Colo. 66 on the north.

• There also should be further development along the St. Vrain River corridor between the onetime sugar mill area in southeast Longmont and the Boulder County Fairgrounds on the west — one that provides “a vibrant economic, residential and entertainment epicenter that is sustainable and protects the environment.”

In order to start moving toward those 20-year goals, the current City Council should focus during the next 20 months on such areas as transportation, housing, development and redevelopment, members agreed.

Council members also discussed the need to come up with “metrics” to measure the needs involved in the goals they‘ve set, the improvements they want to see within certain time frames and the progress — or lack of progress — in reaching the numbers they want achieved.

“How do you want to measure progress?” asked Assistant City Manager Sandi Seader, for the council and city staff “to know when we have succeeded.”

Peck said she‘d like the staff to tell the council at some point: “What can you accomplish this year?” and not just by the end of 2019.

This year‘s retreat originally was scheduled to last two days and to resume on Saturday, but council members decided late Friday afternoon that they‘d covered most of the two-day agenda already and canceled Saturday‘s session.