Council approves design program for Olde Town
Last updated 7/1/2020 at 4:50pm
The Fountain City Council has approved a plan that city officials hope will encourage property owners in the Olde Town district to incorporate certain design elements to improve the look and feel of the area.
Last Tuesday, June 23, the council approved the Design Aesthetic Incentive Program for Olde Town, a program that will use incentives in the form of tax credits or temporary free utilities in exchange for new construction and renovations adhering to a very specific set of guidelines.
This latest program is the culmination of numerous efforts over the years to revitalize downtown, thereby encouraging property investment and small business entry within the area.
The city established the U.S. 85 Urban Renewal Area in 2008; Olde Town lies within those boundaries. The city adopted the Olde Town Revitalization Plan in 2014. In 2019, the City Council was presented the findings of the THK Design and Aesthetics Guidelines project, sponsored by the Fountain Urban Renewal Authority (FURA), and this is a result of that.
According to city documents, the goal of this incentive program “is to establish a partnership policy towards encouraging design standards which will lend itself towards the cultivation of a unique sense of place for the community’s Olde Town district.”
Olde Town boundaries generally encompass the downtown Fountain area, from I-25 on the south, Comanche Village Drive at the north, and jutting out east and west anywhere from one block to several blocks.
Kimberly Bailey, the city’s economic development director, said the standards aim to avoid “harsh” or “bland” designs while promoting “warm, inviting” aesthetics that would appeal to residents and visitors alike.
“This provides a very attractive product for our community and sets the standard and really would entice future development of interest into our district, future investment in existing property upgrades, and all that lends itself to allowing and attracting small business to want to cultivate within our district and serve our community base,” Bailey said.
Contributing to rebates are the city, FURA and Fountain Utilities. Rebates could be in the form of use taxes and planning fees, for example.
With new construction, because the property owner generates no money during the build phase, Utilities may provide temporary water or electric service at no cost. Some of these parameters already were established under the Gateway District, Bailey noted, but are being repackaged specifically for this district.
Bailey emphasized that this is not mandatory, and implementation is not intended to be costly.
“These attributes of standards and aesthetics design that we are recommending are by no means meant to put additive cost burden on either an existing property owner or a new entry of construction,” Bailey said. “These should be easy, attainable wins that if somebody looking to invest in their district would appreciate that we have this longer view scope of what we would like our district to evolve into, as we have definitely many decades ahead of us as we have several decades already behind us.”
Design standards encompass a variety of criteria, from roof pitch to window size to color palette. Those nine basic parameters are expanded into three tiers, beginning with “easy wins” in tier A, and more aggressive design efforts in tiers B and C – some of which may not be feasible for existing properties that were constructed in such a way that make some goals unattainable. Those would not be penalized for eligibility in the rebate program, Bailey said.
There is a detailed design template that a review committee would use to score a construction or renovation project. The committee would consist of three local business owners, a city planning technicians, and one Economic Development Commissioner.
Attached to the agenda for the June 23 council meeting is a detailed description of this program, including a case study with cost-benefit analysis to illustrate how a property of a certain size would benefit from the design program’s rebates and credits and how it, in turn, might benefit the city with future tax dollars.
Both Tom Downing, chairman of the Economic Development Commission, and Paul Aragon, chairman of FURA, submitted letters in support of this initiative.
Municipal court fees increased
In other business, the council voted to approve increasing the Court Administration Fee from $15 to $30. City Attorney Troy Johnson said the increase would help make up for the cost of the new Court Management software currently being implemented – a technology he said would bring the court system “into the 21st Century.”
“This new system will allow greater access for citizens and efficiencies in payments and court dates,” a description on the council agenda reads. “This will also significantly increase staff efficiencies and allow for greater case volume in the future.”
Johnson noted the city had approved several other fee revisions this year, and this should be the last.
However, Council Member Sharon Thompson inquired whether Colorado’s new police accountability bill, SB 217, would add cost burden on the police department that might necessitate additional fee increases.
Johnson said that officials are still reviewing all the details of that bill, and that additional fee items may be identified; however, the biggest burden on police departments is mandated body cameras for officers, which Fountain already had implemented in the past.
The council also voted to approve a contract with Lindsay Precast, Inc., and the purchase of four electric vaults for the extension of the 115 KV line. A resolution awarding a contract to Great Southwestern Construction, Inc., for engineering, procurement and construction of the new East Fountain Substation was on the agenda but was tabled to a future meeting.
Finally, Mayor Gabe Ortega announced the City Council may reopen meetings to in-person attendance beginning sometime this month. Attendance in chambers would be limited, though. He had previously said that online participation would continue to be offered to anyone unable to attend in person while the COVID-19 situation continues to remain uncertain.