Arvada City Council approves Land Development Code amendments

Short term rentals, fleet vehicle parking, murals, council oversight among items amended in revised LDC

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With a 6-1 vote, Arvada’s City Council approved seven amendments to the City of Arvada’s Land Development Code at its Sept. 19 meeting. The amendments pertain to short-term rentals, fleet vehicle parking, murals, council oversight, notification area radius, conditional use and the definitions of fleet vehicles, heavy truck and heavy truck trips.

Councilmember Lisa Smith was the lone dissenting vote.

Before delving into the comments and discussions had at the council meeting, here are brief summaries of the seven amendments, which can be read in full on the city’s website.

Short term rentals

The language used in the section of the LDC pertaining to short-term rentals was changed in order to make the procedural guidelines of those rentals clearer, according to Rob Smetana, Arvada’s manager of city planning and development.

One change clarified short-term rental licenses,  stipulating that the license is invalid until the application fee is paid and accepted by the city.  Additionally, once local contact person must be identified in the application. That local contact must be able to respond within one hour of being notified by the city team of a complaint pertaining to the property.

If the local contact changes, the license must be updated within seven days of the change.

Fleet vehicle parking  

A section was added to the LDC defining maximum fleet vehicle parking parameters.

Uses with less than 25 vehicles are exempt from the maximum parking space requirements laid out as follows; in the CG zoning district, the maximum shall be no more than 50% of the minimum required parking spaces; in the IL zoning district, no more than 100% of the minimum parking spaces; and in the IG zoning district, no more than 200% of the minimum parking spaces.

Murals

A provision stating that a mural cannot contain text that covers more than 3% of the mural area was removed. There is now no limitation on mural text in the LDC.

Council call-ups

The City Council can move to "call up" administrative decisions for council review. If the motion passes, the application will be decided upon at a public hearing scheduled for “as soon as practicable.”

Notification radius

The notice distance requirement has been increased for both administrative decisions and public hearings. The notice radius for administrative decisions and public hearings less than five acres in size is now 1,000 feet — up from 500 feet — and the notice radius for public hearings more than five acres in size is 1,500 feet.

The city team reserves the ability to reduce the notice radius for projects they deem to be small to 500 feet.

Conditional use

If an application includes residential use and was granted conditional use approval, the number of residential units must be within 5% of the number of residential units presented for conditional use review.

The amended LDC also states that the project shall be “substantially similar” to the concept presented during the conditional use review, specifically in terms of building height and location, parking location and spaces, landscape, and small urban park locations, if applicable.

Definitions

Modified definitions for fleet vehicles, heavy truck trips, heavy logistics centers and light industry were included in the LDC amendments.

A fleet vehicle is now defined as one of a group of motor vehicles, excluding semi-trailer trucks, owned or leased by businesses, government agencies or any other organization other than a family. Fleets with fewer than 25 vehicles are exempt.

A heavy truck is now defined as any truck with a gross vehicle weight greater than 16,000 pounds; a US Truck classification of Class 5 or greater.  

A heavy truck trip is now defined as a single inbound or outbound movement of the truck on a site, with each movement considered a single trip.

Furthermore, the threshold between light industry and heavy logistics centers was reduced from 100 one-way trips to 76 one-way trips.

The city team’s report to the council said the changes would not put any existing business in danger of not conforming with the LDC.

Arvada Mayor Marc Williams voted in support of the LDC amendments and said they were made in the interest of Arvada’s business community.

Williams added, in response to comments by the Ralston Valley Coalition that the site would not be home to an Amazon facility in the future. The coalition group voiced opposition to the amendments and notably fought against the Amazon delivery station proposed for the “Project Indiana” site in 2021.

“With all due respect to people who want this to just be a bedroom community, if we don’t have jobs, that’ll just create more traffic,” Williams said. “You’re not going to get an Amazon distribution center at the site you’re most worried about.”

Smith, the lone dissenting vote, said she felt the amendments might endanger a business’s ability to grow in the future.

“I couldn’t reasonably vote for a code change that could put businesses in violation,” Smith said. “There’s a variable that we don’t know which is, ‘If we reduce those classes by at least two classes, how many more additional vehicles are now counted towards that business?’ And I didn’t feel like we 1. Had that information to make an informed decision there, and second, it would inherently put a few of those businesses in violation of the code and stifle their growth if they wanted to continue to thrive in Arvada.

“So that didn’t seem like a smart decision to make, specifically on that part of the amendment,” Smith continued.

Ralston Valley Coalition Founder Gina Hallisey said her group was trying to voice concerns about maintaining light industry but didn’t feel their concerns were heard by the council.

“Although we didn’t quite get our message across, I’m not sure they understood our message,” Hallisey said. “They kept bringing it back to Amazon, and this has nothing to do with Amazon. We have nothing against light industry, we want to protect light industry. We just want to make sure that we don’t have heavy industry.”

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