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New LDDA leader lines up priorities

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Richard Vick, newly-elected chairman of the Longmont Downtown Development Authority, said he has definite priorities he would like the board to focus on during his tenure.

Parking, the establishment of a downtown merchants association and redevelopment of the former Golden West Flour Mill site at First Avenue and Terry Street are three of the issues Vick wants the board to move to the front burner.

A downtown property owner and the owner of Caffè 3rd Avenue, Vick was elected board chairman at last week’s monthly LDDA meeting, and Richard Stelmack, a partner in Jensen, Burcham, Stelmack, Edwards, was re-elected vice chairman.

Scott Moore, co-owner of Jesters Dinner Theatre, will serve as the third member of the board’s executive committee.

Vick said that tackling some of the issues facing downtown Longmont will mean involvement from outside the boardroom.

“We’d like to have some public volunteers to create some boards for whatever we’re working on,” Vick said.

These boards — or subcommittees — could specifically address some of the area’s more pressing issues, he said.

“I think it’s difficult to get all the things you want to accomplish done in holding just one meeting a month,” agreed Mary Murphy-Bessler, executive director of the LDDA. “I think it would be great to get that input — that once-a-month (meeting schedule) makes it pretty tough to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”

Other board members are City Councilman Greg Winger, Bill Sawyers, an architect with Sawyers and Associates, and Dan Grant, a vice president at First National Bank of Longmont — soon to be First MainStreet.

Jim Golden, the city’s finance director, serves as ex-officio member of the board. One vacancy still remains on the board, Murphy-Bessler said.

Maggie Benton, co-owner of Hard Copy Recycling and chairwoman of the LDDA board for the past two years and vice chairwoman for a year before that, said she’ll miss working with the LDDA staff — Murphy-Bessler and Carole Johns, executive assistant — and think Vick’s plans for the board sound promising.

“I think those are good ideas,” Benton said. “I think that’s a good idea to have more community involvement with the board.”

Benton said the biggest frustration she experienced during her time on the board was the city’s requirement that to serve on the LDDA board, one must be a registered voter in the city of Longmont.

“So if you spend 12 hours a day on your business, but you’re not registered to vote in the city, you’re still not qualified to be on the LDDA board,” Benton said.

Murphy-Bessler said the residency requirement was put in place by city government only within the past few years.

“It’s really difficult — even the city has difficulty filling vacancies on their boards,” Murphy-Bessler said. “It’s all-volunteer, it’s time-consuming ... Many of the city boards have an advisory capacity, but with the LDDA actually setting policy, that makes it even more difficult.”

If the LDDA is able to establish subcommittees, they would not be bound by the city’s residency requirements, she said.

Stelmack said in his role as vice chairman, he’ll do what he can to support Vick’s plans to “get things moving downtown. Like that downtown merchant’s association — I think that’s a great idea.”

“I think there’s a feeling on the DDA to take more ownership on that,” Murphy-Bessler added. “I think in the past there had been a hope that there would be some sort of grassroots movement toward that, but most of the businesses down here are small businesses, and it’s hard to run your business and get an association started.”

Also at last Wednesday night’s meeting, Murphy-Bessler announced that the LDDA had bought land to create the first “pocket park” along Main Street.

“We just purchased the property previously owned by Gary Klein between Miller Music and St. Stephen’s Church,” Murphy-Bessler said.

Funding for the $125,000 purchase came from the Development Improvement Program and the parking fund, she said.

The portion of the grassy area that fronts Main Street is 25 feet wide, but it extends down between the two buildings and then widens out behind the former St . Stephen’s Church, now the Polar Bear Gallery, at Fifth Avenue and Main Street.

Murphy-Bessler said the parking area behind the property will be paved, and then the LDDA board will decide what amenities to add to the 6,612-square-foot patch of land.

“We’ll clean up that area, and maybe somewhere down the road have a fountain or something,” said Murphy-Bessler.

A plaque will be put up somewhere on the property honoring Gary Klein’s parents, Richard W. and Jeannette C. Klein. The Kleins owned several downtown properties, including the historic Longmont Theatre, formerly the Trojan Theatre.

The future pocket park — sometimes called St. Stephens Plaza — has been a part of the city’s Capital Improvement Program since 1988, and has been on the LDDA’s wish list for several years.

“I guess the first conversation (regarding a purchase of the property) had occurred years ago, even before I was here,” Murphy-Bessler said. “But Gary and I had been talking seriously over the last three to four months.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.