Golden Transcript: Q&A with Bill Fisher after election

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com

Read full Golden Transcript article online

Golden, meet your newest city councilor.

His name is Bill Fisher, a familiar face to many as he previously served on the council from 2008 to 2014. He will once again be representing Ward 4, which primarily encompasses a portion of central Golden west of Washington Avenue. That ward was most recently represented by current Golden mayor Laura Weinberg.

Fisher received more than double the votes of his opponent, Stacy Fowler, in a mail-in election completed on April 28.

The Golden Transcript caught up with Fisher on the day after the election was completed to discuss his return to the council, his goals for Golden and the direction he would like the council to go to preserve the city’s character.

What is your reaction to being elected?

I’m really thankful for the trust of my ward and honored by the fact that even during this time, people in Golden are paying attention and understand the importance of our local community and took the time to get out and vote. I look forward to getting to work.

What are your major priorities?

I think the initial priorities are to continue to make sure the city remains in as good of financial shape as possible as the COVID-19 financial crisis continues to set in and potentially impact city government services and also to address what we can do as a city regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking longer term, I see reviewing the zoning rewrites of our ordinances to ensure that as we start to have more growth again or as we see what growth looks like in this new economy we make sure that it is in line with the character that we want to see in.

How will you approach this role?

I’m going to maintain the principles I developed during my first tenure on city council, which are really a focus on transparent and open communication with the residents of Ward 4. Building trust is so important and communication is a key part of that and has been successful for me in the past. I also think communication is the foundation for how we build a collaborative process so as we get things done we do so with the buy-in of the entire community and we do so with the ideas of the entire community so we are building on all the knowledge and expertise we have among residents in Golden to build better solutions than you or I might come up with on our own.

Are their certain approaches you will advocate?

I feel there is an opportunity for the city to take our time with understanding the critical Heart of Golden project so that we get it right – and don’t simply try to rush to get something on the ballot for November. I’d like to see us reevaluate this and take the time to focus on getting it right because this is a 20, 30, 40 year-type of process and impact, so I don’t feel the need to just get it done in six months.

You’ve been vocal about the city needing to do a better job of maintaining its character. Any specific ideas about how to do that?

Sometimes development feels like a big enough topic that it’s hard to get our arms around. I think we start with pieces of it and really focus on elements of look and feel in a way that we haven’t before. If we combined a zoning rewrite to create the zoning we want and engage residents to say “What does that zoning really look like now and what are the possibilities?” In the past we have not been able to share with people in a way that they can imagine what would happen if a developer built out an area. We need to share that with them so that the community can actually say `oh, you know, maybe that’s not what I thought we were going to allow. And maybe we want something less, whether it’s height and setback restrictions or usage restrictions or number of properties.’ Then we combine that with actually embedding the character that people think we’re getting out of our neighborhood plans into the zoning, which we never really did. We just said philosophically here are things that we want. But we didn’t then put teeth in and say ‘this is how you have to build if you build in the community of Golden.

1% Growth Ordinance

Where did Golden’s 1% Growth Ordinance go?

Golden's 1% Growth Ordinance – where did it go?

Golden enacted a 1% Growth Ordinance – where did it go?

Posted by Bill Fisher for Ward 4 Golden on Saturday, April 18, 2020

Honestly, nothing. It’s still here. It just doesn’t do what we thought – or rather it does, but only kind of.

As we know, Golden is landlocked and a desirable community, which means that any growth will be in-fill, scrapes, pop-ups and re-zoning. And THAT means we sometimes get growth that doesn’t fit the character of the community.

Remember, the 1% is a “PER YEAR” number. If we have a little over 8000 housing units in Golden, then about 80 housing units can be built every year. Actually it’s less than that, Council dropped it to only 0.9% a few years ago. Yup.

The 1% ordinance has been effective in one sense – providing relief from very large 500-1000 unit projects. Unfortunately, because of various limitations in the ordinance – and loopholes, it hasn’t stopped some of the mid-size projects that probably were intended to be reduced or halted. 

Loopholes? Oh yeah… 
  • Senior housing used to be an exemption
  • moderate and low-income housing
  • School of Mines student housing (they’ve put over 1,000 beds in Golden, yep.)
  • ADUs
  • Hardship allocations
  • Banking units for the future – Huh? Building half a project one year, then build the other half next year. Totally legal.
  • And boarding houses. Wait, boarding houses? Yep, they don’t count eiter.

For more on loopholes and caveats, check the City of Golden website here and here.

So what do we do?

First, make the zoning fit the character of the neighborhoods we want. We even know what we want – all those neighborhood plans we’ve developed over the past 10 years? Time for them to stop collecting dust. 

There’s an opportunity to put teeth behind the 1% ordinance during the re-design of our zoning codes which is going on now. 

Taking the neighborhood plans and embedding those concepts directly into the zoning codes, instead of simply having them be “ideas” of what we want to see, will go further to identify and direct developers towards the type of growth that feels to fit the scale, scope, and character of the neighborhoods where projects are going up.

We’ve done it before – in fact, we were successful a decade ago with zoning restrictions for Washington Avenue downtown to restrict heights and protect the charm and character of our downtown main street, and I think we can apply those principles again.

We can do more. I’m running to provide a strong vision encompassing shared respect for our historic small-town character and greater balance for those of us who live here in light of the increasing numbers of visitors and those hoping to join our community.

Let’s work together and see what we can accomplish on the 1% growth ordinance and more.