BY JAN WONDRA
Retiring Greenwood Village City Councilmember Leslie Schluter is well versed in the issues important to the city, including open space, safety and smart development, and is passionate about the community she has called home since 1999.
Schluter, who has represented District 2 since 2011, is an attorney in civil private practice and owner of a Greenwood Village-based law firm, chose not to run for re-election this year—a bittersweet departure, she says, given her decades of community service, which began with her involvement in a successful citizen effort to maintain Centennial Airport as a general-aviation facility, rather than converting to passenger service. That was followed by terms on the city’s boards of Adjustments and Appeals and Planning and Zoning.
Schluter says she is most proud of cooperative efforts that contributed to residents’ quality of life.
“When the council was working collaboratively, we were able to achieve things that enhanced the city’s beauty and green spaces,” she said. “Adding open space in a landlocked suburb benefits us all. We were able to get the 11 acres added to Westlands Park. It allowed us to get 40 acre-feet of water per year from the onsite well, now used for irrigation in Westlands, to stop the destruction of turf. With my strong support, we got an additional open-space designation across from One Cherry Lane in the Tech Center, instead of another building. Also in District 2, we acquired another five acres that allowed us to extend existing regional open space, a logical park component.”
Schluter also cites the council’s attention to health and safety after passage of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, for maintaining a safe and vape-free environment in Greenwood Village’s public spaces.
She is also proud of partnerships that advanced traffic improvements in the area.
“The major work at I-25 and Arapahoe will be done by this year,” she said. “We’ve worked well with [Colorado Department of Transportation] and the City of Centennial. Our regional partnership with CDOT, the City of Denver and the Southeast Public Improvement Metropolitan District on the Belleview Corridor Study will see $66 million in funding for the Belleview and I-25 area. It offers at least four alternatives. … We started a citywide traffic update and have been adding smart technology to coordinate corridors over which we have control. We haven’t yet been able to persuade CDOT at significant locations on our borders to use technology to advance their use to benefit traffic flows.”
That collaborative nature of the council has changed more recently, according to Schluter.
“We were a very civil group of people up until a few years ago,” she said. “It’s been extremely disappointing to see the outright refusal to work collaboratively, based on assertions of personal knowledge and rejection of the information coming to council in the form of expert knowledge from staff and industry experts. Real information is being ignored under the banner of ‘you can’t trust them.’ It’s a denigration of the highly professional staff and the expertise brought to our city’s challenges.”
Schluter says she has been shocked and dismayed at the rejection of what she says has made Greenwood Village an exceptional place.
“Our history is anchored in extraordinary development in the commercial core,” she said. “There is a pretension that we are solely and exclusively a residential enclave, which ignores the economic reality that we’re not. To curate your commercial core is necessary. We have people denying reality, refusing to stay abreast of the renewal of quality commercial space that must be done to maintain a distinctive viability. What we have now is a failure to carefully renew and improve our commercial core in areas that are aging to the point where we have a high vacancy rate. They’re not at all up to Greenwood Village standards. They will fail to perform for the Village or the school district, and holes will open in our sales-tax revenue. Further development will pass us by. We will be left with regional traffic and none of the positives.”
Schluter says her grave disappointment was the Orchard Station Subarea being misrepresented, according to the councilmember, before the recent ballot issue overwhelmingly rejected by voters.
“We lost an opportunity to improve commercial flow by removing bottlenecks and clearly aligning policies around Orchard Station to get a much better commercial development model,” she said. “The existing $2.2 million of commercial rights will just bring us dumb development. It won’t bring us distinctive development, with public spaces and commercial building separation, world-class architecture and owner residential. It will bring car-driven, low-caliber development. This was never about a particular developer or proposal. It was about the Orchard Station use description meant to solve traffic problems and achieve distinctive viability, to preserve assets against dumb development. I guess lies sell better that truth.”
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