On Oct. 27, at the tag end of a marathon hearing, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners formally approved the creation of the Evergreen Local Improvement District (ELID), a self-explanatory administrative construct to be funded by the Evergreen Economic District (EED), by way of the proven and productive Evergreen Legacy Fund (ELF).
The upshot of all those E-cronyms is that many of Evergreen’s most perilous pedestrian and bicycle routes are about to get a lot less hair-raising. For the men and women of the all-volunteer EED, the decision marks the welcome end of a five-year odyssey through the twisting corridors of county government. For John and Jane Evergreen, it means faster, easier and much safer non-motorized travel about town. And for Jeffco, it means an opportunity to perform clearly needed infrastructure upgrades on somebody else’s dime.
“ELID helps Jefferson County help itself,” says Dean Dalvit, a longtime Evergreen resident and co-architect of the newly minted district. “I see it as a win-win-win.”
Following extensive community outreach, which included several Town Hall meetings, EED initially went to the commissioners with 48 items on Evergreen’s infrastructure wish list. At county urging, it eventually pared the list down to the 17 most urgent and/or most achievable. Projects on the new district’s final agenda include a crosswalk on Bergen Parkway, a dedicated pedestrian lane on lower Meadow Drive, and a cement path alongside that nerve-testing sliver of Buffalo Park Road between the high school and Evergreen Library.
If you’re wondering how come Jeffco hasn’t performed those reasonable chores on its own hook, it’s because it doesn’t have to. Unincorporated Evergreen is classified as rural, and the state’s Big Book of community design guidelines doesn’t prescribe sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes for settlements here on the frontier. Officially, at least, Main Street and North Marschner are both the sticks.
“What the guidelines don’t recognize is that there are urban pockets up here with very different needs,” Dalvit explains. “With the ELID in place, Jeffco is obligated to address some of those needs.”
If you’re wondering why, you must first know what ELID isn’t and is. It isn’t an organization, having no board of directors, office, staff, or even letterhead. It isn’t a new layer of government, being wholly under the authority and direction of the county commissioners who approved it. And, quite uniquely, it isn’t granted the power of taxation.
“As far as I can tell, this is the first and only district in Colorado that doesn’t collect taxes,” says Dalvit. “We’re proving a model that can work just as well for Conifer, for Kittredge, or any rural community. We’re making history.”
ELID is only the second example of its species, right behind the tax-collecting Southeast Jeffco Local Improvement District. It is confined solely and tightly to Evergreen’s four long defined activity centers. It is nothing more or less than a binding agreement, a treaty between government and citizenry, the commissioners’ promise to complete 17 strictly enumerated infrastructure projects, and EED’s promise to foot the bill for them.
“Jeffco does the work and we pay for it,” Dalvit says. “It’s really as simple as that.”
Public projects are expensive, and EED calculates that meeting ELID’s terms will run somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.3 million. To get there, it’ll have to make the most of the three funding sources at its disposal. First and foremost is ELF, a purely voluntary 1 percent surcharge collected by 30-plus participating Evergreen retailers. Although 2020 has proved predictably slack, ELF typically nets something like $75,000 a year and has already produced impressive results, most notably the bridge connecting Downtown Evergreen with Evergreen Lake.
“To me, that’s the exciting part,” smiles Dalvit. “We’re improving the community a penny at a time.”
Eager to further the cause of public safety, but not doing much in the way of cash sales, many businesses simply make a yearly donation. Folded into ELF revenues, those civic-minded subscriptions become essential seed money that EED can leverage tenfold in the form of public grants. Indeed, even though by giving ELID a green light, the commissioners have effectively taken its reins, the men and women who donated so much time and expertise to precisely that end won’t exactly be collapsing into their hammocks and congratulating themselves on a good job well done. From here in, their tireless energies will be devoted to ensuring that Evergreen can hold up its end of the bargain, an often difficult task that Dalvit hopes will be made somewhat easier by the fact that EED’s pig in a poke is now a bird in the hand.
“Before, we were asking business owners to take a leap of faith,” he says. “Now we have a clear purpose. My gut tells me that more shops will get onboard.”
If you’re wondering which ELID projects top Jeffco’s to-do list, join the club. In the twin interests of efficiency and economy, the county will undertake each during the course of its regular road maintenance schedules, meaning the pedestrian path from Evergreen Library to the Downtown stoplight will take shape at the same time that improvements to that stretch of County Road 73 do. Not merely sensible, this approach will minimize any disruptions that ELID improvements might entail. Although a timetable has not yet been released, inflexible statutory maintenance requirements suggest that all 17 will be firmly under foot within the next 10 years.
‘What then?’ you wonder. There are two possibilities. The first is that once the terms of the ELID are satisfied, the commissioners will simply dissolve the district. Dalvit, however, is betting on what’s behind Door No. 2.
“After 20 years in Evergreen, I’ve gotten to know the kind of folks who live here,” he says. “These are important public safety issues, and there’s plenty more to do. My hunch is that a grassroots group, just like we are, will identify new projects and keep it going.”
And, just in case you were wondering, there’s something easy and fun that you can do right now to help ensure a safer Evergreen far into the future.
“Just shop locally.”
To learn more about the Evergreen Local Improvement District, visit evergreenlid.org.