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Wyatt: [00:00:00] If you can build it here, you can build it anywhere.
Barna: [00:00:02] I think I'm just going to say that if you don't like something, change it.
Wyatt: [00:00:05] OK? If I build one on wheels, you know, what are my hurdles? If I build one without wheels? What are my hurdles? What's local code requirement going to drive me towards?
Barna: [00:00:13] You could be 60 years old and you want to move your parents into an accessory dwelling unit. They have to go over the same hurdles as a 20 year old that doesn't want to have the lifestyle.
Wyatt: [00:00:23] What we need are safe, secure places that someone can actually afford to live inside of.
Barna: [00:00:29] And this is a recurring theme of we're not going to let you do it.
Wyatt: [00:00:33] And you want a different lifestyle. It's Not a Tiny House podcast.
Lester: [00:00:38] Well, I have high school interns in my office and I and they asked me, what is architecture?
Wyatt: [00:00:44] Sure.
Lester: [00:00:44] Just like you did. What is architecture? I'm here, but I don't know what architecture is. I say architecture is communication. That's all I do. Graphic, written, spoken. That's my whole entire job is communication, because if you tell me what you want and I
Barna: [00:01:06] I thought it was drawing lines and pretty pictures, I'm so wrong.
Lester: [00:01:11] That's graphic communication. That's graphic communication. So, writing a development guide, drawing the plan and then going in front of somebody and explaining exactly what you're doing in terms that they understand. That's my job. That's what I have been honing for 30 years.
Wyatt: [00:01:29] Right
Barna: [00:01:30] That's way bigger than I thought.
Lester: [00:01:31] My that's my ability to communicate.
Wyatt: [00:01:33] Yeah. And it's a career and it's like a labor of of all of the I mean, we're only as good as all of the experiences that we've had up until this point or as challenging as many of those have been. Right. Like you have to come through so much friction to get it. And I said it to a lot of people before and I said, no struggle, no strength. Right. You will not get stronger unless you've had to work hard at something that doesn't work without it. Right?
Lester: [00:02:03] Well, and let me let me couple what I just said with I also have to listen because of if if I can't figure out what you're telling me, I'm never going to give you the product that you want. I'm never going to be able to do that. And I'm only going to frustrate you. And so or whomever it is I'm talking to, I'm only going to frustrate them if I'm not listening. So that prompted me a few years back to go back to school and get my master's degree in community development, because what I have discovered over 30 years of doing this is that not every problem is solved by bricks and mortar. Not every problem is a project, sometimes the problem is figuring out how not to have a project. And so and then my third,
Barna: [00:02:54] That's not what I wanted to hear.
Wyatt: [00:02:55] Yeah, yeah, it's just two people's hearts broke.
Barna: [00:02:58] Yeah, this podcast is over. Podcast 10 signing off.
Wyatt: [00:03:04] Yeah, he retired. We are done here.
Lester: [00:03:08] So so my third and then my third degree that I'm getting ready to start a PhD in public policy and...
Barna: [00:03:16] Perfect.
Lester: [00:03:16] ..that way. That way I can go to governments and say, guys, there's an easier way to do this and let's figure out how to do this, because I know I've been through enough of them that I know that there's an easier way to do this. But I have to be convincing. And sometimes you got to have doctor in front of your name, I guess. I don't know.
Wyatt: [00:03:37] We said it before. Letters after your name are something that we don't we're not going to do. Right. I'm short of being here in front of a microphone the times that we're recording this, I am covered quite literally in sawdust. And that's where I'm happy.
Barna: [00:03:51] I only have three letters after my name. It's GSD man.
Wyatt: [00:03:55] And that's the get shit done. For those of you who do not know,
Barna: [00:03:58] That's it.
Wyatt: [00:04:00] It's overused, bro. It's not, it's good.
Barna: [00:04:04] Said the guy who got nothing done today. No, you got poly on the floor.
Wyatt: [00:04:07] How dare you.
Lester: [00:04:08] You ate doughnuts.
Barna: [00:04:10] Yeah, well that was my contribution today.
Wyatt: [00:04:13] I raised my blood sugar to levels that might that might knock somebody else out.
Barna: [00:04:18] You're going to stroke out pretty soon.
Wyatt: [00:04:20] So with that, though, and in doing that, are you noticing, have you seen, any kind of tidal wave shifts in in trends as far as sizes or structures or things that I'm thinking more specifically, single family or small residences? Are you, are people coming to you with like I want to do a smaller house? Are you seeing any of that?
Lester: [00:04:41] I do. I do see a litte bit of it I've I've not had as as much as I thought I would have, people have been talking a lot about millennials and how, you know.
Wyatt: [00:04:54] And they always do it with this.
Lester: [00:04:55] Air quotes.
Wyatt: [00:04:58] What do these caterpillars got to do it.
Lester: [00:04:59] But then but you know how they they can't afford to be out in the housing market. The housing markets are saturated. There's no I mean, I think we're, you know, 95 plus occupancy rates in these cities so there is nothing to have.
Barna: [00:05:12] Year ago, we were at 99.1 occupancy.
Lester: [00:05:15] Yeah. So staggering levels of occupancy, which is great. But what's left?
Barna: [00:05:23] Healthy is five percent from what I read, like if you're around five percent vacancy rate, like, that's kind of healthy to have and now its about 0.
Wyatt: [00:05:30] Now it's a monopolized market if you own your raking cash in. And what you're really doing is with high rental rates, you're you're eliminating the opportunity for people to save money so they can ever have a down payment and gain their own equity inside of housing.
Lester: [00:05:44] Well, you also have to understand, too, that Colorado is a vacation state. And so it's filled with second homes.
Wyatt: [00:05:52] Which is absurd.
Lester: [00:05:54] Well, I mean, it is and it isn't, but but I mean, again, we're talking about wealth. And it's true. I mean, vacant homes most of the year, they're just vacant because they're, you know, people out of Arizona and Texas and wherever coming in and in California and buy another house because they want to be able to come out and ski and it just is vacant. And so there's a so the market is is is a strange one in a state like this. Florida is the same way. Arizona is the same way they've got you know, it's their second home states. And so that's what we that's what we're full of.
Wyatt: [00:06:28] Minnesota is like that but except that everybody still lives in state and they have a lake property 35 miles from their primary residence. It's so weird. Or, you know, maybe it's maybe it's 100 Miles or so.
Barna: [00:06:40] Want to go to my summer or winter cabin?
Lester: [00:06:42] So so am I seeing a shift? I'm not seeing a shift. I expect to shift. But there's still too many people coming to me for 4000 square feet and it's I can give them four thousand square feet. That's not a problem.
Wyatt: [00:06:55] And the bank will lend them for 4000 square feet because they're their employment history or they've done well with their portfolio because 4000 square feet, it's the construction costs on that.
Lester: [00:07:05] 800 grand.
Wyatt: [00:07:05] Is 800 grand minimum. I mean, that's that's actually a low end estimate for that. That's not counting ground development and that's not counting anything like that. It's 200 bucks a square foot and that's low. Contractor I spoke with locally, 215 was his low number, the ones in the Springs 285. Obviously can go higher, but everybody knows that you can put granite everywhere if you wanted to, if you wanted to really bring those costs up, if that was your thing.
Lester: [00:07:34] It really wasn't that long ago that I would struggle. I would have people come to me and say I want to spend two hundred dollars a square foot. And I would struggle being able to do that,
Wyatt: [00:07:45] To jam it all in there, granite and custom cabinets.
Lester: [00:07:49] I would struggle to spend that kind of money. You know.
Wyatt: [00:07:52] Oh, now it's you can't get away from it.
Barna: [00:07:54] You get drywall and 99 cents per square foot flooring. And you're still at 200.
Lester: [00:07:59] Yeah. And when I started again thirty years ago because I'm old, but when I when I started you could build a house for 75 to 85 bucks a square foot.
Wyatt: [00:08:09] Right. And there are still places that that last year before it got hit every so the material shortage for lumber especially created a lot of unexpected rise in cost of construction because you couldn't put a number of people in the same place or people in the factories. People will get sick and they get shut down. And so supply and demand enters into the conversation there. Right. But there are places in the Midwest that that a year ago, we're still in that ballpark. I mean, they just that was what they said. Now, again, that's not counting your land and your infrastructure costs. And so those kind of have to come with it,
Lester: [00:08:43] Yeah. Development costs.
Wyatt: [00:08:44] Yep. And I'm working with with a customer right now and I have them somewhere in the hundred and sixty five. But that's because I got away and
Lester: [00:08:52] They probably think it's cheap.
Wyatt: [00:08:53] It's super cheap.
Lester: [00:08:53] Yeah. 165, yeah, let's build it tomorrow.
Wyatt: [00:08:56] But it's steel instead of wood and there are a number of ways that you can kind of if you're flexible in your construction methods, you just it's kind of like having more than one fuel source for heat in your home. If you have an LP and electric and a natural gas, you only turn on the one that was the lowest price.
Lester: [00:09:14] So here's the here's the other piece of the pie that you have to think about. And you you haven't been hit with it yet, but you will.
Wyatt: [00:09:22] Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo. Here we go.
Lester: [00:09:25] And that is building codes, residential building codes. We're now at twenty eighteen. Yeah. You aren't here. No, but I'm now working in twenty eighteen and energy cost is, the energy code, is much more substantial. Yeah. So that's going to be something you guys.
Barna: [00:09:45] Costs have gone up.
Lester: [00:09:45] Yeah. Yeah. You guys are going to have to start struggling with that because it's going to, that's going to raise your costs because you're going have to insulate the hell out of these things.
Barna: [00:09:53] Spray foam is expensive.
Wyatt: [00:09:54] Boy is it.
Lester: [00:09:56] And they're already considering twenty twenty one.
Wyatt: [00:10:00] Yeah. That'll be the next I've seen. And it's funny
Lester: [00:10:03] Generally they skip one. Generally they, they, you know it's every six years that they change. But like Canon went from 2006 to 2018 in one jump.
Wyatt: [00:10:16] They were 09 to 2018.
Lester: [00:10:17] No 2006.
Wyatt: [00:10:18] They were six.
Barna: [00:10:19] Its 9 here.
Lester: [00:10:22] They were six and they would jump to twenty eighteen and people's heads exploded. Yeah. Because I don't even know and I and frankly, I was in 2015 because the spring is in 2015 and I had to go to 2018 and my first job is just to read the codes. I don't I don't know what changed until I got to go in and figure out what changed, you know.
Wyatt: [00:10:49] And usually they're not like it's not like moving heaven and earth. Like I mean, you're still going to have insulation in the wall. It's like, well, how much do we have to do it? Ideally, a lot of times your construction material development is going to kind of move there so that when somebody comes up with a new thing, there's already a solution that's supposed to be in place. And that's why it's now being adopted. Like this is the new standard, right? Right. At one point, we didn't have sheeting for walls. And can you imagine what like people to throw in their hands up and be like, what the hell is this? When they went from one by planks to that as the standard? So the technology does drive some of that.
Lester: [00:11:28] Oh, it absolutely does.
Wyatt: [00:11:29] Yeah. Maybe even a good part.
Lester: [00:11:30] Yeah. But but those are the things, you know, those are the other pieces and parts to that, that you know. Yeah. It drives cost. Yeah. There has to be somebody that steers the conversation in the right direction with regulatory agencies, whether it's at the state level, at the county level, at the city level, because they all have to be on board because I can't, again, even when I create something unique, it still has to go in front of somebody else's approval.
Wyatt: [00:12:02] And this was the issue with the guy in New Mexico that Brad talks about every once in a while. There was an architect that lost his license. At some point,
Barna: [00:12:09] The Earthships.
Wyatt: [00:12:11] The Earthship. Yeah. And apparently whatever state he was in.
Barna: [00:12:15] It's New Mexico.
Wyatt: [00:12:16] But I don't think New Mexico is where he was. I know that's where he went. Yeah. They stripped his license because he was doing stuff that was like I think he was he was bending some stuff that he wasn't probably supposed to be bending.
Barna: [00:12:28] He built houses out of tires and glass and.
Lester: [00:12:30] Well, that stuff has been around since the 70s, though. I mean, those are trombe walls.
Barna: [00:12:33] That's when it was.
Lester: [00:12:35] In the 70s. Yeah. Yeah, it was. It was the 1970 stuff. And we just never we we skipped it in the 80s. Now we're just getting back to it. Straw bail houses, you know, but that's all old technology. That's not even that's not even new. It's just rediscovered.
Wyatt: [00:12:53] Yeah, exactly. Right.
Lester: [00:12:55] But you also have to understand, too, that talking about stripping licenses, that's my livelihood. Right. And so I have to do things by the rules. Because if you take my license, I, I no longer work. I can't do anything. And and if you take my license you're also taking my insurance. So I'm the guy that assumes all the responsibility. All my consulting engineers are the guys that assume all the responsibilities. Your ideas we have to bring them to fruition, but we have to do it within the framework. And if we want that framework to change, we have to work toward changing the framework. So that's I mean, that's it's it's it's it's my world, not yours. And so I get that. I get that it frustrates owners and clients, but it's still it's still what I have to do.
Wyatt: [00:13:48] It's math and money.
Barna: [00:13:50] Well, so the first seven episodes of our podcast here have been basically about the the current policy and what how we're kind of fighting that and this is part of that process, too. Is where we go to all the planning and zoning meetings and we're trying to affect public policy, I guess, and the current code by fighting for smaller square footage,
Lester: [00:14:15] What it is you want to do.
Barna: [00:14:16] accessory dwelling units. And it's not even for us. Like I've got a house I don't want an ADU, but people need it. And where does that come in to something like like local government because we mentioned that money moves all kinds of objects.
Lester: [00:14:32] The World.
Barna: [00:14:32] Right? The moves the world. Isn't the job of government, let's get a little bit political, to help everybody? The the job of Florence City Hall isn't to help the guy with the biggest pocketbook, it's to help the community.
Wyatt: [00:14:51] And to level the playing field with the guy with the biggest and the smallest pocketbooks.
Lester: [00:14:55] Is that a loaded question?
Barna: [00:14:57] No, I'm honestly asking. There are laws right now and lawsuits that you created a policy in other states, policies have been created that specifically force certain groups to not be able to afford a house, not be able to buy a house, not be able to live in certain areas. So when you create policies that even OK, just to get into it Florence City code still has "servants" in in the wording of the code
Wyatt: [00:15:26] That is a live in servant. It's a reference to slavery.
Barna: [00:15:31] Yeah, it's a reference to slavery. So if that still exists in the code so that's how updated the code is and how it's still viewing the community as servants and not servants.
Lester: [00:15:42] Sure. Well, so government is a big word. And I think that.
Barna: [00:15:48] Small town, local, government lets focus on that. We're not we're not going federal. We are more local.
Lester: [00:15:53] Was going to say because I mean, there's change on so many different levels. And, you know, it generally trickles down from the federal to the state to the local. So generally, there are policies and standards and practices that occur way up here where nobody actually uses them. They just talk about them. And then all of a sudden way down here at the local level, you suddenly have to use them and you can't use them well. Here's my opinion. In my opinion, not based on anything than my opinion. And that is I would agree with you that at the local level, government should be taking care of the community. It should reflect the community's sensibilities, their ethics, their morals. It should reflect that. It should be reflected in the people who are or are working here, are hired here, and the people who sit on public commissions who were asked to do it or who are elected officials because they in my opinion, they should be reflecting what the community is about.
Barna: [00:17:01] Do you find that to be true? That the that the not not the employees, not the people employed at city hall in whatever city you live in, but the people who are appointed to commissions and committees that they accurately reflect and have the same values or needs as the community at large, or is there a certain demographic that is able to be in those positions due to financial status, age or some other reason?
Lester: [00:17:34] Well, I think that, again, a pointed question, and I think it's an appropriate one.
Barna: [00:17:39] That's what I'm here for.
Lester: [00:17:40] I know. I know. But.
Barna: [00:17:41] I'm here for the hard questions.
Lester: [00:17:43] You're not you're not going to get impoverished people serving on boards, so their sensibility is not represented in in the in the conversation that you would have, like at the Planning Commission, for example. So you're going to have people who A, You're right and have time. Right, because they only work eight to five and they can be they can be on a commission. They only you know, they've been asked. So somebody someplace said, I think that would be a good person person's voice on this commission. So they've been asked. Right, because that's how planning commissions are.
Barna: [00:18:18] So they're appointed by the mayor here.
Lester: [00:18:21] Well, they are. But first you have to ask and then, yes, I'll accept a nomination and then you submit the name to the mayor and the mayor appoints you and that's what you do. And so that's that's how those those like the Planning Commission works.
Barna: [00:18:33] If you are listening that was a very important process that you just listed. Like this is how you get on a commission if you want to do it.
Lester: [00:18:42] Yep.
Barna: [00:18:42] It's not magic.
Lester: [00:18:43] Ok, I mean, you can submit your name for for example, I, I mean, you know, when I first moved to Colorado, I went to the city hall and I said, I've been, I was a chair for a decade. I would submit my name if you guys, you know, if if a position came up. So you can ask to be on the commission and they can, you know, they can keep you on file, quote unquote.
Wyatt: [00:19:04] Sure. Yes.
Barna: [00:19:05] Circular file.
Wyatt: [00:19:05] We'll keep you in mind.
Lester: [00:19:06] Exactly. But so is everybody's perspective being addressed? I don't think it is. I don't I don't think it's with malice, though, I mean I mean, maybe maybe there's a person on there that, you know, just doesn't like you and you're just not going to do it. And, you know, and so they address you differently. But but there's got to be consensus and there has to be a real conversation. And that's the one of one of the things that I that I hate about boards and committees is that you have to have opposing viewpoints. You have to. Somebody's got to take it's like the Supreme Court. Somebody's got to take the forward leading edge and somebody has to take the argument and you have to have the conversation.
Wyatt: [00:19:56] You can't all get along.
Lester: [00:19:57] You still have to reach consensus.
Wyatt: [00:19:58] Yeah. You can't all get along.
Lester: [00:20:01] Even if I agree with. I still have to argue the point. It's OK. Yes, but what about this?
Barna: [00:20:09] But the important word there is you have to reach a consensus. It's not just my side versus your side. And I'm sticking to my guns and I'm sticking to my guns. Because that's how it doesn't work.
Lester: [00:20:20] That's exactly how it doesn't work
Barna: [00:20:21] That's how government at the federal level, doesn't work, at the local level, it can also happen. So, I mean, just what you're reading in the news, it's happening in your small town America on a different scale.
Lester: [00:20:33] It absolutely is. I don't think anybody even uses the word consensus anymore. And it's in it's terrible. And I always have to come back to it. I always have to say it's OK to have this conversation and it's OK to have that conversation. But at the end of this, we as a board have to reach consensus.
Wyatt: [00:20:47] At the very least the resolution, like however you want to phrase it. And the thing that I've noticed the most is that people get so emotionally charged in it that their ego swells inside of the room and they're no longer having they can't see the argument for the facts and the statistics anymore because they came into that argument already ready to fight for something.
Lester: [00:21:07] They were loaded.
Wyatt: [00:21:08] They were loaded. Yeah. And and that's not the right place for that to happen. This needs to be
Lester: [00:21:14] And even but even if it does it needs to be in the open and people in the audience need to listen and the board members need to listen to each other. And, you know, but but again, at the end of the day, there's got to be consensus. We have to decide what it is. And so if you're trying and one of the questions you asked earlier and I want to circle back to it, and that is you said, you know, we go to the planning commissions and we're trying to get them to change things. Well, the Planning Commission really can't do anything. They're a quasi judicial board. They can make decisions, but they're not the ones that then at the end of the meeting, go to the city planner and say, this is wrong. You need to change it and we're telling you to change it.
Wyatt: [00:21:55] City council does that?
Lester: [00:21:56] City council doesn't even. I mean I mean, they can I mean, they're empowered to do that, but it never happens.
Wyatt: [00:22:03] So who does that? Who says they need something to change?
Lester: [00:22:06] Well, it's generally the planners. Generally you guys go in and meet with the city planner and say this needs to change. I'd like it to be on an agenda. I'd like to speak to it.
Barna: [00:22:15] But that has happened. So right now with the accessor dwelling units, it was actually city council asked planning and zoning to start working on it. You know, information was brought in and presented and now code is getting put together and and they're trying to get it over to city council to vote on it. And we had a discussion with it, with our attorney about that process and how what you just said is that planning and zoning commission is not really in charge,
Lester: [00:22:45] That they're only empowered to make a recommendation to the city council. So anytime they pass something, it's a recommendation to for the city council to pass it.
Wyatt: [00:22:57] Can you give something to city council, even if, let's say they don't make a recommendation? Well, that's still move through to city council or will it get squashed there?
Lester: [00:23:05] No, it absolutely does. If they if they if they recommend to city council to deny an application, then it still has to go to the city council and the city council still has to deny it. And so you have another chance then to go to city council and argue your case. Yeah. And then if they deny it and you still don't like them, you go to court.
Wyatt: [00:23:25] And oftentimes what happens here is opinions are introduced. And you said it's quasi judicial. This is supposed to be fact based information that's presented here, not opinion based, generally speaking. Right. To be done correctly.
Lester: [00:23:37] Interpretation of the code. City staff is supposed to be interpreting the code and your circumstances and then making a recommendation to the Planning Commission and the Planning Commission approves or denies and then they recommend to the City Council for approval or denial and then that and then it's done. Unless you say no, we're going to court. So court is the final step.
Barna: [00:24:03] Ok, so what happens if people on, let's say, city council or planning and zoning commission do not agree with, let's say, some people in the community who are trying to push an issue on fundamentals or different people on the commission don't don't agree on fundamentals of where they see the community going. Is this is a bigger issue that that you should should have handled at the appointment?
Lester: [00:24:30] You got to you got to stay in that. You have to stay in that planning cycle before you ever get to city council.
Barna: [00:24:37] I'm just saying, like, there's some people that think that this entire county basically should be a tourist destination with retired people. Right. Other people say, I want this to be a hub for tech people.
Lester: [00:24:51] Or blue collar.
Barna: [00:24:51] Or blue collar, because we're making, you know, cement or whatever, the historical use of the area is. And and these are very different views on where you're going with buildings, where you're going with housing, with commercial, with zoning. So how do you deal with that? How do you recheck and.
Lester: [00:25:12] How do you move the needle?
Barna: [00:25:14] How do you how do you reach consensus when one person goes, no, I want a retirement community with three hundred thousand houses and the other one goes, I want cool tech people down here that want to live in a shipping container. So completely different viewpoints.
Lester: [00:25:28] 100 percent. And the needle moves really slowly. OK, so you have to understand that.
Barna: [00:25:35] I don't like that answer.
Lester: [00:25:35] I know. The needle moves really slowly.
Barna: [00:25:39] Wrong answer, sir.
Lester: [00:25:40] And you don't have a buzzer over there do you? Did somebody turn my mike off?
Wyatt: [00:25:48] Yeah. Yeah. Seriously.
Barna: [00:25:49] Sage, turn it off.
Lester: [00:25:53] The needle moves slowly and it should not reside with, in my opinion, should not reside with the with the council or the commission. It should reside with the people who do this for a living, and that is the city planner. And the city planner is the one that should be making recommendations back to the council, saying this is the direction this needle needs to move. This is this is the way our city is evolving. This is the way our landscape is evolving. I know more about this than you do. You're a volunteer because you work in a boutique someplace and you have time to be on the commission. But I do this for a living. I do, you know, I take, you know, continuing education. I know zoning planning theory. I know how cities are built. I know, you know, economics.
Barna: [00:26:41] I've been doing this for X number of years.
Lester: [00:26:42] I've been doing this for a long time. You need to listen to me. And so it's the progressive city planners that are hired and put into these positions that should be pushing the needle. They should be they should be looking at their community that we should have community surveys. I just I just talked to a planner in a different city and I said, you know what? What the planning center should be doing is having pop up public comments.
Wyatt: [00:27:13] What do you mean in twenty, twenty one at the time of this recording, we no longer can just do, I don't know, a geographic survey on someone's cell phone because its located inside the city?
Lester: [00:27:24] But that that pop that pop up, they have to have pop up community engagement. That's what they should be doing. But, you know, that's what people need to be after is community engagement. What is where's the community going? What's the community's opinion? Because the community, they're not going to come into a planning commission and they're not going to talk about anything unless it's right next door to them. Right. Because it's NIMBY.
Barna: [00:27:47] And that's what happens. But what if the people. This is planning, right. The people you're trying to attract aren't necessarily necessarily going to live here? Right, so if you're trying to attract a new demographic, a new group of people who have a different job or have a job, you're attracting those people. Well, I'm saying retired versus still employed. So if you're attracting retired people.
Wyatt: [00:28:14] Neither of us are employed for the record.
Barna: [00:28:21] But I forgot where I was going with that. How do you, you can't account for those people because they're not here yet. You can't survey those people, I;m sorry they are not here yet.
Lester: [00:28:32] Well, but that's that's the comprehensive plan. That's where you have to look outside your own boundaries and say, what do I want my community to be? And the stronger you make the community in the end, the better it is for people to come in, whether they're retired, whether they're young people, whether they're blue collar or white collar. That's that's the comp plan. That's where you look and say this is where my building or my community is going to grow. So I need to be able to start shifting the boundaries and then making more progressive planning and zoning laws that allow more things to happen.
Barna: [00:29:13] But this is where the comment comes in. It's like, man, that seems like a slippery slope. You want me to allow non beige citing what's next?
Lester: [00:29:23] Yeah, well, I mean, but it's but it's again, it's that's where the plan comes in. You have to the comp plan is not about beige citing the comprehensive plan is about what's this community going to look like in 20 years and not and not enough, not visually look like. Who's here?
Barna: [00:29:42] So that's the question.
Lester: [00:29:43] How old are they?
Barna: [00:29:44] We have that. What happens when that document exists and that is not the direction that people still want the town to go?
Lester: [00:29:54] I can't believe that it wouldn't be because the the way you make a comprehensive plan is through community engagement.
Barna: [00:30:02] But the commissions who are in charge after the fact change pretty quickly. The people on there.
Lester: [00:30:09] Yeah, well, and again, that shouldn't matter because, again, you're your city planner should be guiding all of the discussions. So he is the one that looks at the comprehensive plan. And when a project comes in front of him, he says, does this is this part of the comprehensive plan? And if it is, then my recommendation to the to the commission is going to be we need to accept this, because this is the direction that we decided we were headed in.
Wyatt: [00:30:39] Well, so that's the interesting thing about when you talk about what's the community going to look like in 20 years. Most adults that move into a community, a community, have come from youth inside of that community. You would make sense, it would make sense to ask kids what they would be interested in sticking around for because they're the ones that grew up in that community.
Lester: [00:30:58] No, I don't disagree with that. The large majority do leave. Most of them go, don't leave, don't come back are the most that leave, don't come back.
Wyatt: [00:31:08] Do you think the majority leave?
Lester: [00:31:10] I'd have to look at the numbers.
Wyatt: [00:31:11] We need to see it.
Lester: [00:31:12] Well, I have to look at the numbers.
Barna: [00:31:14] Just anecdotally, you have to leave if you want a modern career.
Lester: [00:31:19] I never came back. I mean, I'm I'm an architect. So I left to go to college. Took me I have a minor in engineering as well as a bachelor's degree in architecture. So I was seven years in college and then I went to a giant city to go practice because I needed to get all of my experience so I could get licensed. And then I chose to come back to a smaller community, but not my community. And now I'm here and this is not my community either. So you bring your skill set.
Wyatt: [00:31:49] And this isn't any of our native communities. None of us were born here.
Barna: [00:31:52] Yeah, we chose to move here.
Lester: [00:31:53] You go you go get your skill set and then you go to where you want to be.
Barna: [00:31:58] But the story from Brad is one of the people that was hired in here at Emergent. One of the businesses that's located here. She was a valedictorian or something at the high school or college, and she was going to leave. I didn't think I could get a job in my community where my family and friends are. But now I can and I don't have to leave because they're only creating a retirement community with tourism and restaurants and antique malls were not giving an opportunity for people to stay if they want to stay.
Lester: [00:32:31] But that was exactly my point in that you develop a skill set, you take that skill set someplace and then you build it. So what Brad and Emergent have done is he didn't need to live here. He didn't to live here at all.
Barna: [00:32:49] Yeah, he chose this too.
Lester: [00:32:51] He chose to be here, too, and he brought a dynamic skill set and he's applying that skill set in Florence is going to be the beneficiary of it. Was that Florence's comprehensive plan? No, they had no idea that Emergent was going to be a thing. So it's it's that's why communities change and that's why we have to be involved in the comprehensive plan process. And we've got to go out and get people to be involved in a comprehensive plan process. And I know it's a 20 year plan, but every five years we should be looking at seeing what is happening. And does this need revision? And because because we don't know what skill sets are going to come into the community, we don't we might want a tech sector. We might say, I'm going to go to I'm going to go to Silicon Valley and I'm going to try to recruit every tech company I can to move to Florence. They're not moving, Googling, moving anywhere.
Wyatt: [00:33:47] But right there, it says debt kills more dreams than failure. We haven't even tried to get Google here.
Lester: [00:33:52] Doubt not debt.
Wyatt: [00:33:55] Debt does too. Debt does too guys.
Barna: [00:33:58] Debt kills a lot of dreams.
Wyatt: [00:33:58] Sorry, I worked either way, but I read my own damn quote on the wall. Doubt kills more dreams than failure does, right?
Lester: [00:34:04] No, and absolutely. But again, you guys come in and you're doing something unique. I'm coming in and I'm doing my thing. Brad's coming in and he's doing his thing. You know, Chris is coming in and doing his thing. And these are just things that happen. Nobody recruited any of us to do any of it. Nobody invited us.
Wyatt: [00:34:23] Well, we were fortunate enough all to find one another.
Lester: [00:34:26] Yeah, absolutely.
Wyatt: [00:34:27] All in the same spot. It's like. Yo, like the dream team is it's coming in.
Lester: [00:34:31] Yeah, it's here.
Barna: [00:34:32] Now, what can we do?
Wyatt: [00:34:33] We have like two or three jerseys left for those like, I mean I don't know.
Lester: [00:34:39] Guess I guess my point is, you know, cities are made by us. There's a hell of a lot of regulation and it's really kind of shitty sometimes. But and it can be a real challenge and it can be a challenge to try and change minds. But that's our job. That's what we're supposed to be doing and that's my, you know, on the back of my jersey. Yeah. My quote is, isn't this what I'm supposed to be doing.
Barna: [00:35:06] I thought it was going to be hearts and minds?
Lester: [00:35:07] No, not hearts and minds. You know, I always ask myself any time I'm asked to do something, isn't this what I'm supposed to be doing? Because I would expect my mother to come and say, that's what you're supposed to be doing, so why aren't you doing it? And so I did an earlier podcast or at least an interview, and that just kept resonating with me and it just kept coming back because I just kept saying, you know, they said, well, why are you why do you have high school interns? Why wouldn't I? Isn't that what I'm supposed to be doing? I have.
Barna: [00:35:38] Training the next generation.
Lester: [00:35:39] I have all the them. And my profession doesn't belong to me. My profession belongs to the next generation after me. My job is to make sure that they're pushed out the door and they're going to go do something. But also, that's what I'm supposed to be doing.
Wyatt: [00:35:50] To let them play with the ball that you pass on to go. I didn't quite see that game, but OK, I guess it works. It's still ball and it's still a game. I didn't play it that way. And that's the biggest thing about asking the future generation of what they want instead of telling them how to do it all the time.
Lester: [00:36:04] I tell and every time I have a brand new intern, I say, this is how I do it. Right? This doesn't mean this is how you should do it. I said my course has been my own course. This is how I practice and this is how I do it. You go out and do it however you want to do it or don't do it at all. Maybe this isn't for you. And that's totally cool. You're not going to hurt my feelings if you don't go into architecture.
Wyatt: [00:36:30] Wrong game, wrong stadium or whatever.
Lester: [00:36:32] Yeah. What would hurt my feelings is if you got stuck in it or it wasn't what you wanted to have happen with your life. That would hurt my feelings. So and I say so this is just how I do it. I'm just showing you what I do. You know, it's important for you to go find yours.
Wyatt: [00:36:47] And before we run this thing off the rails and do another double back to back. your cut off.
Barna: [00:36:53] I got more.
Wyatt: [00:36:53] I know you do, but I need.
Barna: [00:36:55] I have a whole book to go over.
Wyatt: [00:36:57] He's got to go. But I, I need to get the four minute version of the Euclidian zoning and planning rundown.
Lester: [00:37:06] So Euclidian zoning is is. Oh, it's it's it's based in history. Euclid, the Greek philosopher and scholar, sort of invented Euclidean geometry. OK. And so Euclidean geometry is, you know, straight lines. And so what we have done is we've taken the Euclidian approach to planning and zoning and then we kind of try to put a grid around our cities. And then and then what we do is find those most compatible uses and put them next to each other.
Wyatt: [00:37:40] So this is when we're talking about residential R1 to R2 to R3.
Lester: [00:37:44] So residential is here, industrial's over here, commercial's over here. And that's that's the basic idea of.
Wyatt: [00:37:53] Segregation of of one activity.
Barna: [00:37:56] Function.
Lester: [00:37:58] Uses. So now that you're saying segregations. I just want to Hold on, hold on, hold on.
Wyatt: [00:38:02] That's a good correction to make sure that yeah. So what we're talking about is segregation of land uses and it's compartmentalizing it into regions inside of cities.
Lester: [00:38:10] Because you don't want you don't want a coal fired energy plant next to your single family home.
Wyatt: [00:38:15] Some people don't.
Lester: [00:38:17] Now, it would be a nice grid booster. Can I just plug in? But what that has done is created compartmentalization. And so the phrase I always heard used and I've always used since then was planning happens at the edges. So when you have a single family house in, it's right next to a coal fired energy plant. That's the that that boundary is the that's the problem child. Right. Because I don't want you to build over here because I live right next to you and I don't want my single family house to be next to smokestacks. And so planning always happens at the edges. If you're in the middle of a neighborhood, You don't care. No, because.
Wyatt: [00:39:07] You're insulated.
Lester: [00:39:08] Yeah, because you're single family on both sides and front and back and everything is good. Your property values are great. But first thing they do is as soon as you butt up against them, they're like, oh, my property values are going to go down in my neighborhood.
Barna: [00:39:20] But even, even in the middle of the of the neighborhood, you still don't typically don't necessarily want change. So an accessory dwelling units, unit is could be in your neighborhood and that's a change in your neighborhood.
Lester: [00:39:33] Well, yeah,
Lester: [00:39:34] And that's in the middle.
Lester: [00:39:34] And and now they're going to say, oh well OK, who lives there and where are they parking and is it off street parking? And don't park in front of my house.
Barna: [00:39:41] Have you been at all the meetings? That sounds like you've been at every single meeting we've been at?
Lester: [00:39:44] I have been at every single meeting ever for the last 30 years. This does not change.
Barna: [00:39:51] Telepathically.
Wyatt: [00:39:55] I have been at every meeting ever.
Barna: [00:39:57] I've been to four which means I'm into all of them because they're all the same.
Wyatt: [00:40:01] They are too.
Lester: [00:40:01] And everybody that shows up are all the same.
Barna: [00:40:04] Why here? Why now? Why me?
Wyatt: [00:40:07] But seriously, it's so the conversation that makes you run in a wall a hundred miles an hour because.
Lester: [00:40:12] So, so it's always on the edges. So planning is always at the edges. But but our zoning is based in this sort of Euclidian geometry and that was the easiest way to plan things.
Wyatt: [00:40:25] Easy is not an equal sign to best either. Right. So your opinion is Euclidian dated? Or is it good or bad?
Lester: [00:40:33] Well, it's been changing. And so how it's been changing is just in how you define the districts. So it's not like my lot size has changed. Right. And I'm not, you know, R1 and I'm not next to R2 and it's not that I'm changing those boundaries. I'm changing the definition of what happens in those boundaries.
Wyatt: [00:40:53] So a lawyer got a hold of Euclidian things and decided, well, you didn't say I couldn't do that, but I said that means I can do these other things.
Lester: [00:41:00] Yeah. Or you get more progressive. And you say, you know what ADUs are a really good way to increase density, increase land use, maybe even for the government, increased taxes.
Wyatt: [00:41:12] And its the same use if you're going to live in it on an a residential.
Lester: [00:41:15] Yeah. And so they so they slowly again, that needle moves pretty slow, but they slowly rewrite those regulations and say, OK, well, I'm not going to change the boundaries of R1, but I am going to redefine. So for example, a really good example is downtown historic districts. So downtown historic district was never there was always commercial one. Right. That's what Main Street was C1. And then they realized that they needed to create a different district and they call them overlay districts. So it's still C1. But now I've got residential up on top
Wyatt: [00:41:52] Like a mixed use.
Lester: [00:41:53] Yeah, you got mixed use because that's a more progressive zoning type. And so that's how changes are being made.
Barna: [00:42:03] But somebody has to push that needle. And you're saying it's typically a city planner? Not necessarily people in the community know the word. Is it people in the community coming forward,
Wyatt: [00:42:13] They push the planner.
Barna: [00:42:15] or developers kind of pushing it forward.
Lester: [00:42:16] So it's really not even a developer necessarily, because we think of developers as somebody from Denver that comes in and brings a billion dollars in and wants to buy up the whole main street. Right. That's what we think about development. But it's not it's the individual landowner or the individual building owner that comes in and says, this is what I want to do with my building. And the planner should then say, oh, you know what? That sounds like an overlay district, maybe let me work on that.
Wyatt: [00:42:41] Vrsus no, you can't do that there.
Lester: [00:42:43] Yeah, exactly. That's should be the response. Not what you said should be the result. But what I said should be the response which is let me work on that for you.
Wyatt: [00:42:59] But yeah, I mean, and that's been by and large, the experience that I can I think that we've had.
Barna: [00:43:03] So I think the issue that for us anyway, is that the needle moves ever so slowly and the those comprehensive plans of master plans have not been updated, I don't think fast enough. So, for example, here in Florence, you've got a third of the land mass in industrial use with a dozen houses in it. Like, why was that? And there's an multiuse overlay on on half of it, which is great. Right? That's what you just said. That's a move in the right direction. But not much has happened on that part of town because it's industrial. It's industrial zoning. It's industrial use. Yeah, there's industrial on the left, on the west side, east side, not so much. So why hasn't that been rezoned why isn't in that, you know? Well, isn't that, rezoned to residential area?
Lester: [00:43:54] Well, frankly, it's because no one's asked because the people that own those pieces of property, they have fallen into disuse. Right. There's nothing going on over there. And that's just vacant land and it's still zoned industrial. And somebody just has to go in and say, I don't think there should be industrial anymore. And I think we need some new housing options. And I would like for you to consider changing the zoning on these pieces of property. And it will it will likely make them profitable versus vacant pieces of land.
Wyatt: [00:44:26] Two or three property owners in the area.
Lester: [00:44:28] Yeah. That aren't generating property taxes. They're not generating any development. They're not they're not pulling in population.
Wyatt: [00:44:34] Makes sense.
Lester: [00:44:34] So it's we have to push the needle because if we're not asking and if we're not directing, not not not we design professionals, but we the people.
Barna: [00:44:46] The people in the community.
Lester: [00:44:47] Need to say this needs you know, we have a housing crisis. Why is this industrial land vacant? Why can't it be rezoned.
Wyatt: [00:44:55] Closer to town?
Barna: [00:44:57] Those words have been spoken at multiple meetings.
Lester: [00:44:59] No, absolutely. And actually, I have heard the planner speak them himself.
Wyatt: [00:45:03] Sure. Yeah. So, so. How do we push the needle again,
Lester: [00:45:09] You just keep pushing,
Wyatt: [00:45:10] Just keep poking the bear. Yeah, wake it up. Yeah, I mean, I'm good with that. Everybody knows that. I mean, I'll be,
Barna: [00:45:16] But there's you keep poking at it, actually getting it to move. I'm talking about the bear.
Lester: [00:45:21] But but sometimes but sometimes folks like yourself by a chunk and then we say what do you want to do. And it takes a drawing, a conceptual drawing of how many units, how big are they? What are the lots. How much have we thought about this in detail and in presenting that and saying, look what we can do, but you got to help us do it.
Barna: [00:45:46] This is what visual communication coming in.
Lester: [00:45:48] This is correct. Graphic communication. You've got to help us do it. This is what we want to do. We can put we can put this on the tax rolls. We can this is only a win win, guys.
Wyatt: [00:45:58] Yeah. And that's the one thing that we have talked about, even even our project thus far, we couldn't do a certain thing where we were going to have one unit. We were going to do a nightwatchmans quarters. Now instead, we have a four unit hotel that's going to benefit. So so they pushed us in the right direction. And the benefit was not only do we end up with a business of four shipping container units, they end up with the taxes of that business. And so it is a win-win.
Barna: [00:46:21] And the water tap waters
Wyatt: [00:46:23] Taps and the other and the other things that are going to come in and a chance for housing to actually become reasonable. So the area becomes more attractive to the people that need to work in the support industries that like. And so as long as everybody in the room understands that us working together is about the benefit and somebody saying no so that a project stops and that just no, because I said no. You know, that's only a demonstration of who the boss is.
Lester: [00:46:46] Well, and again, I don't think they should say no because it's no. I think they should say no. But let me think about that. How does that how is this how do we get it to work? You know, and I think that's the kind of progressive nature that you need working at city staff. It's not going to be the planning commission. It's not going to be the the one person that says, well, I don't want that in my community. Well, OK. But that that, too. And that makes no that makes no difference, because what you're doing is all you're supposed to be doing is interpreting the code. You're not supposed to basically have an opinion. You know, is this accurately interpreted and did the city staff make a reasonable recommendation? And are there any changes that you need to consider, because that's the only time when you have when you need a variance, that's the only time when the commission should come in and say, OK, well, let's let's talk about this. Let's figure it out, because there has to be something that varies from the code,
Barna: [00:47:41] But that, OK, we could spent three more hours doing this.
Lester: [00:47:44] I know, you could.
Barna: [00:47:45] You got to go.
Wyatt: [00:47:46] Well, we have to do is so everybody has to know who we were talking to, what you do and where people can find you. Right.
Lester: [00:47:55] Yes, my my company is P3 Communities. You can find me on the web.
Wyatt: [00:47:59] There you go. P3 Communities.
Barna: [00:48:01] .com
Wyatt: [00:48:01] Put it into your little Google box. And look this man up if you've got questions when it comes to architecture, obviously he's helped us with a ton of things.
Lester: [00:48:09] Just don't make me do podcasts, because this is this has been nerve wracking.
Barna: [00:48:12] This has been amazing. I needed three more hours. I have so many questions. I have a book out that you won't let me open.
Wyatt: [00:48:19] I'm sorry. I can't let you do it. We gotta get this guy back.
Lester: [00:48:23] We can have a version two.
Barna: [00:48:23] You have way more information that people need.
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