Letter to the editor: Local advocacy group expresses environmental concerns about Rivertown development annexation–Longmont Leader 3/19/2022

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Letter-to-the-editor_-Local-advocacy-group-expresses-environmental-concerns-about-Rivertown-development-annexation-The-Longmont-Leader

City of Loveland Seeks to Build Bike Trail Near Golden Eagle Nest Site

We’ve been alerted by our sister conservation organization Front Range Nesting Bald Eagle Studies (FRNBES) that the City of Loveland is seeking to build a bike trail within 1/3 of a mile of the nest of a pair of Golden Eagles. Normally, Golden Eagles nest along cliff ledges, but this pair is rare in that they’ve chosen a tree as a nesting spot. They are the only documented tree-nesting Golden Eagle pair on the northern Colorado Front Range.
 
Colorado Parks and Wildlife guidelines call for maintaining a buffer of at least a 1/2 mile between trails and an eagle nest. Encroaching within 1/3 of a mile is likely to cause nest disturbance and, potentially, nest failure.  
 
For further information about this issue and how to send in your comments, please go to the FRNBES website: https://frontrangeeagles.org/2022/01/13/call-to-protect-rare-tree-nesting-golden-eagles-in-loveland-colorado.
 

Action Alert: 1/11/22 City Council Meeting Rivertown Annexation

On Tuesday, January 11th, City Council will hear the second reading of the annexation of the Rivertown property adjacent to St. Vrain Creek and Roger’s Grove Nature Area and will determine whether or not to approve the annexation and concept plan. It has come to our attention that approving the annexation of this property ALSO approves the concept plan as it is currently drafted. There are a number of issues with the concept plan that need to be addressed prior to annexation and any development that occurs on this property.

Specifically, Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek is concerned that the concept plan does not comply with Longmont Municipal Code, particularly with the zoning of the property as well as with the compatibility of the proposed development with the adjacent natural areas. 

As Council meetings are now virtual, we ask that you send in comments regarding the annexation to City Council prior to the meeting (contact Council members here) and/or call into the meeting on Tuesday the 11th to express your concerns. You can watch City Council meetings live from your computer through the City of Longmont’s YouTube Channel or via the Longmont Public Media Channel at https://longmontpublicmedia.org/watch.

Anyone wishing to provide Public Comment must watch the Livestream of the meeting and call-in only when the Chairperson opens the meeting for public comment. Callers are not able to access the meeting at any other time.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR CALLING IN TO PROVIDE PUBLIC COMMENT:

The toll-free call-in number is: 888 788 0099.
Watch the livestream (instructions above) and write down the Meeting ID when it is displayed at the beginning of the meeting.
WAIT for the Chairperson to invite callers to call-in and then dial the toll-free number, enter the Meeting ID, and, when asked for your Participant ID, press #.
Mute the livestream and listen for instructions on the phone.
Callers will hear confirmation they have entered the meeting, will be told how many others are already participating in the meeting and will be placed in a virtual waiting room until admitted into the meeting.
Callers will be called upon by the last three (3) digits of their phone number and allowed to unmute to provide their comments.
Comments are limited to three minutes per person and each speaker will be asked to state their name and address for the record prior to proceeding with their comments.
Once done speaking, callers should hang up.

 

Rivertown Annexation First Reading at 12/14/21 City Council Meeting

On Tuesday, December 14th at 7pm, City Council will hear the first reading of the annexation of the Rivertown property adjacent to St. Vrain Creek and Roger’s Grove Nature Area. There are a number of issues that need to be addressed prior to annexation and any development that occurs on this property.

As Council meetings are now virtual, we ask that you send in comments on the annexation prior to the meeting and/or call into the meeting on Tuesday the 14th to express your concerns. You can watch City Council meetings live from your computer through the City of Longmont’s YouTube Channel or via the Longmont Public Media Channel at https://longmontpublicmedia.org/watch.

Anyone wishing to provide Public Comment must watch the Livestream of the meeting and call-in only when the Chairperson opens the meeting for public comment. Callers are not able to access the meeting at any other time.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR CALLING IN TO PROVIDE PUBLIC COMMENT:

The toll-free call-in number is: 888 788 0099.
Watch the livestream (instructions above) and write down the Meeting ID when it is displayed at the beginning of the meeting.
WAIT for the Chairperson to invite callers to call-in and then dial the toll-free number, enter the Meeting ID, and, when asked for your Participant ID, press #.
Mute the livestream and listen for instructions on the phone.
Callers will hear confirmation they have entered the meeting, will be told how many others are already participating in the meeting and will be placed in a virtual waiting room until admitted into the meeting.
Callers will be called upon by the last three (3) digits of their phone number and allowed to unmute to provide their comments.
Comments are limited to three minutes per person and each speaker will be asked to state their name and address for the record prior to proceeding with their comments.
Once done speaking, callers should hang up.

Specifically, Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek asks that you submit comments on the following points:

Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek

Recommendations Regarding Rivertown Annexation Proposal

Summary of Recommendations:

  1. The development must comply with the proposed zoning designation.
  2. The development must be compatible with surrounding properties in terms of land use, site and building layout, and design.
  3. To address the impact of this development on traffic in the area, a traffic study which includes Mountain Brook and Riverset development impacts must be conducted.
  4. Development on this parcel must take into account wildlife, habitat, and specific species considerations.
  5. A complete, accurate, and impartial Habitat and Species Assessment must be conducted prior to approving any development along this or any riparian corridor in Longmont.
  6. Proposed changes to the river’s channel as a result of the Resilient St Vrain flood mitigation project would destroy nesting habitat for Bank Swallows, a Boulder County species of special concern, at Roger’s Grove. Therefore, a conservation easement on the Rivertown property so that construction bypasses this nesting habitat must be a condition of annexation for this property.
  7. The city’s environmental planner must be heavily involved with this development proposal.
  8. The impact upon existing Longmont residents, and their well-documented priorities, must be taken into account when planning developments along the river corridor.

Longmont Development Code (LDC) application:

The developer must strictly adhere to the criteria and intention of Longmont Development Code, specifically:

  1. a)  The development must comply with the proposed zoning designation.
  • The proposed zoning for the Rivertown property is Mixed-Use Employment.
  • Primary uses for this zoning designation include light industrial, flex work spaces, research and development.
  • This zoning designation is to encourage primary employment.
  • The Rivertown concept plan proposes that only 10% of the property be used as commercial, which is a primary use, while 90% of the property will be used as residential, a secondary use.  Essentially the Rivertown developer is proposing to make a secondary use the predominant use on the Rivertown property, thereby circumventing the intent of the zoning designation.

A condition for annexation must be actual compliance with Mixed-Use Employment zoning.

SPECIAL NOTES:

The Planning and Zoning commissioners discussed the application of secondary uses.  Commissioner Hite, who objected to the application of a secondary use as a predominant use, said the following on page 8 of the August 18 meeting minutes:

“Commissioner Hite spoke about multi-use standards to allow residential as secondary use.  Staff interpretation is that it is to be applied on a district-wide standard and he disagrees with that interpretation.  He said in the multi-use standards, density is applied on a per acre basis, not within the whole zone.  Commissioner Hite also pointed to the Envision Longmont policy 6.3b referenced in the packet, where it states in the multi-use employment district you prioritize employment while supporting secondary uses that incorporate multi-family or live/work circumstances.  He cannot support this plan with only ten percent of the parcel devoted to the primary use.”

There was a follow-up discussion on 10/27/2021 by the commission on secondary uses.  Commissioner Hite said the following:

“We need guidance maybe a little bit or maybe we need to adopt guardrails as to how to implement secondary uses so they don’t become the primary use in these areas where we want to encourage primary employment.”

  1. b) The development must be compatible with surrounding properties in terms of land use, site and building layout, and design. (LDC item 15.05.030(G)(11)
  • The proposal must align with the Longmont Development Code, which stipulates: “Projects adjacent to natural areas including, but not limited to, those stream and creek corridors and riparian areas listed in subsection 15.05.020.F.1., shall be designed to complement the visual context of the natural area.” And“man-made facilities [shall be] screened from off-site observers and blend with the natural visual character of the area.”
  • Because this development is bordered by Rogers Grove/Fairgrounds Lake and St. Vrain Creek, the concept plan as presented is not compatible with the area.
  • The proposed “high density” residential area of 320 units is not compatible with the parcel’s natural environment.
  • Any development proposals should honor and enhance the existing natural areas, not exploit and overburden them.

We recommend a multilayered buffer of native landscaping be placed between any development along the Creek and the river corridor to screen the corridor from light intrusion, storm runoff, noise, and other human disturbance. If this development proposal is approved as currently envisioned, a buffer is also needed on the west side to conceal the proposed duplexes from Rogers Grove/Fairgrounds Lake. 

  1. c) To address the impact of this development on traffic in the area, a traffic study which includes Mountain Brook and Riverset development impacts is essential. 
  • The Rivertown traffic study is specific to the Rivertown property. It does not address the overall traffic impacts of new developments, including Mountain Brook and Riverset developments, to areas near Hover Road, Sunset Street and Boston Avenue.
  • The top complaint by Longmont residents is traffic congestion due to uncontrolled city growth.
  • The Rivertown development will generate about 3,404 vehicle-trips on the average weekday, with about half entering and half exiting during a 24-hour period, according to the traffic study.

A more comprehensive traffic study which includes Mountain Brook and Riverset development impacts is needed.

  1. d)  Development on this parcel must take into account wildlife, habitat and special species considerations. 
  • Roger’s Grove contains one of the only known nesting sites in Boulder County of Bank Swallows. This nesting site is just upstream of the Rivertown property. Bank Swallows are a Boulder County Species of Special Concern. Furthermore, they are a declining species nationwide.
  • Current plans for the Resilient St. Vrain Project call for the placement of a split channel flow option right where the Bank Swallows nest, destroying this valuable habitat.
  • The city must require a conservation easement for placement of the split-flow channel on the Rivertown property as a condition of annexation in order for construction to avoid the Bank Swallow nesting area.
  • The City’s Natural Resources Department and Environmental Planner must both be involved in the development process on this property and any other property bordering St. Vrain Creek.
  1. The Habitat & Species Assessment was deceptively done in winter and not during breeding season. Therefore, little wildlife was observed during the survey.
  • A thorough breeding season survey must be conducted prior to beginning any development. 
  • The Osprey nest and Red-tailed Hawks near Rivertown must be buffered during the nesting season to prevent potential nest failure due to construction noise/activity.
  • Were Northern leopard frog surveys conducted in 2021 to determine their presence or absence on this property? On page 6 of the habitat and species assessment it stated such amphibian surveys would be conducted in spring or early summer. If they were, what were the results? If not, why not?  This question must be addressed.

Other Considerations

Including costs, process,  and consequences

  1. The history of eleven flood events is the best predictor for future flooding on this parcel regardless of the best engineered mitigation efforts. With climate chaos here, we WILL see another flood in this corridor-likely in our lifetime.  CC needs to be extremely cautious before putting people and property in harm’s way (to avoid another disaster like the mobile home folks experienced.)
  1. A huge investment of public money has already gone into the RSVP in order to remove properties along Saint Vrain Creek from the floodplain. Additional funding to complete the Hover Reach of RSVP will be acquired through the recently approved storm drainage fee increase, a fee that every utility customer pays each month (per Becky Doyle, Business Services of Public Works & Natural Resources). This will benefit the developer.  When weighing the merits of input received regarding the annexation, city council should remember who is paying for the project that will remove the Rivertown property from the floodplain which will allow the developer to build on it.
  1. The current 6-person city council should delay review of the Rivertown annexation until the vacant at-large seat is filled by a special election.  A full 7-person council should review the Rivertown annexation
  1. City council members should make it clear to planning staff that the development application for the Rivertown development, if the annexation is approved, will be reviewed by city council for final approval or denial or amendment.
  1. This property is directly adjacent to St. Vrain Creek, an important riparian corridor. The city’s new environmental planner must be heavily involved in any development proposal on this property and any other property along this stretch regardless of whether the developer has applied for a variance from the 150 foot riparian buffer. Such involvement may include “ground-truthing” wildlife surveys in addition to the ones conducted by the developer.  CC must make this a stipulation in the annexation agreement if CC approves annexation.
  1. There is nothing in the Rivertown annexation concept plan that suggests any respect for this adjacent natural environment nor any regard for the environmental value of St. Vrain Creek. Any development in this exceptional corridor should be exceptionally designed with residential areas set back, with aesthetically pleasing buildings built with green materials and state-of-the art efficiencies and low lighting/light fixture shielding (to reduce light pollution and lessen impact on wildlife –which uses the St. Vrain corridor at night). CC should require a concept plan that enhances the two adjacent natural areas and includes sustainability features as stipulations of the annexation agreement.

Windy Gap Firming Project Settlement Agreement

Plaintiffs in Case No. 21-1036 – Save the Colorado, et. al. v. United States Bureau of Reclamation have reached a settlement agreement, the text of which can be found below.

The agreement states that the Municipal Subdistrict, Windy Gap Firming Project Water Activity Enterprise will pay a total of $15,000,000 to the Grand Foundation for the “design, construction and maintenance of projects to improve a) aquatic habitat, b) riparian habitat, or c) water quality in Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir, Granby Reservoir, the Colorado River from Granby Reservoir to its confluence with the Williams Fork River, or the Fraser River between the Town of Winter Park and Windy Gap Reservoir, with priority given to projects that address impacts caused by the Windy Gap Project and
Windy Gap Firming Project.”

21-1036 Settlement Agreement Final 2021-04-20 signed
21-1036 Settlement Agreement Final 2021-04-20 signed