We Made it into the Paper!–Longmont City Council urged to pause development considerations along St. Vrain River corridor

Postcards presented to Longmont City Council asking for stronger protections for St. Vrain Creek and Longmont’s other Open Space and Natural Areas.

Thank you to everyone who came out to show their support for greater protections for St. Vrain Creek and our other Open Space and Natural Areas this past Tuesday! We made a big splash and were on the front page of the Times Call newspaper on Thursday, October 4.

Longmont City Council urged to pause development considerations along St. Vrain River corridor

By Sam LounsberryStaff Writer

POSTED:   10/03/2018 06:14:51 PM MDT | UPDATED:   ABOUT 16 HOURS AGO

 

Flood recovery work continues Wednesday on the banks of the St. Vrain River in Longmont. Dozens of residents asked Longmont City Council during public

Flood recovery work continues Wednesday on the banks of the St. Vrain River in Longmont. Dozens of residents asked Longmont City Council during public comment at Tuesday’s meeting to pause development near the river’s banks. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

Dozens of residents turned out at Tuesday’s Longmont City Council meeting to request a pause on development near the banks of the St. Vrain River.

Proponents for protecting the St. Vrain River from infringing construction dropped off 724 postcards to council members asking the 150-foot setback of development from the stream’s banks be maintained and enforced.

While that setback is in place, it was only in August that updates to the Land Development Code moved the authority to grant a variance to the 150-foot river buffer solely to City Council instead of the city’s planning director.

The contingent of public speakers also gave council members a petition with 520 signatures that supports putting development “in proximity” to the St. Vrain on hold, Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek organizer Shari Malloy said.

“We … urge Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley and City Council members to protect Longmont’s sensitive and important riparian areas from the intrusion of damaging urban development,” the petition reads.

It asks to pause building plans near the river until the Federal Emergency Management Agency approves new floodplain maps for the stream; until funding has been identified for the estimated $60 million in remaining unfunded costs of the Resilient St. Vrain project; and until a second phase of updates to the Land Development Code sections regarding riparian protection and wildlife management are completed.

Kat Bradley-Bennett, a Blue Mountain Circle resident, said the St. Vrain provides important habitat for migrating waterfowl.

“We have the opportunity to preserve this really rich wildlife habitat,” she said.

In a Wednesday interview, Left Hand Brewing’s owner contested the city’s ability to stop all development within the setback.

The Longmont-based brewery is designing conceptual plans for an event venue to host its nonprofit fundraisers, such as Oktoberfest, on land it owns east of its main brewery building on Boston Avenue next to the river.

Eric Wallace, its co-founder and president, said a halt on development near the river would have to be temporary and still allow for “legitimate consideration” of approval for building plans to avoid legal challenges.

“If council is considering each development request within the riparian setback and giving legitimate consideration, it shouldn’t have a big impact on (Left Hand’s plans),” Wallace said. “I don’t know (the city) can take all that land from people.”

However, city leaders have discussed possibly using city funds to buy the 150-foot setback from the St. Vrain along its corridor through the city, Longmont Land Program Administrator Dan Wolford said.

Timeline for petition requests

The three items petitioners want to happen before the city allows development along the St. Vrain River appear to have similar timelines. Although it is unknown when or if remaining funding Resilient St. Vrain project work will be secured, both the FEMA floodplain maps and the Land Development Code updates could be in place within a year.

Updated floodplain maps for the St. Vrain River have been sent to FEMA for review, according to the Longmont city website, and they likely will become effective in early 2019.

The second phase of Land Development Code updates, with changes to the riparian protection and wildlife management sections, is expected to come before council for approval in June 2019.

But the floodplain within the city could be altered again by ongoing Resilient St. Vrain work. That work aims to increase the river’s water capacity with the goal of keeping any future flooding from affecting as wide a swath of land as the 2013 flood.

Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, slounsberry@prairiemountainmedia.com andtwitter.com/samlounz.

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ST. VRAIN AND LEFT HAND STREAM MANAGEMENT PLAN: COMMUNITY EVENTS

St. Vrain Left Hand Water Conservancy District staff are seeking input on the St. Vrain Left Hand Stream Management Plan process. There are 2 upcoming events in Longmont for you to provide input (see the flyer below). You can also fill out a survey.

This is another opportunity to let officials know that the 150 foot riparian buffer should be maintained and that impervious materials (such as concrete sidewalks and parking lots) should be minimized near bodies of water to prevent stormwater runoff.

thumbnail of Flyer Draft 9-27-2018_Final

 

 

 

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ACTION ITEM: Attend Longmont City Council Meeting at 7pm on Tuesday, October 2nd

Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek has been collecting resident signatures on a petition asking Longmont City Council to protect our St. Vrain Creek corridor from damaging urban development. Specifically, we’re asking Council to delay any development/redevelopment in proximity to St. Vrain Creek until:

  1.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency approves the new flood plain maps,
  2.  The Resilient St. Vrain (RSVP) flood mitigation project’s plans and funding are in place, and
  3.  The Land Development Code’s sections concerning riparian protection and wildlife management are updated.

It does not make sense to develop areas when the new floodplain designation could change and when the design for the entirety of the RSVP has not been determined. In addition, any development/redevelopment should be done under an updated Land Development Code rather than an outdated code that is 17 years old.

We’ll be presenting the petition on Tuesday, October 2nd during that evening’s public invited to be heard portion of the City Council meeting at 7pm at the Civic Center (350 Kimbark Street). In addition, we’ll be presenting City Council with postcards from residents asking that City Council maintain the 150 foot riparian setback and enact stronger protections for our riparian areas.

We ask that you please attend this council meeting to show your support for our St. Vrain corridor and area wildlife. Please wear green.

What: City Council meeting

When: Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Where: Longmont Civic Center 350 Kimbark Street, Longmont CO 80501

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RSVP Project Update, US Army Corp of Engineers Project, and Storm Drainage Utility Financial Update

Longmont City staff and the Army Corps of Engineers presented an update on the Resilient St. Vrain flood mitigation project on Tuesday August 21st at the City Council’s study session. The slides from that presentation are available on the City’s Resilient St. Vrain website.

The complete presentation is also available to watch on Youtube or below.

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Resilient St. Vrain Project Update and United States Army Corp of Engineers 205 Program Project Update

This Tuesday (8/20/2018), City Council will hear an update on the status of the Resilient St. Vrain flood mitigation project from City staff and a presentation from the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the 205 program project they’re working on with City staff. The City Council meeting will be held at the Civic Center at 350 Kimbark Street at 7pm. The full agenda for the meeting is available here.

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100-year flood plain map for Longmont, CO showing the current and new floodplain as well as the anticipated floodplain following completion of the Resilient St. Vrain flood mitigation work.

The “205 project” refers to section 205 of the Flood Control Act of 1948, as amended. This section allows the Corps to partner with non-Federal entities to design and construct small flood damage reduction projects not previously authorized by Congress and that are not part of a larger project.

The Corps is looking into whether this authority might be used to complete the portion of the Resilient St. Vrain project that stretches from Boston Avenue to the Fairgrounds Pond at Rogers Grove natural area. If determined feasible, the Corps anticipates completing their design in 2019 and beginning construction in 2020.

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Proposed timeline and workplan for the Resilient St. Vrain flood mitigation project by sections of the city.

One concern regarding this stretch is that, while Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek has been working with the City to conduct wildlife, particularly bird, surveys in the area of Rogers Grove and Golden Ponds, 1-2 years of data collected prior to construction is not much. In addition, the City does not currently have the resources to analyze the data collected. It is imperative that the City analyze wildlife survey data collected to determine what species are present and what habitats they are utilizing before construction begins.

One species known to occur in the area of Rogers Grove along St. Vrain Creek is the Bank Swallow. Bank Swallows are the smallest swallows in Colorado and are considered to be a Boulder County Species of Special Concern because they only nest in a handful of places within the County. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Longmont must work together to determine how to mitigate the impact of construction on this species and its nesting area, including timing construction so that it does not occur during the nesting season.

Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek will be attending the meeting and speaking during Public Invited To Be Heard to ensure that these points are made before City Council and staff as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Please consider either attending the meeting and speaking in support of the (bolded) points above or contacting City Council and expressing your support for these points.

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First Reading of Updated Land Development Code

Thank you to those who attended the Open Forum on Tuesday night and spoke up for our wildlife, open spaces, and riparian corridors!

The updated Land Development Code is scheduled to go before City Council for a first reading on Tuesday, July 24 at 7pm at the City Council Chambers (350 Kimbark Street). A second reading is tentatively scheduled to follow on August 14. This update includes the following change (in bold) to the regulations related to the protection of rivers/streams/wetlands/riparian areas:

15.05.020 Protection of Rivers/Streams/Wetlands/Riparian Areas

F. Setbacks

3. Variances from the Setback Standards

***

a. Increased Setbacks

***

b. Reduced Setbacks

The city council, with a recommendation from the planning and zoning commission under section 15.02.060.I.3, shall reduce the setbacks if it determines that the setbacks are greater than necessary to protect river/stream corridors, riparian areas, and wetlands. The setbacks shall not be reduced to a level below the minimum necessary to provide such protection. The following criteria shall be used to identify circumstances where riparian setback reductions may be warranted:

This is an important change as it places the authority to approve or deny a request for a variance from the 150 foot riparian setback with the City Council, which is an elected body subject to voters, rather than with the Planning and Zoning Commission, the members of which are appointed. Thank you, Councilmember Waters for making this motion!

Further updates to the Land Development Code that deal with the protection of rivers/streams/wetlands/riparian areas, and habitat and species protection will come after the first phase of the Land Development Code is enacted. However, this first phase of the Land Development Code does include updates to 15.02.040, which includes standards for notifying the public about proposed developments. In this section (Table 2.2), only property owners within 300 feet of a proposed development will be notified that the developer is seeking some type of variance.

Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek is asking those of you who care about the health of our riparian areas and wildlife to contact your Council member(s) and urge them to support a more robust public notification process for development applications near St. Vrain Creek and our other open space and riparian areas. These areas are public amenities enjoyed by all Longmont residents and so all Longmont residents should be notified of, and have a say in, development applications adjacent to these properties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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City Council Meeting Open Forum

The July 17 city council meeting, beginning at 7 pm in the Council Chambers at 350 Kimbark Street, will be an Open Forum for residents to talk for 5 minutes each to council members about any topic on their minds. There are no other items on the agenda for this meeting. Residents who wish to speak will need to sign up in the lobby of Council Chambers between 6:45pm and 7pm.

City staff is hoping to finalize the first half of the Land Development Code updates in the next couple of months and will then move on to the second half of updates, including those pertaining to rivers/streams/wetlands/riparian areas (15.05.020) and habitat and species protection (15.05.030). Therefore, this is a very crucial time to speak up in favor of stronger riparian and wildlife protections. 

Please attend the July 17th city council meeting and consider speaking during the Open Forum to encourage city staff to:

  • Rewrite the criteria in 15.05.020(E)(3)(b) used to identify circumstances where the 150-foot riparian setback may be reduced in order to eliminate loopholes and
    provide more stringent requirements that will effectively protect rivers/streams and riparian habitat from encroaching development/redevelopment;
  • Expressly prohibit artificial lighting along Longmont’s greenways and within its open spaces and riparian corridors to protect nocturnal wildlife and maintain wildlife movement corridors;
  • Establish light fixture shielding requirements and vegetation buffers to minimize the impacts of light and noise pollution from nearby development on greenways, open spaces, and riparian corridors, which is especially necessary along the St. Vrain where the removal of vegetation has eliminated an important natural screen and sound dampener;
  • Restrict building heights adjacent to riparian areas;
  • Minimize the amount of impervious materials that contribute to storm-water runoff (e.g. concrete sidewalks and parking lots) near rivers/streams and other bodies of water;
  • Require in 15.05.030 (H) that the planning and development manager rather than the applicant for development retain “a qualified person with demonstrated expertise in the field “ to prepare a required species or habitat conservation plan and that the applicant will reimburse the city for the cost of preparing the conservation plan.; and
  • Require that variance requests pertaining to the 150-foot riparian setback be decided upon by City Council, an elected body, rather than the Planning and Zoning Commission.

If you are unable to attend the Open Forum, please send your written comments to Valeria Skitt, City Clerk, at valeria.skitt@longmontcolorado.gov.

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‘Take Two Trees And Call Me In The Morning’: More Docs Are Prescribing Time Outdoors | CPR

In her new book “The Nature Fix,” journalist Florence Williams documents scientists’ quest to understand how being outdoors affects our health.

Source: ‘Take Two Trees And Call Me In The Morning’: More Docs Are Prescribing Time Outdoors | CPR

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A 1,000-year flood in Maryland shows the big problem with so much asphalt | Salon.com

So what’s behind the propensity for floods in Ellicott City? Part of the problem is its vulnerable location: the town lies at the foot of a hill where river branches meet the Patapsco River. And, of course, climate change makes storms wetter and increases the frequency of severe, record-breaking weather. But there’s another thing people are pointing out: concrete. When hard, impermeable concrete replaces absorbent green spaces, it’s much easier for floodwaters to overwhelm stormwater drainage.

Source: A 1,000-year flood in Maryland shows the big problem with so much asphalt | Salon.com

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