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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Tomorrow, June 12, Longmont City Council will hear from Riverset, LLC., owners of 21 S. Sunset Street, on their proposal that the City annex their property. The property, which is approximately 21 acres formerly owned and mined by Aggregate Industries, lies east of Roger’s Grove and south of St. Vrain Creek. Although the property did not flood during the September 2013 flood event, it is considered to be within the flood plain.
Riverset LLC. plans to develop the property as a mixed use commercial area. However, there are no concrete plans yet on what that might look like. Given the proximity to both Roger’s Grove and St. Vrain Creek, as well as its position within the flood plain, Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek is watching this development closely.
As part of the process to update its Open Space Master Plan, the City of Longmont conducted a survey earlier this year to get feedback on community priorities with regards to open space. The City sent out a survey invite to random Longmont residents as well as allowed people who weren’t selected for the survey to respond to the survey questions on the City’s website.
Survey results have now been posted. Of the top 10 findings of the survey, a majority of survey respondents believe additional open space properties should be acquired to keep pace with population growth. Most respondents also believe that the most important function of open space is to protect natural areas from development, and that it is important to preserve wildlife habitat (including rivers, creeks, riparian corridors, and wetlands).
According to an interview with former FEMA director Craig Fugate, some of the most populous areas of Colorado, including Boulder County, are likely to see more and worse flooding as a result of the current drought. Fugate points to Fort Collins’ program to buy up land in the flood plain as green space as one way to protect against flood damage to homes and businesses.