Please click on the image below to look at the meeting boards provided at the 5/23/19 Wildlife Management Plan update public meeting.
The City of Longmont has come up with a new website called Engage Longmont where you can provide your input on, among other things, Longmont’s Wildlife Management Plan update. Specifically, the City is asking for stories about how residents interact and coexist with wildlife and where important wildlife habitats exist within the City.
So far, only a handful of people have submitted anything to the site. Register (for free) and add your voice! We know you love and appreciate our City’s wildlife, so let the City know what you’re seeing and where. The more the City hears from YOU, the better the Wildlife Management Plan update will be.
Riparian habitats are crucial for the survival of many bird species. To better understand just how birds use river corridors in the western United States, the National Audubon Society is helping collect data for the 2019 Western Rivers Bird Count.
The Western Rivers Bird Count is a citizen science project where birders can submit their data to help scientists understand how restoration projects and water and habitat management impact birds. The project runs from May 1st through the end of June. One of the target areas for this year’s count is just outside Lyons along St. Vrain Creek, so this project could shed light on how birds are impacted further downstream in Longmont.
To sign up, click here. The protocol for the project is detailed below:
Left Hand Brewing Company has been planning to build an event venue near St. Vrain Creek for some time and are now starting the application process. The application process’s first step is to hold a neighborhood meeting.
Previously seen plans for this event venue call for a hardscape amphitheatre that would encroach into the 150 riparian conservation buffer where, according to comments made by Left Hand’s owner during a Parks and Recreation Advisory Boart meeting last year, 3-5 events would be scheduled per week that could accommodate 1500-2000 people. Such events could include yoga, movies, concerts, etc.
St. Vrain Creek is a public amenity that benefits all residents of Longmont. Our tax money has gone to the Resilient St. Vrain Project to repair 2013 flood damage to the river and greenway and mitigate future flood damage. Therefore, ALL residents of Longmont should have a say in all development directly adjacent to St. Vrain Creek, including this planned development.
Please consider attending this meeting and speaking up not just for the health of our river and its wildlife, but also for those who live near Left Hand who could potentially be impacted by the additional lights, traffic, and noise from this venue.
Thanks to all who turned out to help clean up Lefthand Creek! We ended up with a HUGE pile of trash by the end, including, but not limited to: a shopping cart, some sort of heavy wooden shelf, assorted clothes, takeaway food cups and wrappers, a hubcap, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans.
We need to press our retailers and businesses to keep their section of the river clean!
If you took any photos during the clean up, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share them with the city.
It is Stand with Our St. Vrain Creek’s opinion that the City’s Open Space monies should not be going to police downtown business areas, especially as this seems to be motivated by getting additional people to police the homeless. The City’s Open Space fund should not be raided when that money should go toward maintaining our open spaces.
Please consider attending tonight’s City Council meeting or sending in a comment to City Council and staff letting them know that we don’t want our Open Space tax dollars and lottery fund money to go to patrolling the downtown business district.
Longmont to assign park rangers to downtown duties
If You Go
What: Longmont City Council study session
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Civic Center council chambers
Longmont is preparing to assign park rangers to its downtown business district, according to the city staff and the Longmont Downtown Development Authority.
Expanding the size and responsibilities of Longmont’s current corps of park rangers — employees who now staff the city’s parks, greenways and open space properties — will “help ensure that everyone using our public spaces has a positive experience,” city staff and Downtown Development Authority officials wrote in a memo for Tuesday night’s city council study session.
Longmont Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kimberlee McKee on Thursday said the move could include adapting park curfews to apply them to the downtown plazas and breezeways.
Under that approach, people could use the breezeways to walk back and forth between Main Street and the parking lots behind Main anytime during the day or night, but between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. people would not be allowed to gather or loiter in those breezeways or plazas, McKee said.
Versions of Longmont’s noise ordinance and its anti-littering and trash-disposal regulations also could be applied to individuals and groups using those public spaces, she said, as part of a goal of “keeping the downtown a safe and comfortable place” for people working in or visiting the area.
“We absolutely want people to use these places. We just want to make sure they’re safe and inviting,” McKee said.
The Downtown Development Authority and city staff in their memo to council suggested the additional rangers also would be responsible for Roosevelt Park at 700 Longs Peak Ave., Thompson Park at 420 Bross St. and Collyer Park at 619 Collyer St.
Longmont is hiring three people who will serve “during the warm season,” downtown and in those downtown-area parks, according to that memo.
The new rangers “will have additional training and a strong tie to police services” and “will focus on education, compliance and enforcement of relevant ordinances in addition to having a wealth of information about natural resources and downtown amenities.
“If they encounter people who need help, they will be able to connect them to those services as well,” city and Downtown Development Authority officials stated in the memo.
“With the goal of keeping downtown clean safe and vibrant, collaborative discussions took place around public lands” between the Development Authority and a Safe and Welcoming Public Spaces internal city staff committee, according to the memo.
One of the recommendations from those discussions about “ensuring that public spaces stay clean and safe was to define and include breezeways and microplazas” in the Public Lands section of municipal code in order to set “rules and expectations” for downtown public spaces, the Development Authority and city staff reported.
The city and Development Authority staffs plan to bring an ordinance to the council, “in the coming weeks,” that would apply many of the public lands code rules to breezeways and microplazas.
The city also issued a Thursday night news release announcing the expanded-ranger program for downtown Longmont, calling it “an effort to provide more eyes and ears and a welcoming presence in Longmont’s public spaces.”
Pedestrian traffic to downtown restaurants and businesses have increased, and the area is an important entry point to the city’s trails and greenway system, said David Bell, the city’s natural resources manager.
“Increasingly, public spaces like plazas and breezeways in downtown are well used, serving as connections to parks and open spaces in other parts of the city,” Bell stated in the news release.
As Longmont expands its park ranger program into the downtown, “it makes sense” to apply many of the city’s rules about the uses of parks and greenways to the downtown’s plazas and breezeways, he said.
Last year, Longmont and the Downtown Development Authority shared in the costs of paying private security firm Trident Protection Group $29,440 to have “ambassadors” patrol parts of the downtown, downtown-area parks, and the city’s St. Vrain Greenway and Lefthand Greenway in June, July and August.
City staff in Thursday’s news release said that while that pilot program of using privately contracted ambassadors was “useful for understanding downtown needs and wants,” the Downtown Development Authority and the city “believe expansion of the city’s existing ranger program staffed by city employees, would better serve the area.”
Bell in a Friday interview and email said the decision to staff the downtown area with rangers, rather than using a security firm again, was based in part on the idea that it would be “a lot more beneficial to have individuals who work directly for the city,” rather than outsourcing the job.
“As the manager of the park rangers and the parks operations team, my commitment is to make sure that our parks are clean, safe and welcoming to all of our current users and assuring that we protect our natural, cultural and historic resources for future generations,” he said.
One of the three rangers will be a certified law enforcement officer, Bell said, and able to perform such functions as making arrests if needed. All three will be seasonal employees and not full-time throughout the year.
He said none of the three rangers has yet been hired but his goal is to have them hired, trained and on the job by mid-May.
The city’s news release said if council decides to apply some of Longmont’s public lands municipal code regulations to the downtown breezeways and plazas, “the new rangers would enforce these regulations and will also serve as goodwill ambassadors and deliver helpful services to business owners, patrons, and visitors.”
Longmont opportunity zone interest building as city leaders prep St. Vrain corridor, sugar factory as targets
Floodplain redraw could help investors avoid insurance costs; tax cut boosts feasibility of sugar site
Longmont officials are envisioning a redeveloped sugar factory and more uniform growth along the St. Vrain River, both made more realistic thanks to new federal tax incentives and a major city floodplain mitigation project.
City leaders hope to leverage two adjoining federal opportunity zones covering a large southern portion of Longmont as lures for what will be a costly repurposing of the sugar factory property in southeast Longmont, and, more broadly, for attracting new affordable and “work force” housing and commercial space to the St. Vrain’s course through the city.
The opportunity zone program was created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It allows investors to put capital gains into development projects within designated census tracts, chosen for their relatively depressed economic status. The taxes on those initially invested capital gains, as well as gains made since on the real estate projects within the zones, get deferred after five years of keeping an interest in such properties, and the tax cut grows if the interest is held for seven years and grows again after 10 years.
For the site of the former and now fire-damaged Great Western sugar factory, the opportunity zone may ease the financial burden of either incorporating the long-standing structure into a new building or tearing it down. It could also help mitigate any costs associated with the potential need to remedy any soil or other contamination on the site caused by decades of industrial activity.
“I think the community at large would really like to see that sugar mill area turn into something that is a positive and welcoming modern gateway into our community,” Longmont Economic Development Partnership CEO Jessica Erickson said.
Sugar factory owner Dick Thomas in a brief interview said the opportunity zone provisions are just one of several financial vehicles being analyzed in talks to redevelop the land — he is engaged with several groups that have expressed interest in bringing modern mixed commercial and residential structures to the property. He said the range between $60 million and $100 million has been identified as an initial cost estimate for such a project.
Thomas hopes to assimilate what remains of the brick factory building into a redeveloped parcel.
“We’re not going to tear it down. Most of what’s there will remain,” he said, declining to further elaborate on redevelopment talks or to identify the investors with whom he is negotiating.
Redrawn floodplain negating insurance costs
Before the opportunity zone can most effectively aid financing development in several key areas along the river, the $120 million-plus Resilient St. Vrain project, which is rejigging the stream’s channel and floodplain through the city, needs to make more progress, and the resulting smaller floodplain will have to receive federal approval so development limitations in the areas purged of risk can be lifted.
“We were very intentional about focusing on areas of strong opportunity and that already had plans in place and broad public support to move development forward, but had some issues in attracting capital,” Erickson said. “The floodplain issues were part of that.”
Preliminary approval of redrawn floodplain maps by the Federal Emergency Management Agency — which dictate which property owners have to buy flood insurance — is expected in July this year. Those new maps won’t take effect until three months after that when an appeal period expires, according to Longmont Floodplain Manager Monica Bortolini. If a legitimate appeal to the preliminary floodplain maps has to be evaluated, the timing of when the final maps would be issued is unknown, she said.
“The part of the opportunity zone that is subject to flooding in the near term is generally south of the rail tracks,” Longmont Redevelopment Program Manager Tony Chacon said. “The drainage improvements to be concluded this year will effectively pull some of the properties immediately adjacent to the creek out of the floodplain, and the remaining areas will see a reduction in the depth of the 100-year flooding condition.”
Of course, flood concerns throughout the rest of the opportunity zones are not impacting development proposals with plans to use the tax cut, according to city leaders.
Even those properties within the current floodplain can be engineered to work around the development regulations in the risky area, Chacon noted.
He added the requirement to purchase flood insurance — especially temporarily, as might be the case for land along the St. Vrain lifted from the floodplain by the Resilient St. Vrain work — can be the most pesky hurdle for developers examining building options for a property in a floodplain.
“In regards to these issues, our engineering and planning staff are working collectively and diligently to facilitate new development in the flood-prone areas,” Chacon said. “While I am sure some prospective developers may deem the floodplain an issue, I don’t see the floodplain issue being a significant deterrent to opportunity zone interest, as, in fact, the city is receiving continued developer inquiry and conversations.”
But talks with developers who could actually use the opportunity zone program beneficially remain secretive and prospective, including those involving attempts to sway Front Range Community College to establish a visible presence in downtown Longmont.
“I can tell you that no one has committed to any particular project yet or even entered into any level of detailed discussion or negotiation,” Chacon said. “We may have something to better share in a few months. I can say the general interest is in vertical mixed-use or residential development, primarily rental.”
Councilman Tim Waters is a part of a group of city and economic development leaders studying the potential offered by the opportunity zone for the St. Vrain River corridor, as well as the regulations that help keep the stream a gem of riparian habitat and natural beauty. An example of such a rule would be the like the 150-foot development setback from the river’s bank for which only city council can approve a variance.
“What exists along the river in San Antonio, that’s just not going to be the case” for the St. Vrain, Waters said. “We’re going to maintain our greenways, we’re going to maintain our riparian areas, our wildlife areas.”
The soon-to-be-finished Dickens Farm Nature Area park along the river south of Boston Avenue between Main and Martin streets will ensure an open space element remains along the St. Vrain River in central Longmont, and the green space could be a highlight for any new multifamily housing developments in the area to market to prospective tenants.
But Waters is also aware of discussions about Front Range Community College potentially moving from its southwest Longmont campus, or adding to its property portfolio in the city, in order to open up shop — possibly with another institutional partner that would offer additional higher education paths — closer to downtown.
“Front Range Community College is happy to be in Longmont, and we like our current location. We’re certainly always open to discussions of other possible partnership options in the community, and greatly appreciate the city’s interest in working with us to create an even better campus,” the school’s president, Andy Dorsey, stated through a spokeswoman. “We have had a very preliminary conversation with the city about this concept, but it’s way too early to suggest that we’ll be moving.”
Councilman: Academic assets would spur economic activity
Waters mentioned the city’s land holdings include a site just north of the river, southwest of South Main and Boston Avenue, that formerly hosted a mobile home park that was destroyed in the 2013 flood. It, along with several other city-owned parcels near the river south of downtown, could be packaged into a land assembly effort for a development project the city would be inclined to support, such as a Front Range or other higher education space that may be able to take advantage of the area’s opportunity zone status.
“We’re keenly interested in a more robust presence of higher education options here along with Front Range so that our kids could go as far as they want in terms of their educational pursuits without ever having to leave home or Longmont to do that,” Waters said, contending more local educational opportunity would lead to an unprecedented business climate for the city.
He believes if the opportunity zone attracts additional academic assets within Longmont, they could satisfy a need for a better educated work force that certain employers in the area have made known. Fostering greater talent locally, Waters explained, will allow businesses to recruit more from within the city instead of luring skilled labor from outside Boulder County and Colorado, atrend that has helped drive recent population growth in the state.
“We have the potential to create an economic engine that transcends the kind of economic development we have seen here before in Longmont,” Waters said.
Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, email@example.com andtwitter.com/samlounz.
Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek is organizing a group to participate in Longmont’s annual Clean Up, Green Up celebration! This year, the Clean Up, Green Up kickoff is Saturday, April 6th at 7:30am at 7 S. Sunset Street in Longmont. As part of the kickoff, the City of Longmont will be providing volunteers with free coffee, juice, and donuts!
Due to the reseeding going on along the St. Vrain, Stand will be cleaning along Lefthand Creek. If interested in helping out, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All volunteers should wear weather-appropriate clothes and sturdy shoes as well as bring their own work gloves.