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Longmont Open Space Master Plan Update

Natural Resources Announcement:

The department of Public Works and Natural Resources is in the process of updating the City’s Open Space Master Plan.  The intent of this comprehensive plan is to evaluate our community’s open space needs so we can proactively plan for the future.

The City has engaged the services of GreenPlay LLC, a nationally renowned park/open space and recreation consulting firm, to help in analysis and development of the updated plan.  GreenPlay LLC drafted the initial Open Space and Trails Master Plan in 2002.

As a component of the planning process, City staff and GreenPlay are working together to conduct a community needs assessment.  This will take shape in two forms, surveys and workshops.

A survey will be distributed via mail to a random selection of households across Longmont in early-mid February.  This survey will be used to produce a statistically valid sample and results.  If your household receives this mailed survey, your participation is greatly appreciated.  A web questionnaire will also open in mid-late February for the general public until mid-March (watch for another announcement when it is live).

In addition to the surveys, two public workshops will be held on the evenings of Thursday, Feb.22 and Thursday, March 22.  These meetings will consist of a presentation and interactive work stations.  Participants will be asked a variety of questions to evaluate Open Space accomplishments over the past 15 years and to assess the needs of the community that should be addressed in this updated comprehensive plan.

We thank you in advance for participating in our master plan update and encourage youth participation in this process, too.  As well, Spanish translators will be available at both public workshops.  Your input will help guide the future of the City’s Open Space program-improving the quality of life in our community for generations to come.  Find details on the public workshops more at bit.ly/openspaceplan or by calling 303-651-8416.

Link to OS workshop details here.

Link to city announcement:  OS master plan update press-release-announcement

February Nature Almanac: River otters resurge in Boulder County – Boulder Daily Camera

The river otter is a Colorado state threatened species that looks to be making a comeback in Boulder County, including in St. Vrain Creek.

A sleek brown body surged through the water. A broad head turned, and curious eyes surveyed the astounded onlookers. A muskrat? A mink? No, a river-otter! After an absence of almost half a century, they are coming back.

Source: February Nature Almanac: River otters resurge in Boulder County – Boulder Daily Camera

 

Some birds are so stressed by noise pollution it looks like they have PTSD!

Take a look at this interesting Washington Post article about the negative impacts of noise pollution on wildlife.

“But in a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Guralnick and his colleagues say there is a clear connection between noise pollution, abnormal levels of stress hormones, and lower survival rates.  This is the first time that link has been established in a population of wild animals, they argue, and it should make us all think hard about what our ruckus is doing to the Earth.  “Habitat degradation is always conceived of as clear cutting, or, you know, changing the environment in a physical way.  But this is an acoustic degradation of the environment,” Guralnick said.  “We think it is a real conservation concern.”

Next Planning and Zoning Commission Meeting 1/24/18

The next Planning and Zoning commission meeting is scheduled for 7pm on January 24th at the Civic Center (350 Kimbark Street) where the commission will continue to go over the Land Development Code.

The agenda for the P&Z meeting states that “no substantive changes are proposed to [the sections of the Development Code dealing with protection of rivers/streams/wetlands/riparian areas and habitat and species protection] pending the Open Space and Trails Master Plan and Wildlife Management Plan updates, plus ongoing work on Resilient St. Vrain and the St. Vrain Blueprint.” HOWEVER, it would be good for P&Z to hear support for maintaining the 150-foot riparian setback, closing loopholes to the 150-foot setback in the Development Code, and strengthening protections for open space and natural areas, including the St. Vrain Creek corridor.

Please consider speaking during the Public Invited to Be Heard section of the meeting. You may also email City Planning and Development Services Director Joni Marsh to submit written comments.

Land Development Code Updates Open For Public Comments

The City of Longmont is currently updating its Land Development Code (chapter 15 of the Longmont Municipal Code) and taking public comment. Comments can be submitted to the Longmont Planning and Development Services Department via phone by calling 303-651-8330, via email by writing to longmont.planning@longmontcolorado.gov or by filling out this online form.

The Land Development Code contains requirements relating to development in the city, including the 150-foot setback for development/redevelopment along St. Vrain Creek and minimizing light pollution in areas of important wildlife habitat. The entire Municipal Code, including the Land Development Code can be read here.

Though these are good first steps, the Land Development Code’s protections for St. Vrain Creek and other sensitive wildlife habitats within the city could be strengthened by:

  • Expressly prohibiting artificial lighting within Longmont’s greenways, open spaces, and riparian corridors;
  • Establishing 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;
  • Restricting building heights adjacent to riparian areas; and
  • Minimizing the amount of impervious materials that contribute to storm-water runoff (e.g. concrete sidewalks and parking lots) near streams and other bodies of water.

We urge you to submit comments in support of stronger protections for Longmont’s natural areas, especially the St. Vrain Creek riparian corridor.

Variance Requests for Development

On Wednesday, October 25th, the Planning and Zoning Commission heard a development request for the Harvest Junction shopping center regarding an 8-foot variance to the 150-foot riparian setback required by the City Code. It was clear from the discussion that many questions could have been answered if staff from the city’s Department of Natural Resources had been present at the meeting. Such questions involved the ecology of the riparian area, the reasoning behind the setback, and the work being done as part of the Resilient St. Vrain flood mitigation project.

Currently, there is no procedure in place to refer variance requests to the Department of Natural Resources when the request may impact a natural area such as the St. Vrain Creek corridor. In order to learn of variance requests, the Department of Natural Resources must either hear of it through word of mouth or through another informal channel.

It doesn’t strike Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek as productive for the left hand to not know what the right is doing when it’s the left hand that has the needed expertise. Therefore, we suggest that a standard operating procedure be put into place requiring the Department of Natural Resources be consulted when variances are requested that may impact wildlife or sensitive ecological areas such as the St. Vrain corridor.

Builders Said Their Homes Were Out of a Flood Zone. Then Harvey Came.

In the years leading up to Hurricane Harvey, a wrinkle in the federal flood-mapping system helped a company build homes in an at-risk Houston suburb.

Source:

Builders Said Their Homes Were Out of a Flood Zone. Then Harvey Came.

This recently posted New York Times article (12/2/17) shows that many of the homes and businesses that were damaged in Houston, TX, had been “lifted out of” the flood plain by filling in low-lying areas with dirt.

While the damages from the 2013 Longmont flood didn’t result from infilling, this article does raise questions about whether “taking an area out of the flood plain” is truly possible.

St. Vrain Economic Development Blueprint

At the moment, the St. Vrain economic development blueprint is slated to go before Longmont city council this coming Tuesday, October 17th.

It is Stand with Our St. Vrain Creek’s opinion that any economic development plan should not be approved until flood recovery and mitigation efforts have been completed or, at the least, all flood recovery and mitigation planning has been decided upon.

We’re asking people to attend the council meeting at the Civic Center this Tuesday and perhaps to speak in support of holding off on approval of the plan. Supporters of the creek are encouraged to wear blue.

Longmont Sustainability Forum

This is your opportunity to meet the candidates for Longmont’s mayoral and city council races!

Join Sustainable Resilient Longmont and Eco-cycle to hear mayoral and city council candidates answer questions about their views on sustainability issues. The forum will be held from 6:30pm to 8:30pm on Wednesday, October 11th at the Longmont Public Library (409 4th Avenue Longmont CO 80501).

Go to srlongmont.org or contact info@srlongmont.org for more information.

St. Vrain Blueprint Update

The St. Vrain Blueprint (note that the web site for the blueprint is out of date with the last version of the document being from March, 2017) is a plan for economic development along St. Vrain Creek in Longmont. The blueprint has been slated to go before City Council on Tuesday, September 26th at 7:00pm. However, because the Council is currently going through budget discussions, the blueprint presentation may be delayed until the October 3rd or even the October 10th council meeting.

Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek recommends that any development/redevelopment plan not be adopted before plans for flood mitigation via Resilient St. Vrain are finalized, including where monies to complete the unfunded stretches of the river corridor will be acquired. It just does not make sense to think about the future of development along the river corridor when it’s still uncertain what the corridor will look like following construction and when other documents that should be taken into account, such as the Wildlife Management Plan, haven’t yet been completed.

Stay tuned regarding when the Blueprint will be brought before the council and please consider attending to show your support for balancing economic interests against wildlife and health and human safety concerns.