Draft Wildlife Management Plan Update

Longmont City staff have completed a draft of the Wildlife Management Plan update. This draft can be read here.

Because the Wildlife Management Plan directly informs the protections for wildlife and habitat and riparian and stream protections within Longmont’s Land Development Code, it is crucial that the Wildlife Management Plan update “get it right.” Therefore, we’re asking that the following changes be made before it is adopted by Council. Our full comments can be found here.

We strongly urge you to consider writing to City Council in support of the below recommendations and/or to speak during public invited to be heard when the Wildlife Management Plan update is scheduled to be discussed at an upcoming city council meeting. We’ll announce when that is as soon as we hear when that will be.

Table 1. Suggested Changes to the Draft Action Table
 
Draft Action from Wildlife Management Plan Suggested Change Rationale for change
1.1.c/2.1.g For any project in which the City is the applicant/proponent (e.g., road or utility crossings of streams, construction of greenway trails), design the project to avoid or minimize habitat loss to the extent practicable, even if such loss could be permitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (pages 95 and 97 of WMP) Currently the action type for this recommendation is BMP (best management practice).

 

We recommend codifying this language by placing it into the Land Development Code.

We believe the City of Longmont should be held to the same standard as private developers.
5.2.a. Adopt a BMP for City lands that establishes a minimum setback of 150 feet and a preferred (where practicable) setback of 200 feet or greater for trails, roads, and other facilities within or along riparian corridors, including ditches that support riparian trees and shrubs. Exceptions may include crossing points of bridges and portions of soft-surface, pedestrian-only “nature trails” that may approach more closely in limited areas for wildlife viewing. Lighting shall generally be discouraged on trails near riparian areas or other high-quality habitat areas. However, if there is an expressed community need for lighting, the city should install lighting that meets the community’s needs while also being as “wildlife friendly” as is feasible given the trail location and project budget. (page 112 of WMP) 5.2.a. Adopt a BMP for City lands that establishes a minimum setback of 150 feet and a preferred (where practicable) setback of 200 feet or greater for trails, roads, and other facilities within or along riparian corridors, including ditches that support riparian trees and shrubs. Exceptions may include crossing points of bridges and portions of soft-surface, pedestrian-only “nature trails” that may approach more closely in limited areas for wildlife viewing. Lighting shall generally be discouraged on trails near riparian areas or other high-quality habitat areas. However, if there is an expressed community need for lighting, the city should install lighting that meets the community’s needs while also being as “wildlife friendly” as is feasible given the trail location and project budget. Artificial lighting disrupts animals’ breeding and foraging behaviors, increases the risk of predation, impedes navigation and migration patterns, and may even lead directly to death (some evidence suggests artificial lighting may increase mammalian roadkill; insects become disoriented by lights and may die in light fixtures). Because of this, artificial lights should not be installed near our wildlife habitats.
5.2.d. As funds and staff resources allow, gather baseline data on wildlife presence and use throughout Longmont. This may include, but is not limited to, species inventories, presence/absence surveys, habitat suitability assessments, citizen science BMPs, pre- and post-project monitoring, etc. With such foundational data, the City will better understand wildlife and habitat conditions prior to impacts by a project or a natural disaster and will be able to use these conditions as a reference or baseline for restoration. (page 113 of WMP) 5.2.d. As funds and staff resources allow, gather baseline data on wildlife presence and use throughout Longmont. This may include, but is not limited to, species inventories, presence/absence surveys, habitat suitability assessments, citizen science BMPs, pre- and post-project monitoring, etc. With such foundational data, the City will better understand wildlife and habitat conditions prior to impacts by a project or a natural disaster and will be able to use these conditions as a reference or baseline for restoration. Baseline data are crucial to understanding what wildlife are in the city, where they are, and when they are present. Without these data it is difficult if not impossible to manage and protect Longmont’s wildlife. Therefore, we recommend prioritizing such data collection and striking the phrase “As funds and staff resources allow.”
5.2.e. As funds and staff resources allow, map and assess riparian corridors throughout the Longmont area to define “reaches” based on similar vegetative structure and composition (and thus wildlife habitat quality). These designations can be used to guide restoration projects or inform the approval of and requirements for variance requests. (page 113 of WMP) 5.2.e. As funds and staff resources allow, map and assess riparian corridors throughout the Longmont area to define “reaches” based on similar vegetative structure and composition (and thus wildlife habitat quality). These designations can be used to guide restoration projects or inform the approval of and requirements for variance requests. As stated above for action item 5.2.e., baseline data collection should be prioritized. Therefore, we recommend striking the words “As funds and staff resources allow.”

 

We also recommend striking the words “or inform the approval of and requirements for variance requests.” Even if one “reach” of a riparian corridor contains poor wildlife habitat, it may still connect two higher quality wildlife habitats upstream and downstream to maintain a functioning wildlife movement corridor. Allowing variances within such areas may fragment wildlife habitat by destroying the movement corridor. This could lead to local extirpation or even extinction.

5.3.b. Create a new staff position of Environmental Planner. This individual would be responsible for attending permit hearings, reviewing applications, and coordinating with Natural Resources staff to ensure field verifications of reported conditions are performed as needed. (page 115 of WMP) We recommend that the Environmental Planner position report to the Natural Resources Director, but be housed within the Planning Department. Having the Environmental planner report to Natural Resources, but having them be housed with Planning will allow better communication across departments. The Environmental Planner position is a cross-departmental position by nature.
5.3.c. Prepare a “toolkit” of mitigation strategies (specifically wildlife avoidance and habitat enhancement and restoration techniques) that can be incorporated into the Longmont Development Code Administrative Manual. This will provide developers with basic strategies that can be implemented to fulfill habitat and species conservation requirements. The existence of this toolkit will not absolve the developer of the requirement to retain a qualified individual to prepare the Species or Habitat Conservation Plan. (page 115 of the WMP) A link to the Development Code Administrative Manual should be provided in the Land Development Code. Incorporating the Development Code Administrative Manual by reference in the Land Development Code rather than including the entire manual within the text of the Land Development Code saves time on updating the code, but this manual should be easily available online on the city’s website (and the LDC online should include a link to it) so that developers/the public can find and review it. This increases transparency and will help facilitate compliance.
5.5.h. Consider expanding the current requirement for a Species or Habitat Protection Plan by establishing a process by which a developer is required to pay a wildlife or habitat mitigation fee to the City for loss of important habitats or wildlife that cannot reasonably be avoided by the proposed development. The purpose of the fee would be to assist the City in acquiring new or maintaining existing habitats that represent the same type of wildlife use. Examples include native plant communities, wetlands, riparian corridors, and areas of mature trees (if desirable species). (page 118 of the WMP) This recommendation should be removed. If a development cannot avoid the loss of important wildlife or habitats, it should be rejected outright. This is a loophole by which a developer can pay a fee and buy their way out of ensuring their development does not negatively impact habitat and wildlife. No amount of money paid can get those habitats and/or wildlife back.
Table 2. Rationale for Amendatory Language Changes
Location of change Change Reason
15.05.02(F)(3) Variances from the Setback Standards Removal of increased setback standards and reduced setback standards and replacement with tweaked standards from Fort Collins’ Land Development Code

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Addition of Public Works and Natural Resources as an advisor to city council in its decision regarding a reduced setback request.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Addition of a 2/3 vote of city council being needed to approve a reduced setback request.

On May 20, 2019, Stand provided staff and council with a document advocating for the update of the criteria for a reduced variance as the current criteria are vague, ambiguous, and set a low bar for developers to obtain approval to build within the 150 foot setback. Despite this, the same poor language has been kept in the Wildlife Management Plan. This is the primary reason we believe council should go with option 2 so that Fort Collins’ more robust language can be incorporated into our code.

 

Despite the fact that the recommendation to have Public Works and Natural Resources involved in riparian setback variance applications was included in the draft action table (5.3.a. on page 115 of the WMP), they were left out of the revised amendatory language in 15.05.020 on page 124 of the WMP.

 

Despite the recommendation in the draft action table (5.5.l on page 119 of the WMP) that a 2/3 majority of city council approve a reduced setback request, this was left out of the revised amendatory language in 15.05.020 on page 124 of the WMP.

15.05.030(E) Habitat and Species Database Revision of the sentence “Any site-specific studies undertaken by the applicant and accepted by the city shall be used in place of any of the cited maps or data” so that site-specific studies may be used “in conjunction” with cited maps or data.

 

Removal of the words “Colorado Division of Wildlife” and the use of “Colorado Parks and Wildlife” in their place.

The city has previously accepted poor quality site-specific studies undertaken by the applicant in lieu of studies using data provided by reputable sources such as Colorado Parks and Wildlife. This shores up that loophole.

 

 

This section contains several places where the old name of Colorado Parks and Wildlife is still used. Replacing Colorado Division of Wildlife with Colorado Parks and Wildlife is consistent with current terminology and with revisions made later in the amendatory language cited in the WMP.

15.05.030(F) Review Procedures Removal of the words “For applications referred to it”. The sentence would instead begin “Colorado Parks and Wildlife…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Addition of the words “Boulder County Parks and Open Space,” after the words “City of Longmont Public Works and Natural Resource Department.”

As stated in our May 20, 2019 document, the review procedures have already established that these measures shall apply accordingly, necessitating Agency involvement. This language was in the previous Land Development Code and likely was simply copied and pasted so this is a simple fix.

 

Boulder County Parks and Open Space is another qualified Agency that we believe should specifically be called out in the amendatory language as an Agency that may review development applications.

15.05.030(H)(2) Species or Habitat Conservation Plans Plan Content Removal of everything in the opening paragraph after the first sentence:

 

15.05.030 H(2) Plan Content. A conservation plan shall include the following information, at a minimum, and as applicable. The director may waive specific requirements due to the development’s location, previous use of the site, the size and potential impact of the development, the absence of particular species on a site, the prohibition of a reasonable use of the site, and other relevant factors

 

This is a potential loophole that could be exploited to allow an applicant not to complete a species or habitat conservation plan.
15.10.020 ‐ All Other Terms Defined Add “Boulder County Species of Special Concern” under the list for the definition of “Important Plant or Wildlife Species” The list of Boulder County Species of Special Concern is a useful reference that should be able to be consulted for those interested in what species are considered important plant or wildlife species.

 

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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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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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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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Annexation Referral of property near St. Vrain Creek

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.

thumbnail of Foundry Builders letter

thumbnail of Riverset

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Development along St. Vrain Creek contentious point at Longmont City Council candidate forum – Longmont Times-Call

A more open attitude toward development along the St. Vrain Creek corridor once the Resilient St. Vrain flood restoration project is completed further separated Longmont Ward 1 City Council candidates Josh Goldberg and Tim Waters at a forum Thursday night.

The conversation about the future of development along St. Vrain Creek took center stage last night at the Sustainability Forum hosted by Sustainable Resilient Longmont, Eco-Cycle, and the Longmont Observer and participated in by Longmont City Council Ward 1 candidates Tim Waters and Josh Goldberg. The third candidate for the seat vacated by Brian Bagley when he became mayor last year, Russ Lyman, did not attend. Ward 1 comprises the majority of Longmont east of Main Street.

Source: Development along St. Vrain Creek contentious point at Longmont City Council candidate forum – Longmont Times-Call

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