URGENT: Neighborhood Meeting April 30th 5:30pm at Left Hand Brewing

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.

thumbnail of LH Brewing concept plan

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.

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Longmont opportunity zone interest building as city leaders prep St. Vrain corridor, sugar factory as targets

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

By Sam LounsberryStaff Writer

POSTED:   03/30/2019 10:00:00 AM MDT

 

A bulldozer moves dirt March 19 in the St. Vrain River as part of the Resilient St. Vrain project. Floodplain mapping will need to be updated in accordance
A bulldozer moves dirt March 19 in the St. Vrain River as part of the Resilient St. Vrain project. Floodplain mapping will need to be updated in accordance with the changes to the river made by the Resilient St. Vrain post-flood channel work.That project and the adjoining federal opportunity zones that line the river are leading officials to envision more uniform growth along the river. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

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.

(Mary Hilleren / Staff graphic designer)

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.

Together, the zones stretch east-west from Hover to Lashley streets, extending further east south of Third Avenue to include the sugar factory and north-south from the north bank of the St. Vrain to Ninth Avenue.
Modern gateway more possible

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.

The abandoned Sugar Factory in Longmont could benefit from its location in one of two federal opportunity zones in the city. Tax incentives associated with

The abandoned Sugar Factory in Longmont could benefit from its location in one of two federal opportunity zones in the city. Tax incentives associated with those zones could mitigate the cost of incorporating the building into new development or tearing it down to make way for new development. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

“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.

Carlos Torres lays down 2x4s to build another wall at the construction site of South Main Station in January. The mixed-use development at First Avenue and

Carlos Torres lays down 2x4s to build another wall at the construction site of South Main Station in January. The mixed-use development at First Avenue and Main Street lies within one of the two federal opportunity zones in the city. Its developers have applied for the funding for which the location makes it eligible. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

“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.”

College downtown?

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, slounsberry@prairiemountainmedia.com andtwitter.com/samlounz.

Stonework is installed on on the new South Pratt Parkway bridge as part of the Resilient St. Vrain project March 19. Floodplain mapping will need to be

Stonework is installed on on the new South Pratt Parkway bridge as part of the Resilient St. Vrain project March 19. Floodplain mapping will need to be updated in accordance with the changes to the river made by the Resilient St. Vrain post-flood channel work. That project and the adjoining federal opportunity zones that line the river are leading officials to envision more uniform growth along the river. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)
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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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City Council Meeting

Longmont City Council will be hearing from Riverset, LLC. on a proposal for the city to annex 21 acres of land at 21 S. Sunset Street owned by the company. The land is currently zoned as general industrial, but the property owner is requesting mixed use-planned unit development zoning in order to build a mix of residential and commercial buildings.

The meeting will be held at the Longmont Civic Center at 350 Kimbark Street at 7pm. The meeting agenda and relevant documents pertaining to the agenda item can be found at the link below.

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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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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.

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