Published 9/12/23 in the Longmont Leader and Longmont Times Call
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.|
On Tuesday, February 22nd, Longmont City Council settled on a timeline for the “second phase” of amendments to the Land Development Code (LDC). These amendments encompass not only that portion of the LDC dealing with riparian setbacks and wildlife protection, but also the timeframe for completing supporting tools/documents such as a sustainability system for evaluating development and that portion of the Wildlife Management Plan that deals with development along riparian corridors/near open space areas.
This timeframe indicates August 1, 2019 as the due date for such amendments. The timeframe was based off of a timeframe developed by City Staff (see below).
To view the full discussion of the Longmont Development Code amendment priority and timeline discussion, watch the following video, which has been cued up to the start of that discussion:
Longmont City Council will be discussing the timing and priority of updates to the second phase of the Land Development Code (which includes the parts of the code dealing with habitat and riparian protections) during the Tuesday, January 22nd City Council meeting. The City Council meeting will be held at 7:00pm at the Civic Center. The City has contracted with Clarion Associates to make the development code updates.
Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek is asking that citizens concerned about our St. Vrain river corridor attend the January 22nd council meeting and to wear green. It is important that council prioritize changes to the development code that strengthen restrictions on development along the riparian corridor in order to protect this important resource.
In preparation for the meeting, City staff has provided the following documents. Click on the picture of each document to access the link to the full text.
City Council will be reviewing and scheduling the projects they want to pursue in 2019 at the January 22nd City Council meeting. One of the these projects is the revisions to the riparian section of the Land Development Code (LDC). Staff will ask council to prioritize the projects in the order they wish staff to work on them. Also council members will be asked to choose which recommendations of Stand With Our Saint Vrain Creek’s 4/1/2018 letter they wish to include in the LDC revisions.
We ask that you please attend this council meeting and consider speaking during public invited to be heard urging council members to prioritize revisions to the riparian section of the LDC to strengthen protections and to direct City staff to amend the LDC to reflect all recommendations in Stand With Our Saint Vrain Creek’s 4/1/2018 letter.
What: City Council meeting
When: Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at 7pm
Where: Longmont Civic Center 350 Kimbark Street, Longmont CO 80501
If you can’t attend the meeting, please consider contacting Longmont City Council at the following email addresses:
Polly.Christensen@longmontcolorado.gov Mayor Pro Tem, Council Member At Large
Aren.Rodriguez@longmontcolorado.gov Council Member At Large
Joan.Peck@longmontcolorado.gov Council Member At Large
Tim.Waters@longmontcolorado.gov Council Member Ward 1
Marcia.Martin@longmontcolorado.gov Council Member Ward 2
Bonnie.Finley@longmontcolorado.gov Council Member Ward 3
Or you can use the contact form: https://www.longmontcolorado.gov/departments/city-council/how-to-contact-city-council/city-council-mayor-contact-form
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:
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency approves the new flood plain maps,
- The Resilient St. Vrain (RSVP) flood mitigation project’s plans and funding are in place, and
- 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
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.
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:
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.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will be holding a public hearing regarding updates to the Land Development Code.
Longmont’s Planning and Zoning Commission will be holding a public hearing on the updates to the Land Development Code on April 25th at 7pm at the Civic Center (350 Kimbark Street). Please consider attending and speaking in favor of protecting our riparian corridors and Open Space.
Though the sections on habitat and riparian protections are not being updated at this time so their updates coincide with the revamp of the City’s Wildlife Management Plan, the section of the code involving public notification regarding developments IS being updated. Because ALL Longmont residents benefit from the St. Vrain corridor and the City’s Open Space, ALL Longmont residents should be notified when a development application is submitted for a property adjacent to the St. Vrain or City Open Space and not just those residents living within 1000 feet of the proposed development.
If you don’t wish to speak or can’t make it to the P&Z meeting on Wednesday, please submit comments ahead of time via email or by calling 303-651-8330.