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.

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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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REMINDER: Wildlife Management Plan Public Meeting/Open House

Let your voice be heard! Longmont is updating its Wildlife Management Plan and is holding the first of several public meetings THIS Thursday, March 7th from 6 to 8pm at 7 S. Sunset Street.

We need YOU to come out in support of our wildlife and habitat protection. We literally cannot protect Longmont’s wildlife without you! The meeting will be discussing Longmont’s 150 foot riparian setback that is established in the Longmont Land Development Code. This buffer, which prevents new building within 150 feet of St. Vrain Creek, is crucial to protect species that live, breed, and commute in and along the river corridor as well as to keep our river clean and protect against future floods.

Comments on the Wildlife Management Plan will be used to inform the second phase of the Land Development Code update (dealing with regulations regarding streams, wetlands, riparian areas, and wildlife) as well as standards for development along the river corridor.

If you are absolutely unable to attend the meeting, please send your comments to Dan Wolford via email: dan.wolford@longmont.colorado.gov or via phone: 303-774-4691 and plan to attend the second meeting on Thursday, April 4th.

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The Remarkable Riparian Zone: What’s Going On With Our St. Vrain Greenway?

thumbnail of Longmont Public Forum presentation flyerOn Wednesday, February 27th, Longmont Political Revolution is sponsoring a presentation at the Longmont Public Library featuring Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek and Front Range Nesting Bald Eagle Studies.

Stand’s half of the presentation, titled “The Remarkable Riparian Zone: What’s Happening With Our St. Vrain Greenway?” will explain why a functioning riparian zone is crucial to a healthy river system and how it can help mitigate future floods. It will also detail some of the goings-on regarding the St. Vrain river corridor, including current construction.

Join us from 6:30-8:30pm in the A/B meeting room at the Longmont library (409 4th Ave, Longmont, CO 80501).

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Advisory Panel Meeting to Discuss Future Development of St. Vrain River Corridor

A second meeting of an advisory panel to continue discussion of future development of the St. Vrain river corridor to meet goals B3 and B4 of the Longmont City Council’s workplan has been scheduled for Friday, February 15th from 8:30am to 11:30am at the Longmont Museum. The session is open to the public as observers and we are asking Longmont residents to attend if their schedule allows so that the process is as transparent as possible.

The Longmont City Council developed a workplan (available here) in 2018 to direct their actions and help them meet their goals for the city. Section B of the workplan contains the City Council’s goals for “Longmont’s places”:

In 20 years, Longmont will have a developed Main Street from Pike Road to Highway 66 and a river corridor that stretches from the sugar mill to the fairgrounds as a vibrant economic, residential, cultural and entertainment epicenter that is sustainable and respects the natural environment. This area will:
 Goal B1: Have a diverse housing stock with higher densities and access to high quality public transportation, food and jobs
 Goal B2: Protect and respect our natural public amenities as part of the development process
 Goal B3: Become a nationally recognized geographic center of science, technology, engineering, education, arts, and entrepreneurism
 Goal B4: Bring together private industry, local government, nonprofits, and institutions of higher education as well as the St. Vrain Valley School District to ensure the highest quality, best prepared workforce in the western United States

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January 11 2019 first session of advisory panel notes.

On Friday, January 11th, City Council convened the first meeting of the advisory panel. The notes to the left were compiled from that meeting (click on picture to to see the full notes).

Although the first meeting was also open to the public, it wasn’t publicized very well. Therefore, Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek is seeking to publicize the second meeting to a wider audience. The agenda for the second meeting is below (click on the picture to view the full agenda).

 

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Agenda for the February 15th advisory panel meeting.

Additional supporting documentation for the panel meeting is below:

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St. Vrain Blueprint study area map.

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Land Development Code Updates on 1/22 City Council Agenda

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.

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City Council Open Forum

This is a last minute notice, but Longmont is holding another City Council Open forum tonight at 7:00pm at the Civic Center (350 Kimbark Street) where residents can speak about any topic they desire. If you are able to attend, please consider doing so and speaking up in favor of greater riparian protections.

Since residents can speak about any topic for up to 5 minutes, it’s best to show up early to add your name to the speaker list.

https://www.apnews.com/519eccc528c74f4f93e120a7c9077b71

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ACTION ITEM: Attend Longmont City Council Meeting at 7pm on Tuesday, January 22nd

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:

Brian.Bagley@longmontcolorado.gov Mayor

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

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