St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District staff are seeking input on the St. Vrain Left Hand Stream Management Plan process to help transition from flood recovery to restoring and protecting stream health. The first opportunity for pubic input on the plan is at the Longmont Farmer’s Market on Saturday, October 13th from 8am to 2pm.
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
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.
“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, firstname.lastname@example.org andtwitter.com/samlounz.
St. Vrain Left Hand Water Conservancy District staff are seeking input on the St. Vrain Left Hand Stream Management Plan process. There are 2 upcoming events in Longmont for you to provide input (see the flyer below). You can also fill out a survey.
This is another opportunity to let officials know that the 150 foot riparian buffer should be maintained and that impervious materials (such as concrete sidewalks and parking lots) should be minimized near bodies of water to prevent stormwater runoff.
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
This Tuesday (8/20/2018), City Council will hear an update on the status of the Resilient St. Vrain flood mitigation project from City staff and a presentation from the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the 205 program project they’re working on with City staff. The City Council meeting will be held at the Civic Center at 350 Kimbark Street at 7pm. The full agenda for the meeting is available here.
The “205 project” refers to section 205 of the Flood Control Act of 1948, as amended. This section allows the Corps to partner with non-Federal entities to design and construct small flood damage reduction projects not previously authorized by Congress and that are not part of a larger project.
The Corps is looking into whether this authority might be used to complete the portion of the Resilient St. Vrain project that stretches from Boston Avenue to the Fairgrounds Pond at Rogers Grove natural area. If determined feasible, the Corps anticipates completing their design in 2019 and beginning construction in 2020.
One concern regarding this stretch is that, while Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek has been working with the City to conduct wildlife, particularly bird, surveys in the area of Rogers Grove and Golden Ponds, 1-2 years of data collected prior to construction is not much. In addition, the City does not currently have the resources to analyze the data collected. It is imperative that the City analyze wildlife survey data collected to determine what species are present and what habitats they are utilizing before construction begins.
One species known to occur in the area of Rogers Grove along St. Vrain Creek is the Bank Swallow. Bank Swallows are the smallest swallows in Colorado and are considered to be a Boulder County Species of Special Concern because they only nest in a handful of places within the County. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Longmont must work together to determine how to mitigate the impact of construction on this species and its nesting area, including timing construction so that it does not occur during the nesting season.
Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek will be attending the meeting and speaking during Public Invited To Be Heard to ensure that these points are made before City Council and staff as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Please consider either attending the meeting and speaking in support of the (bolded) points above or contacting City Council and expressing your support for these points.
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.
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.
In 1998, Boulder County approved a special use permit to allow gravel mining on 881 acres of property owned by Western Mobile in the St. Vrain River Valley east of Lyons. River valleys are often targeted for gravel mining due to the accumulation of gravel and other sediments that build up in floodplains.
In 2011, the land was sold to Martin Marietta Materials Inc., which is now seeking to continue gravel mining operations on the property. Included with the mines, they’re also planning to build a number of accessory structures within the 100 year flood plain of St. Vrain Creek.
The special use permit included a clause that the permit will lapse if no activity authorized under the permit has been conducted for a continuous period of 5 years or more. On April 11, 2018, Boulder County ruled that the permit is still valid. However, prior to the onset of mining operations, the Boulder County Board of Adjustment must hold public hearings on the proposal.
The first of such public hearings is scheduled for Wednesday, June 6, 2018. The appeal hearing begins at 4:00 PM at the Commissioner’s Hearing Room, 1325 Pearl St., Boulder, CO 80302.
You can find more information about the public hearing here.
Gravel mining on St. Vrain Creek upstream of Longmont would likely increase the risk of flooding, both within the city and in surrounding areas downstream, which would completely defeat the purpose of the Resilient St. Vrain flood mitigation project that Longmont is currently undertaking. This 2014 conference paper by Anthony R. Ladson and Dean A. Judd explains the short and long-term risks of floodplain gravel mining, particularly the likelihood that such mining may alter the flow of flood water and change river channels. As stated in the paper:
A literature review found 37 examples where rivers had broken into gravel mines and the resulting river response had led to bed and bank erosion and threats to infrastructure.
A river is likely to jump tracks into a gravel pond because water follows the path of least resistance. When this happens, it increases the likelihood of damage. In 2013, this was perfectly illustrated when St. Vrain Creek diverted through the former gravel pits at Pella Crossing Open Space in Hygiene as described in this Times Call letter to the editor by Richard Cargill.
Please consider attending the public hearing on Wednesday, June 6 to voice your concerns regarding Martin Marietta’s gravel mining operation.
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.