Ann Kibbey

Longmont City Council lap dog for developers

The new mall plan looks DOA to me. Basically, we are replacing Dillard’s with Sam’s Club. Why does Longmont need three Walmarts?

And what small businesses will want to be in the same mall as Walmart? Why cozy up with people who will undercut small business prices?

The stores that NewMark Merrill has in mind are not bringing new kinds of business to Longmont. On the contrary, they are aggressively overlapping with stores on Hover and Ken Pratt that have proven they can do business here. The mall’s intent is to siphon off that business, not develop new business.

Photo by M. Douglas Wray ©2011 FreeRangeLongmont.com

Twin Peaks redevelopment will use TIF to destroy what are now viable businesses

The tax increment financing is what the developer is looking to pocket, and reaping these tax dollars will also give them the upper hand in undercutting the prices of the existing stores they seek to undermine. That’s not a productive way to do business. It will use TIF to destroy what are now viable businesses, and will only replace them with a cheaper version. If you think Twin Peaks Mall has succumbed to urban blight, wait ’til you see what Hover and Ken Pratt will look like in 5-10 years.

Big-box abandonment will be pervasive. Or Longmont City Council will be dishing even more TIF money in an attempt to save them.

This is a poisonous project and NM should be kicked out of here. It is self-destructive for Longmont to continue with this plan.

That the new mall will restore Longmont’s reputation as the armpit of Boulder County is really the least of our problems. This is a financially unsound plan, designed to benefit the developer and not the city or residents. It will damage Longmont seriously. Longmont’s tax dollars would be far better spent in redeveloping Main Street, Kimbark and Coffman.

Dangerously Exploitative

bad_idea_sign_crossbonesThe new mall plan looks DOA to me.  Basically, we are replacing Dillard’s with Sam’s Club, aka Walmart.  Why does Longmont need 3 Walmarts?

And what small businesses will want to be in the same mall as Walmart?  Why cozy up with people who will undercut small business prices?

And by the way, it’s not “at the peaks,” which are quite far away.  A confusing name that pretends to be something that it is not, but then the whole project could be seen in the same light.

The stores that Newmark Merrill has in mind are not bringing new kinds of business to Longmont.  On the contrary, they are aggressively overlapping with stores on Hover and Ken Pratt that have proven they can do business here.  The mall’s intent is to siphon off that business, not develop new business.

The TIF (tax incremental financing) is what the developer is looking to pocket, and reaping all these tax dollars will also give them the upper hand in undercutting the prices of the existing stores they seek to undermine.  That’s not a productive way to do business.  It is basically parasitic.  And very NON competitive.  It will use TIF to destroy what are now viable businesses, and will only replace them with a cheaper version.  If you think Twin Peaks Mall has succumbed to urban blight, wait ‘til you see what Hover and Ken Pratt will look like in 5-10 years.

Big box abandonment will be pervasive.  Or Longmont City Council will be dishing even more TIF money in an attempt to save them.

This is a poisonous project and NM should be kicked out of here.  It is self-destructive for Longmont to continue with this plan.

And don’t you look forward to 25 different versions of “Planet of the Apes” in stadium seating.  And then you can enjoy “patio dining” in the low-budget fast food court in 100 degree weather (or about 20 in winter) –cheaper by far since there’s no need for cooling or heating.

That the new mall will restore Longmont’s reputation as the armpit of Boulder  County is really the least of our problems.  This is a financially unsound plan, designed to benefit the developer and not the city or residents.  It will damage Longmont very seriously.  Longmont’s tax dollars would be far better spent in redeveloping Main Street, Kimbark, and Coffman.

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea on fracking

Baum Professor of Engineering at Cornell University

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea (photo courtesy of ClearingTheFogRadio.org)

What a rare and wonderful event to have a nationally known and highly regarded scientist come to Longmont to speak to a group of concerned citizens!  The day-long conference sponsored by Our Longmont began with a keynote address by Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, the Baum Professor of Engineering at Cornell University and a highly regarded expert of the history of hydraulic fracturing and its present practices.  In 2011, TIME Magazine named him one of its “People Who Mattered.”  His widely published research on computer simulation and physical testing of complex fracturing processes provides the very latest information on the controversial process of fracking.

In a very engaging lecture with numerous slides, Dr. Ingraffea showed that the deleterious effects of the process of fracking are not in fact controversial.  Only someone ignorant of the widely published research could hold that view, and that includes data made public and researched by oil companies, themselves, as well as independent research scientists.  Among the more disturbing disclosures he offered was the very latest on fracturing technology’s saturation approach to drilling.  Gone are days of drilling single wells that are miles apart, or even drilling just a single well pad.  Dr. Ingraffea showed how the most economical and profitable drilling is now done on wells so closely spaced that the lateral drill shafts are only 500 feet apart.  Companies lease miles of land and then drill literally everywhere within it.  This means there would be explosions of shale every 500 feet.  It’s easy to see that no urban area could maintain its residences or general habitat if it was subjected to saturation drilling.  Why, then, are public officials in Colorado saying that only a few more regulations should make everything ok?  That is absurd.

Dr. Ingraffea also provided a perspective on the real economic data about fracking.  Far from being a great boon to the economy, most wells are played out within 5 years.  Most will also eventually leak, causing environmental damage, even if they are not actively drilled again.  Dr. Ingraffea showed that the Niobrara formation, which is underneath Longmont and most of the Front Range, is nowhere near the size of the Bakken Field in North Dakota.  It is only about one-tenth the size of the Bakken, possibly even less than that.  Why should we destroy the place where we live for this small amount of oil?   It will not significantly benefit the Longmont economy, but it will wreak havoc with our way of life and our health and safety.


You can also listen to an interview of Dr. Ingraffea on ClearingTheFogRadio.org.

Council Not Serving Citizens

Katie Witt, poster girl for council's confusion.

Katie Witt, poster girl for council’s confusion.

Longmont City Council seems to be floundering again on city planning.  It’s a familiar story.  They cozy up to a company that wants to have its own way completely in what it does to Longmont.  Whether it is oil companies or mall developers, they make deals that do not reflect the thoughts or preferences of the people of Longmont.  Then they paper it over simply by declaring that their own bizarre decisions are “what the people want,” or “what the people have asked for.”  Listen up, City Council!  The people of Longmont didn’t ask for fracking wells in the city, or fracking wells surrounding Union Reservoir, but it took a public referendum and official vote to make that clear to the Longmont City Council.   Even so, the City Council seems less than enthusiastic about enforcing the ban on drilling that the people’s vote now mandates.  Instead of listening to the residents of Longmont, the City Council seems distressed at the thought of conducting themselves as the representatives of the people who elected them.

The recent disputes about how to redevelop Twin Peaks Mall involve tactics that are similar to the push for sweetheart deals with the oil companies.   City Council members have again shown their eagerness to bend over because the failed cinema wants to extend its failures into the future by using Longmont tax dollars. The existing mall has only one major survivor at this point, a large department store that found a way to stay in business, despite the disastrous mismanagement of the mall.   And what does City Council want to do with it?  Taking a wrecking ball to it, of course, and declare that this is what the people have asked for.  On the contrary, the people have already voted with their dollars to keep this department store.  There is no other store like it in Longmont, and no other store with their survivor skills in today’s market.  You’d think the City Council would be consulting the department store about what would be needed for a viable mall.  Instead, they have courted one of the worst cinema chains, whose appeal is largely to teenagers and small children, and made this the cornerstone of their redevelopment.  This theater habitually screens the cinematic equivalent of fast food.  There are other cinema chains that would be far better choices for redeveloping the mall.  Boulder has found them and so has Denver.  Why can’t the City Council take its blinders off and do the same?  Do they really think that the weekly allowance of twelve year olds is what it takes to make a new mall financially viable?

And aren’t these the same Council members who moaned and complained about the expense of law suits when it came to standing up for citizen’s rights against the encroachments of oil companies?  Now they have decided to initiate legal action to try to condemn the only viable store at the present mall.  This strategy seems like a very long shot, and a ridiculous misuse of Longmont tax dollars.  It will cause serious delays in the mall redevelopment and will drive away many new tenants who might otherwise want to be in Longmont.

If the deal with the current cinema can’t get the wrecking ball, then choose something else for another anchor.  Why not revitalize the conference center, and give it more variety and visibility in the possible uses for it.  Add a performance hall to it, for example, like the one that Arvada has.   Put a new multiplex cinema on Hover or Ken Pratt Blvd or upper Main St. or Pace St.  Apparently the present cinema only has a deal for the present location.  The cinema for Longmont could easily be relocated, and could attract a film distributor that would provide us with much more variety and quality.  And finally, why rebuild the entire mall when only parts of it need to be changed?  Has City Council never heard of remodeling?

The City Council needs to change its approach, and in fact put the needs of residents first in their considerations, not last.  Longmont residents have shown that they will not stand for a flagrant misuse of tax dollars to underwrite sweetheart deals with companies that have no interest in the well-being of Longmont.

Longmont Council Floundering on City Planning

Photo by M. Douglas Wray ©2011 FreeRangeLongmont.com

Council is floundering on Twin Peaks redevelopment.

Longmont City Council seems to be floundering again on city planning.  It’s a familiar story.  They cozy up to a company that wants to have its own way completely in what it does to Longmont.  Whether it is oil companies or mall developers, they make deals that do not reflect the thoughts or preferences of the people of Longmont.  Then they paper it over simply by declaring that their own bizarre decisions are “what the people want,” or “what the people have asked for.”  Listen up, City Council!  The people of Longmont didn’t ask for fracking wells in the city, or fracking wells surrounding Union Reservoir, but it took a public referendum and official vote to make that clear to the Longmont City Council.   Even so, the City Council seems less than enthusiastic about enforcing the ban on drilling that the people’s vote now mandates.  Instead of listening to the residents of Longmont, the City Council seems distressed at the thought of conducting themselves as the representatives of the people who elected them.

The recent disputes about how to redevelop Twin Peaks Mall involve tactics that are similar to the push for sweetheart deals with the oil companies.   City Council members have again shown their eagerness to bend over because the failed cinema wants to extend its failures into the future by using Longmont tax dollars. The existing mall has only one major survivor at this point, a large department store that found a way to stay in business, despite the disastrous mismanagement of the mall.   And what does City Council want to do with it?  Taking a wrecking ball to it, of course, and declare that this is what the people have asked for.  On the contrary, the people have already voted with their dollars to keep this department store.  There is no other store like it in Longmont, and no other store with their survivor skills in today’s market.  You’d think the City Council would be consulting the department store about what would be needed for a viable mall.  Instead, they have courted one of the worst cinema chains, whose appeal is largely to teenagers and small children, and made this the cornerstone of their redevelopment.  This theater habitually screens the cinematic equivalent of fast food.  There are other cinema chains that would be far better choices for redeveloping the mall.  Boulder has found them and so has Denver.  Why can’t the City Council take its blinders off and do the same?  Do they really think that the weekly allowance of twelve year olds is what it takes to make a new mall financially viable?

And aren’t these the same Council members who moaned and complained about the expense of law suits when it came to standing up for citizen’s rights against the encroachments of oil companies?  Now they have decided to initiate legal action to try to condemn the only viable store at the present mall.  This strategy seems like a very long shot, and a ridiculous misuse of Longmont tax dollars.  It will cause serious delays in the mall redevelopment and will drive away many new tenants who might otherwise want to be in Longmont.

If the deal with the current cinema can’t get the wrecking ball, then choose something else for another anchor.  Why not revitalize the conference center, and give it more variety and visibility in the possible uses for it.  Add a performance hall to it, for example, like the one that Arvada has.   Put a new multiplex cinema on Hover or Ken Pratt Blvd or upper Main St. or Pace St.  Apparently the present cinema only has a deal for the present location.  The cinema for Longmont could easily be relocated, and could attract a film distributor that would provide us with much more variety and quality.  And finally, why rebuild the entire mall when only parts of it need to be changed?  Has City Council never heard of remodeling?

The City Council needs to change its approach, and in fact put the needs of residents first in their considerations, not last.  Longmont residents have shown that they will not stand for a flagrant misuse of tax dollars to underwrite sweetheart deals with companies that have no interest in the well-being of Longmont.

Vote YES on on 300

There have been many claims that the dangers of fracking have been overstated. Much of this debate has been confusing to the average citizen. A new study published in Scientific American helps explain how the confusion came about and why it continues. The study’s authors analyzed 194,000 inspection records of “Class 2” wells, also called “injection” wells, which are used to dispose of fracking waste. They also provide a brief history of the regulations guiding these inspections.

A lack of adequate oversight for Class 2 wells was written into successive legislative acts. This was a tale of two political parties, who played their parts counter to type. The original Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in 1974, during the Nixon/Ford era of Republican presidents. In 1980, Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, a liberal, sponsored legislation that allowed the oil and gas industry to bypass provisions of the Safe Water Act by choosing to be regulated by state oil and gas boards that were more lax. The EPA then attempted to bar underground dumping (injection wells) unless companies proved beforehand that their actions would not be a health threat. In response, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, a Democrat, led the fight against the EPA’s hazardous waste regulation. Congress redefined any waste that resulted from oil and gas drilling as “non-hazardous.” Voila. Injection wells became safe. From then on, benzene from the fertilizer industry was a hazardous threat to health and water supplies, but the same chemical in the oil and gas drilling process was not hazardous! This is why so many reports on injection wells say that nothing hazardous was injected into the well.

Had enough of legislative double talk? Vote yes on Ballot Question 300 to ban fracking in Longmont. Our health and our future depend on it.

Put Fracking Issue on November Ballot

Photo courtesy of ErieRising.com

This could be Longmont – wells and chemical storage tanks in your neighborhood.

We the people of Longmont are circulating a petition to put the issue of fracking on the November ballot. This will give Longmont residents the opportunity to indicate where they really stand. Do you want fracking within the city limits? You will be able to vote on this issue in November if our petition drive collects enough signatures.

You will find petitioners at many public places and events in Longmont over the next month. We’ll also be on downtown sidewalks, in front of businesses that have allowed us to collect signatures, and going door to door in neighborhoods. You must be a registered voter and resident of Longmont to sign.

I want to emphasize that this is a citizens’ initiative. It has no relation to any government office. It is not sponsored by any political party or candidate. It has no relationship to the Occupy movement. We are ordinary citizens who believe that Longmont residents should decide if fracking should be allowed within city limits.

Many public officials and businesspeople have pretended to know what Longmont residents want on this issue. They say they are representing the public interest, but in fact everyone has been guessing about what the people of Longmont really want.

We say, let the people decide. We urge you to speak for yourself by signing the petition and by voting in November.

The ballot issue proposes a ban on fracking within Longmont city limits.

It would further ban the storage or disposal of materials and wastewater connected with fracking, including a ban on open waste pits. A citywide referendum is a reasonable action, given that every person in Longmont will be affected by whatever decision is made on fracking.

Go to www.OurLongmont.org for more information on the petition.

City council, restore needed regulations


Editor’s Note: The following is an Open Letter to the Longmont City Council. On May 8, 2012, Longmont’s oil and gas regulations will appear on the council’s agenda on First Reading (Consent Agenda). Several necessary regulations were removed from the Draft Regulations prepared earlier this year.

I would like to see the following provisions become part of the city’s regulation of fracking wells and other wells.

1) RESTORE THE PROVISION REQUIRING CLOSED PITS.
Open pits are a source of contamination, both through evaporation (airborne contaminants), and through undue exposure to animals and, potentially, children on nearby playgrounds. A CLOSED SYSTEM WOULD BE BEST.

2) INCORPORATE THE NEW EPA REGULATIONS ON METHANE CONTAMINATION. The EPA has just issued new regulations regarding methane leakage in fracked wells. The city should require that any wells drilled now should be in conformity to these new regulations, since the new wells will be operating when the EPA regulations go into effect.

3) DO NOT ALLOW THE OPERATION OF WELLS DURING A DROUGHT. The state already has a mechanism for declaring a state of drought, and it should be strictly observed.

4) MONITOR SMOG POLLUTION, INCLUDING ADVANCE TESTING TO ESTABLISH A BASELINE.
The city should require testing using the new technique just published by NOAA, which is able to differentiate sources of smog pollution. There should be a baseline test of Longmont’s air quality at the present time, before the moratorium is lifted, and future tests should be measured against it. I am especially concerned about the numerous medical studies published by a variety of sources–easily found with an Internet search–that show strong links between smog and an increase in asthma, stroke, and heart attacks. The recent study in Erie that commented on 10 minutes of exposure is ridiculous. If there are wells, there is going to be chronic exposure. The studies of the effects of chronic exposure to smog need a detailed review and the city needs to fund its own monitoring of smog.

Thank you for your attention to these matters. I look forward to seeing these important elements of regulation incorporated into the City of Longmont regulations.

Drilling will harm Longmont’s businesses

Much has been said about air and water pollution, damage to roads, noise and light pollution, and in general the dangers of having fracking wells close to homes and schools.

However, there are other matters that the City Council must study and investigate that have hardly received any attention. It has been said that fracking is good for economic development. It seems to me that fracking is actually bad for business in Longmont.

Fracking is the kind of business that drives away most other businesses. Weld County is a fine example. The more wells you drill, the more wells you drill. Longmont strongly relies on retail development for significant sales tax. Business at existing stores will be seriously jeopardized, particularly on the main retail arteries of Hover and Colo. Highway 119. These areas are bordered by vacant lots that offer many opportunities to fulfill setback requirements and are likely to see fracking wells in abundance, with all the industrial traffic and pollution that goes with it.

Name one business that thinks their retail sales would improve if you drilled a fracking well in their parking lot, or put a well 350 feet from their main entrance. Businesses always worry about the impact of construction activity, even if it’s only for a few weeks and improves the roads to their business. The impact of fracking would be far greater and it would be continuous and detrimental. Will the redevelopment of Twin Peaks Mall include a fracking well in the surrounding lots? Who would shop there if it did? Will South Main be subjected to the same treatment? It isn’t just the well construction that would be harmful. As Erie’s current experience shows, the air pollution would jeopardize business throughout Longmont. The City Council needs to generate a thorough investigation of how the business of fracking would impact existing businesses and the plans for development that are in the works. That is, we need a study of the business environment as well as the natural environment, and for the same reasons: to thoroughly understand the possible adverse effects.

And speaking of regulations, how exactly will they function? Even supposing that we arrived at some agreement about suitable regulations, how will these regulations be enforced? At the present time there are only 17 inspectors in the entire state! We’d be lucky to see one in Longmont every five years, and then only for a day. At best. A passer-by and someone who was fishing downstream spotted the recent leak at Suncor that contaminated the South Platte in Denver, not inspectors or Suncor personnel. Should Longmont hire an army of fishermen and inquisitive pedestrians to patrol the anticipated 850 wells at full build-out?

The regulations are only as viable as the inspectors who have the responsibility to enforce them. The negligence that we are now seeing concerning the older wells drilled near Longmont residents is probably typical of what we can expect unless a major new plan of inspection is created and fully funded.

Fracking will be a plague in Longmont, not a means of economic growth. Think of how much time and expense have already been put into dealing with this issue. It’s just a drop in the bucket compared to what we are in for if fracking actually gets under way. It will tear this community apart, it will monopolize city staff time and city resources, and it will be an endless drain on Longmont’s budget. The city should investigate these matters fully.