New Public Input Sought
The following article provides an historical perspective of the Union Reservie Master Plan and the impact of developments that were or are planned in the vicinity of Union Reservoir.
In 2007 the City of Longmont held several public hearings on the Union Reservoir Master Plan. At the time, this plan was extremely controversial. It was conceived and planned to urbanize the reservoir to accommodate the LifeBridge “Union” Development and what was then-known as the West Union Development. The original Master Plan included a semi-private marina for a mixed-use residential development of expensive waterfront homes on the western side of the reservoir. The LifeBridge development to the south also planned expensive homes with an enviable view of the reservoir.
The community uprising over the annexation of the LifeBridge development led to a hugely successful petition drive to put the issue to the voters. The campaign resulted in over 6,000 signatures, nearly one-third more signatures than required.
In the November 2007 election, the voters endorsed a progressive council majority, largely in response to the previous council’s deafness on the LifeBridge issue and its cronyism with the principals of LifeBridge and their associated developers. After years of residential growth, the community had had enough “growth.”
The new council had the option to cancel the development or place the annexation revocation on a special election ballot. Before that decision was made, LifeBridge withdrew its annexation request.
Having seen the handwriting on the wall of their inevitable defeat at the ballot box, LifeBridge shopped their development to neighboring Southwest Weld communities. They were essentially turned down by Mead and Frederick, but found a willing partner in Firestone.
Firestone, aggressively but surreptitiously, began a process of altering its comprehensive plan and instigating flagpole annexations to Longmont’s border in order to annex both the LifeBridge property and property owned by LifeBridge elders known as Fairview Estates at SH 119 and Fairview Avenue. That project is now referred to as Firelight Park.
During the term of office of the progressive majority, decisions were made to expand the Union Reservoir by natural inundation rather than dams and berms. Staff was also instructed to begin purchasing the properties to the west of the reservoir to facilitate this natural inundation. A major purchase of the Adrian property to the west/southwest of Union Reservoir was completed.
The plans for inundation and the purchase of the Adrian property signaled the termination of efforts to urbanize the west side of the reservoir.
Firestone’s aggression in annexing the LifeBridge and Fairview properties resulted in a border war between Longmont and Firestone that produced several lawsuits. The Longmont 2009 elections were held before the Colorado Court of Appeals could rule on the suits. The 2009 election was the most politically dirty and vicious election in Longmont’s recent history. Huge amounts of money flowed into negative campaigning by outside entities. The 2009 election not only returned conservatives to power, but this majority was at the extreme of conservatism and is more representative of the radicalism of the Tea Party than what was more typical of previous Republican council members.
Development in unincorporated Weld County would have posed significant problems in providing water availability to the two proposed development. Those problems conceivably could have prevented the LifeBridge development, if not Fairview, from proceeding.
Not willing to risk a decision from the court that would have negated the flagpole annexations and in the process leave development of the LifeBridge and Fairview projects in doubt, the new council majority proceeded to protect the LifeBridge principals’ business and religious interests. They instructed the city attorney to settle the lawsuits against Firestone.
The annexation agreement that Firestone has with LifeBridge indemnifies Firestone from legal costs over the annexation. When Longmont paid Firestone $100,000 to settle the suits, the city either enriched Firestone for unexpended costs or made it possible for the money to be returned to LifeBridge. This action by the Longmont council majority to transfer Longmont taxpayer dollars to Firestone/LifeBridge was a deal with the devil that smacked of more than crony capitalism. It had the smell of something rotten in Denmark.
With the West Union Development now dead, the city of Longmont proceeded to purchase the Bogott property to further accomplish the needs for the reservoir’s future natural inundation.
The foregoing decisions and actions have necessitated an update in the Union Reservoir Master Plan. This update was presented to the city council at its study session on May 31st. All of the previous plans for the west side of the reservoir have been eliminated. The sections on the south and southeast are substantially similar to the previous version of the Union Reservoir Master plan with two notable exceptions.
The first major change is the removal of a one-quarter mile buffer around certain cottonwood trees on the south side of the reservoir. It was believed that these trees were night roosts of the bald eagle and thus mandated that buffer. The city now contends that these trees are perches used for foraging by the bald eagle and not roosts and has consequently eliminated the buffer.
The second major change addresses County Road 26. The earlier version showed a road realignment that penetrated the Hernor Open Space at the most southeast edge of the reservoir. That arrangement was included as part of the annexation agreement with LifeBridge and would have amounted to a land giveaway to benefit the LifeBridge development.
While the concept drawings on the revised Master Plan have removed the use of Open Space for CR 26, the matter is far from settled. The recent acceptance of an Intergovernmental Agreement with Firestone still begs that question and is an issue that will require vigilance in the years to come.
The matter of the Master Plan Update will begin anew the public input and acceptance process. A Public Meeting will be held on June 16th from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM in the Council Chambers at 350 Kimbark Street.
Longmont residents who are concerned about the future of Union Reservoir and who especially want to “Keep Union Wild” are encouraged to review the council communication with particular attention to the drawings contained in the communication.
The nature and form of the Union Reservoir Master Plan covering the future of this valuable Longmont asset is one of the most important decisions that the community will make. The Reservoir belongs to YOU. Be sure that the city’s development plans reflect your wishes to continue to preserve its natural characteristics and to preserve and encourage Longmont’s rich wildlife residents and visitors.