Tag Archive for Longmont Firestone lawsuits

Union Reservoir Master Plan Revisited

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.

Longmont power brokers launch perpetual electioneering

Same hammer, different beat(down)

Longmont has, for decades, been governed in the interest of a few select individuals and companies. This long-standing oligarchy remained successfully unchallenged and comfortable until the fall of 2007.

The first hint of trouble for these power brokers occurred when the citizens of Longmont rose up against the annexation of the LifeBridge 350-acre project south of Union Reservoir. A petition for a referendum to reverse a Longmont City Council ordinance had never before been successful, so it was not initially taken seriously. But the signature-gathering effort produced almost one-third more signatures than were required to place the matter before the voters in a special election.

On the heels of this success, the citizens of Longmont elected a council majority with a view to a different future.

When the new majority took legislative and legal action to block Firelight Park and the LifeBridge project from annexation into Firestone, all-out war was declared on what they referred to as the Benker Bloc (after former City Council member Karen Benker) or the Bloc of Four. These properties and developments were owned by members of city power brokers, chiefly developers and real estate special interests, many of whom are also members of LifeBridge Christian Church.

From that point forward there was a fierce determination to reclaim Longmont for the interests of the few, rather than the many. The rhetoric talked about “taking back Longmont.” The current mayor’s wife Stephanie Baum even had a blog with that name.

The first front in this war was the Longmont Times-Call. The conservative politics of the Times-Call has never been a secret. (See “Is there a bias? You tell me.”)

Out of hours of council discussion on a variety of topics, the Times-Call published a constant drumbeat of strategically chosen topics prominently placed above the fold with headlines chosen for their negative implications. Quotes within articles continued its derogatory objectives, and slanted coverage was given to positions that the paper opposed.

Letters to the editor were selectively placed to enhance the political position of the Times-Call and of those in the community and on council that it supported. Opinions of the community were further manipulated by the timing of OpEds solicited and printed.

The Times-Call hammered mercilessly on the “Benker” council.

After the November 2008 Democratic mandate at the national level, conservatives recognized that they could be headed for a permanent minority. At the local level, the heavy artillery appeared from both within and outside Colorado targeting the swing community of Longmont.

Operatives and their money came from D.C./Virginia, Montana, and from the Tom DeLay organization, Coalition for a Conservative Majority, who made no secret of its focus and targeting.

Scott Gessler, Republican candidate for Secretary of State, manufactured a lawsuit against the city and its Fair Campaign Practices Act. The LFCPA established sensible contribution limits and provided for greater transparency and disclosure. Only 19 words were struck from the Act because of the court’s temporary restraining order.

The Times-Call created a political improvised explosive device of its own with its court challenge of council executive sessions for legal advice on the annexation lawsuits—knowing full well that council actions were legitimate.

These strategies and tactics were very effective in agitating the public.

Rabidly anti-environmental and property rights absolutist organizations like Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) and Coloradans for Economic Growth bankrolled the attack campaigns during the 2009 election season. The winning candidates claim they had neither connection with, nor knowledge of, the activities of the WTP front organization Longmont Leadership Committee. If you believe that, then I have some beachfront property along the Gulf coast you might like to see.

Upon election, the new majority needed no other votes than their own to force settlements of these lawsuits, effectively using taxpayer dollars to reimburse campaign activities that placed them in office. The $182,000 dispersed to their endorsers to “settle” the lawsuits give a whole new meaning to publicly-funded campaigns. ($100,000 to LifeBridge/Firestone, $68,500 to the Longmont Realtors Association and Western Tradition Partnership plaintiffs and concealed donors, and $13,500 to the Times-Call.)

The incredible irony is that Mayor Baum and his troops have claimed and continue to claim that citizens’ free speech rights have been violated by the LFCPA. Given the content of the mailers that Longmont voters received from Longmont Leadership, that would be humorous if it weren’t so deplorable. The new majority has voted to dismantle the portions of the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act that provide for the most transparency, accountability and enforcement that is free from political influence.

The new council and those it represents want opposing speech squelched. They floated a balloon that popped when they sought to limit and rearrange the timing of the Public Invited to be Heard section of council meetings.

However, the best way to silence opposing voices is to remove them altogether from the council where their views receive a weekly airing. And that’s exactly the objective. The remaining three council members have been targeted for extinction. Sarah Levison received the opening shot across the election bow by blogger Wrongmont Rodriguez in the Times-Call on May 22nd.

The objectives, the strategies, the tactics are now exposed. This cat is out of the bag! The community will no longer stand for a repeat of the politically deplorable behavior from the take-back-Longmont crowd that has occurred since the 2007 election. Elections do, indeed, have consequences.