February 17, 2020

Special City Council Meeting on the Beltway, December 15

As we reported at the City Council meeting on Thursday night and widely by email and web on Friday, last Thursday afternoon we reached agreement on general terms with the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority jurisdictions and the Colorado Department of Transportation about the Golden Plan for transportation improvements in town and about the Jefferson Parkway. The agreement would implement the direction that City Council unanimously adopted in February after a three-month intensive community input process: much stronger funding assurances (funding for the first three Golden Plan projects before JPPHA is permitted to break ground), agreement with CDOT on Golden’s design principles, non-complete protections, dust mitigation obligations near Rocky Flats, and agreement to collaboratively explore funding options for all of the other Golden Plan projects (especially rebuilding the rest of the intersections).

This agreement is much stronger than what we considered back in February and consistent with what we heard from a majority of Golden residents: an agreement would be a good move if it provides stronger funding assurances and stronger protections for Golden.

Is it perfect? Of course not. Does it have trade-offs and risks? Of course it does. All of our options have flaws and trade-offs. But based on the extensive community process earlier this year, the community and City Council clearly said that a stronger agreement was a better option than litigation (leaving our fate in the hands of a judge, as Councilor Sloan put it).

We expected that the attorneys would complete the writing of the final agreement yesterday, but that didn’t happen so we will not consider or decide on the agreement at the special City Council meeting on Thursday night (and, contrary to one of CINQ’s many colorful rumors, of course City Council won’t vote on an agreement that isn’t written yet). We will still have the Council meeting, however, and brief the community on the status of the negotiations, describe the agreement, and listen to public comment. Assuming the lawyers can work out final language that does what we expect it to do, we’ll probably have another Council meeting near the end of the year to review, listen to public comment, and make a decision. I will share with you the final agreement language and the timeframe as soon as I have them.

The deadline for the agreement is basically the end of the year (there may be a little wiggle room on the exact date). There is a separate open space protection deal taking place, which amounts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service transfering the right-of-way on the east side of the Refuge to the highway authority in exchange for a key piece of open space and wildlife habitat on the southwest side. Golden isn’t a party to that other deal, but our agreement is contingent on it. Because a key appraisal tied to that open space acquisition increases by $1 million on January 1, if they don’t close that transaction by December 31 the entire agreement falls apart.

I’ve been an ardent, aggressive opponent of the beltway for a long time. We have worked extremely hard to keep the beltway out of Golden while also advancing our vision for appropriate transportation improvement – the Golden Plan – to protect Golden from the traffic increases that will occur with or without the Jefferson Parkway. If there were a reliable strategy for killing the beltway and securing the improvements we need in Golden, I’d support it. There isn’t. We can litigate, but that comes with huge and serious risks. We might win, and might delay or kill the Jefferson Parkway, but we wouldn’t be any closer to funding the projects in town that so many neighborhoods need, and losing a legal fight would have serious long-term consequences. Fighting the legal fight, win or lose, would have serious long-term consequences as well, for that matter.

There are real risks with an agreement, as well. An agreement removes a hurdle for construction of the Jefferson Parkway (although it adds one, as well, the $57 million required to build our first three projects). Even with the strongest possible enforcement mechanism (and this one has a strong mechanism), somewhere down the line the other parties might find a way to renege on the agreement.

In other words, our options all have very real trade-offs and risk. And the community spoke very clearly in the first part of the year: if we can’t reach a strong agreement, we should take the fight to court, but if we can that’s a better option than litigation. City Council took that seriously, and we negotiated an agreement that we believe meets the principles we adopted in February. If the final agreement – when the attorneys are finished – does what we expect, we’ll have an agreement that I believe is worth supporting. If not, then we won’t support it.

Golden is home. I will live with the outcome of this fight just like everyone else in town will. Contrary to another one of the colorful rumors that CINQ is circulating, I’ve not been offered a job by Governor Hickenlooper and I’m not interested in working for him or any other political figure of any kind. My exclusive focus is on what I believe best serves Golden’s interests, which is my responsibility and obligation as mayor. I also care a great deal about what happens because Golden is and will remain my home for a long time.

Councilor Fisher and Councilor Sloan wrote thoughtful comments about the agreement. I encourage you to read them.

We’ve posted a more detailed explanation of the agreement on the City’s GetTheFactsGolden web site. I encourage you to review it. I and the rest of the City Council welcome your feedback and your questions, and if you can join us on Thursday evening at this special City Council meeting (beginning at 7pm at City Hall), please do so, or send in your thoughts by email.