December 18, 2017

Let the Legal Wrangling Begin: the Beltway Lawsuit Gets Underway

The beltway lawsuits is off to a colorful start ...

The first of the proceedings in the lawsuit challenging the beltway proposal kicked off last week with a hearing on the lawsuit schedule. Scheduling conferences are usually dull affairs, but Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made it interesting: he made a highly unusual (perhaps unprecedented) bid to address the court as part of the hearing. It was a pretty strange move, since VIPs (even if they are cabinet secretaries) don’t usually get special opportunities to weigh in during legal proceedings, in addition to drawing even more attention to the backroom politics that have characterized the beltway and Rocky Flats issues from the beginning. Secretary Salazar withdrew his request before the judge ruled on it.

Check out the Denver Post article (“Jefferson Parkway opponents decry Salazar’s attempt to weigh in on court case“) for more details.

Golden, Superior, and two conservation groups (Rocky Mountain Wild and WildEarth Guardians) filed the lawsuit earlier this year, challenging the federal government’s attempt to sell land that is now part of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge for use as a toll highway. We

In the meantime, Golden resumed its discussions with beltway proponents about a potential agreement to the dispute. As far as I know, the City Council’s position hasn’t changed appreciably since January: a willingness to consider an agreement that truly protects Golden from transportation projects that might occur outside our city limits. One thing that has changed: Colorado seems to be moving more definitively toward a transportation funding regime that relies heavily on toll lanes and toll highways across the state. Councilor Fisher provided some useful context in his newsletter last week:

While it is quiet on the PR and communications front, Council is actively engaged in working with and expanding the conversation on a Beltway. At the same time, the changing landscape of Colorado road funding means big, big changes in how CDOT and surrounding counties look at transportation. Specifically, I’m starting to sense that Coloradans are about to see a lot of new toll and “managed” lanes in the state over the next 10 years on major roads like C470, I-70, and possibly highway 93 in sections.

The basic math is this: Nobody appears interested in paying taxes, so if any roads are going to be built or maintained it’ll require tolling. Unfortunately, we’re getting what we as a society have asked for. More to the point, however, it means there are a LOT more interested players in seeing roads in and around Golden and the Metro area affected and connected. I partially see it as our role to understand how not to get run over by this massive shift in road policy here in Colorado and ensure we do get the mitigations and protections that keep Golden connected as a single, small and unique community with safe, slow roads, pollution reduction, and neighborhood strengthening.

I strongly encourage everyone to keep an ear to the ground as this challenge continues to be on our radar even when it may appear to go on the back burner. It affects all of us, and the more folks aware and involved, the better the outcome we can craft.

Radio Golden Episode #3: the Beltway Lawsuit, Jeffco’s Emergency Notification System, Downtown Liquor Licenses, and More

Radio Golden Episode #3 features an interview with the executive director of one of the environmental groups suing the federal government to stop the proposed toll highway north of Golden. We also cover Jeffco’s emergency notification system, Golden’s Community Wildfire Community Protection Plan, downtown Golden liquor licenses (and especially outdoor seating), and more. Check out the main podcast (Episode #3) and check out the extended interview with Josh Pollock.

FWS Toll Highway Hearing Thursday Evening

The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

Here’s the city’s official alert about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public hearing Thursday evening. Please come if you can, and either way please consider submitting written comments by the October 31 deadline as well.

Citizens concerned about proposed Jefferson Parkway toll road can make their voices heard
Public encouraged to speak out at meeting on Oct. 13, submit written comments by Oct. 31

The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Act, enacted by Congress in 2001, requires that a corridor of land up to 300 feet wide along Indiana Street be made available for transportation improvements.

The City of Golden has proposed using this corridor of land adjacent to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge for a bike route. The Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (JPPHA) has proposed a major new toll road and bike route for the same piece of land, packaging it as part of a land exchange.

The choice between the two will be a pivotal decision that will impact the entire Northwest metro region, including Boulder and Jefferson counties.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appears to be laying the groundwork to support the toll highway option, but there may still be an opportunity to impact that decision.
We believe a balanced and comprehensive review will demonstrate that Golden’s proposal is the better solution that will be more compatible with the region’s natural resources and transportation system.

The construction of the Jefferson Parkway, absent the mitigation proposed by Golden, would seriously degrade both the environment and quality of life in Jefferson County.

It’s important that Golden residents and others concerned about the potential negative impacts of the proposed Jefferson Parkway toll road make their voices heard in this process.

If you live in Golden or have opinions about whether this portion of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge should be turned into a toll highway or a bikeway, please attend an upcoming public meeting and submit written comments.

We encourage citizens to comment as part of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Environmental Assessment process. If possible, email comments and attend the meeting.

· Email comments to RockyFlatsEA@fws.gov by Oct. 31.

· Attend the public meeting on Oct. 13 at the Westminster City Park Recreation Center.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., the meeting begins at 6 p.m. and continues until 8 p.m. The Westminster City Park Recreation Center is located at 10455 Sheridan Blvd. in Westminster. The meeting will consist of a presentation by Rocky Flats Refuge staff, who will provide an overview of the Environmental Assessment, followed by a period during which the public can provide comments.

· If you don’t use email, please send a letter with your comments before Oct. 31 to:

Mike Dixon, Ph.D.
Division of Refuge Planning
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 25486, DFC
Denver, CO 80225

and

Bruce Hastings, Ph.D.
Deputy Refuge Manager
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
6550 Gateway Road
Building 129
Commerce City, CO 80022

Here are some key points that you may want to include in your comments:

· The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should not consider the effects of the land exchange proposed by the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority without considering the full implications of building the Jefferson Parkway toll road.

· The proposed Jefferson Parkway toll road would create sprawl and worsen traffic, both of which would negatively impact the region.

· The proposed multi-lane toll road would have a much bigger and much more negative impact on the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge than the bike route proposed by Golden.

· The Fish and Wildlife Service should not rely on the 2004 federal Rocky Flats Environmental Impact Statement, which is a dated document that does not reflect the current Jefferson Parkway toll road plan. That document did not consider the broader regional effects of the toll road, including noise, traffic and sprawl.

· The Jefferson Parkway issue is so integral to the future of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge that the Fish and Wildlife Service should consider it as part of its Environmental Assessment.

Rocky Flats Toll Highway Environmental Assessment and Public Meeting

Looking west at the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, the route of the proposed toll highway, and the proposed "Candelas" development area.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that they are planning to publish their Environmental Assessment on the proposed sale of the Rocky Flats right-of-way by the end of this week. The Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority proposed purchasing the right-of-way for use in their proposed Jefferson Parkway toll highway along the east side of the National Wildlife Refuge. Golden’s submission of an alternate proposal to purchase the property for use as a “Jefferson Bikeway” forced the federal agency to conduct this Environmental Assessment process comparing their alternatives.

You should be able to download the Environmental Assessment after it’s published (probably tomorrow).

The Fish and Wildlife Service seems to be planning to support the toll highway option, but there may still be an opportunity to impact that decision. If you live in Golden or have opinions about whether this portion of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge should be turned into a toll highway or a bikeway, I strongly encourage you to attend the public meeting on October 13. You’ll also have until October 30 to submit written comments.

The details:

  • Thursday, October 13
  • 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
  • Westminster City Park Recreation Center
  • 10455 Sheridan Blvd. in Westminster

Our understanding is that they will start with an open house format, make a formal presentation at 6pm, and then open up a formal public hearing.

City of Golden News Release: Letter to Secretary Salazar on Rocky Flats

Golden to U.S. Interior Secretary: Don’t transfer Rocky Flats land to Jefferson Parkway while negotiations are pending

GOLDEN, Colo. – March 3, 2011 — At its meeting tonight, the Golden  City Council will consider urging U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to hold off on selling a Rocky Flats parcel needed as right of way (ROW) for the proposed Jefferson Parkway as long as negotiations continue between Golden and backers of the toll road plan.

The request, to be included in a letter to the Department of the Interior (DOI) from Golden Mayor Jacob Smith, echoes a similar appeal from the City of Boulder and Boulder County, who also are negotiating with Jefferson Parkway proponents.

The Golden City Council voted unanimously on Feb. 24 to continue working towards a possible agreement around the toll road, but not to give up the City’s right to sue to stop the Jefferson Parkway unless some very specific requirements are met to protect Golden from future traffic and environmental impacts.

The City of Boulder and Boulder County’s negotiations with Jefferson Parkway focus on a different issue – the preservation of a key open-space parcel.

The Golden City decision was made after Golden officials heard from hundreds of residents at a series of four public informational meetings and at the Feb. 24 City Council session.

“In order for these negotiations to succeed, the City of Golden continues its request, and joins the requests of the City of Boulder and Boulder County, that DOI defer final action on the Rocky Flats ROW so long as real progress is being made towards settlement,” Golden’s draft  letter states.

The letter goes on to say, “Conveyance of the ROW prior to finalization of intergovernmental agreements would threaten the ability of the parties to reach agreement, because the conveyance would trigger the need for local communities to take legal actions to protect their interests.”

The Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority has indicated that it is prepared to pay $2.8 million for a 300-foot right of way along the eastern side of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.  “The City Council has directed the city to keep negotiating in good faith but also to preserve all our options until there’s an enforceable agreement that meets Golden’s transportation needs,” said Golden City Manager Mike Bestor.  “This letter is consistent with that position, which reflects much of the input we received from Golden citizens.”