October 20, 2018

Jefferson Tollway Update

Councilor Bob Vermeulen posted an update to his email list. I’ll just repost it here. We’ll have more information next week.

All,

As you all know by now, the past number of months Golden, Jefferson County, Arvada, Broomfield and CDOT have attempted to negotiate the terms of an agreement to address future traffic impacts on state highways within the City of Golden, in the context of the Jefferson Tollway. The parties strived to reach agreement on specific terms but were unable to do so. While unsuccessful in the short term, the Parties have outlined a roadmap that may be useful in the future.

We have some very real time lines that we are bumping up against with the transfer of the right of way along Indiana looming in January. Council will need to decide how best to protect the city very quickly. As always, as soon as I can share any information I will get it out.

One idea that came out of the process the past 12 months is that we may need to update our vision for transportation in and through Golden. I believe we will explore updating the “Golden Plan” over the next year and set strong priorities for the traffic mitigations and how we want future improvements to look for the near and long term.

This process hasn’t been easy and we know that we alarmed many in the community with our announcement of a possible agreement. It is always our priority to get the information out as soon as possible and that will mean at times we may need to backtrack or have nothing to present. I would rather we have these occasional stumbles than withhold information at any time.

That is all for right now, more information will come out over the next week and months to come. I am proud of our mayor and city manager for they have fought and protected Golden in the most honorable manner and they never forgot our core principles as a community.

Enjoy your time with loved ones over the Holidays and I look forward to serving the community in 2012.

Bob

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.

Council Considers Agreement to End Jefferson Parkway Fight

After another long negotiating session yesterday, Golden, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and the Jefferson Parkway jurisdictions reached a tentative agreement to end the two decade-long beltway fight. We’ve got details up on the city’s web site.

City Council will be considering and probably voting on the potential agreement at a special meeting on December 15. Please review the information on the site (and we’ll post more details as soon as we can) and share your thoughts in writing before or in person on the 15th.

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.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Hold Open House on Refuge Land Exchange

Part of the Rocky Flats right-of-way and the proposed Candelas development (looking southwest).

The City of Golden just put out an announcement on an upcoming beltway-related meeting. This one specifically relates to the proposed sale of right-of-way on the east side of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The JPPHA submitted a proposal to purchase this land for construction of their proposed toll highway, while Golden submitted a competing proposal to purchase it for a bikeway. Please attend if you are able on Wednesday, July 20. Details below:

The City of Golden has submitted a bid to purchase a corridor of land, presently owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior as part of the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge, along Indiana Avenue. The City has also offered to purchase other environmentally sensitive lands and do a land exchange with the Refuge. If Golden is successful, the city will create a pedestrian and bicycle path on the corridor just west of Indiana Street.

However, Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge is seriously considering a bid from the Jefferson Parkway Authority, which plans to build a toll road on along the corridor.

If accepted, Golden’s proposal would have many benefits for Golden and the region as a whole, including:

  • Stopping the toll road from being built on what is now conservation land.
  • Potentially stopping or seriously delaying the entire toll road/ beltway concept.
  • Protecting important wildlife habitat.
  • Preventing the sprawl, noise and pollution that would come with a the proposed highway.
  • Providing alternate transportation now sorely lacking in this region.
  • Provide healthy recreational opportunities to Jefferson County residents.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who owns the land, is holding a public open house to “help determine the appropriate level of environmental review” and is asking the public to comment on the “expansion” of the refuge through land exchange. The open house is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 20 at Westminster City Park Recreation Center, 10455 Sheridan Blvd. in Westminster.

In this case, a full environmental review would be extremely beneficial to Golden’s proposal, since a pedestrian and bicycle path would have very little negative environmental impact compared to a toll highway. Likewise, the “expansion” of the refuge should not come at the expense of wildlife habitats, as it will with a toll road.

For more information, read the documents related to Golden’s application:

Golden’s application to purchase the right-of-way.
Addendum #1 to Golden’s application.
Addendum #2 to Golden’s application.

Your voice is needed. If at all possible, please attend the upcoming open house. Additionally, please email or write a letter before July 29 (when public comment closes). In your letters, please ask that a full environmental impact study be done on any proposals and that all future land transfer agreements cause minimal environmental harm and instead augment preservation efforts as well benefit human health. Additionally, request that the full regional effects of a new toll road on sprawl and on Golden be considered and compared to the effects of a bikeway. Specifically ask that any land exchanges take place only if a multi-lane toll road will not be built on transferred land:

Send an email to both of the following:
Mike Dixon: RockFlatsEA@fws.gov
Bruce Hastings, Deputy Refuge Manager: RockyFlatsEA@fws.gov

Send a letter to both of the following:
Mike Dixon
Division of Refuge Planning
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 25486, DFC
Denver, CO 80225

AND

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

City Council Adopts 2011 Priorities

On Thursday night City Council formally adopted priorities for 2011.  This is generally a continuation of the priorities we established last year, but it’s worth formally identifying them to help us stay focused and help keep the community informed about what we are focused on.

We adopted five major priorities:

1) Protecting the city’s financial health and sustaining the community’s economic vitality.

2) Supporting and strengthening our neighborhoods (“The Year of the Neighborhood”), including implementing our new neighborhood grant program, completing pending neighborhood plans, and considering all of the policy recommendations in the adopted ones.

3) Maintaining our aggressive efforts to keep the beltway out of Golden and working to protect Golden from the impacts of growing regional through the Golden Plan or similar improvements.

4) Updating the Comprehensive Plan and revamping/updating the land use process to give neighborhoods a stronger voice in shaping their own future and to make the process less adversarial and combative.

5) Revisiting and updating the city’s long-term streets plan.

Other 2011 priorities include:

1) Making sure Golden is ready for light rail in 2013, including our own community bus.

2) Adopting a preliminary strategic transportation plan (in advance of preparing a thorough one in 2012).

3) Finalize our new performance evaluation system for the city and city manager, including performance metrics

4) Review and update the long-term plans for the city’s major recreational facilities.

5) Update the city’s economic development tools, structures, and strategies. This may extend into 2012.

6) Support the Quiznos Pro Challenge Professional Bicycle Race.

And some additional 2011 projects:

1) CSM Master Plan (although the timing is up to Colorado School of Mines).

2) Clear Creek Master Plan.

3) Evaluate and consider sewer/waterline insurance. DONE – Council decided to educate community members about the value of having this insurance but not to enter into a special agreement with any specific insurance providers.

4) Consider adjusting the cost of special use permits for chickens. DONE – Council reduced the special use permit fee for keeping up to six hens.

5) Evaluate and potentially update the strategy for managing amplified outdoor music.

6) Evaluate and consider updating traffic fine schedule.

7) Evaluate and consider updating leash laws.

8) Initiate long-term city financial health evaluation.

9) Evaluate and update medical marijuana regulations.

10) Update noise mitigation priorities.

11) Complete the City of Golden web site revamp.

12) Further development, testing, and training on the new Emergency Operations Plan (primarily staff).

13) Plan for major software updates (finance, planning, police, fire, courts) (primarily

14) Major public works projects: South Reservoir and office building reconstruction (primarily staff).

15) East Downtown Vision and Plan (potentially).

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.”

 

Golden’s Beltway Decision: Negotiate for a Stronger Deal

On Thursday night, City Council decided unanimously to continue negotiating with Jefferson County and the other Jefferson Parkway proponents, to strengthen the agreement compared to the agreement that’s been discussed over the past three months, and to tell our attorneys to suit up in case we do need to take the issue to court.  I’m always proud to be a member of the Golden community, but I was especially so on Thursday night: we had three hours of respectful, well-informed public comment (which wrapped up an intensive three-month community outreach effort) followed by another hour of thoughtful discussion and deliberation by City Council.  I believe it was a good process and a good decision.  The city manager and I will now negotiate for a stronger agreement, and if that happens we’ll bring it back to City Council in a public process to decide if it’s strong enough.  The city posted a news release with more details as well.

UPDATE: Here is the complete motion adopted by City Council:

Councilor Oxman MOVED, and Councilor Sloan seconded, that City Council direct negotiators to continue negotiations with Jefferson County, CDOT, Broomfield, Arvada and the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority relating to the Jefferson Parkway, but to seek an enhanced IGA that will provide greater certainty of funding for the priority elements of the Muller Plan; addresses noise and other pollution mitigation and monitoring for northern neighborhoods, including Mitchell Elementary; addresses improvements to Highway 93 north of Golden; addresses improvement of other arterials outside the city limits to disburse traffic; includes provisions for no non-compete agreements that will impact travel on other alternative roadways that serve the area; requires CDOT be a part of the process and agreement; addresses Rocky Flats contamination issues, particularly during construction if it occurs; and addresses timing of key roadway improvements in Golden and sequencing of those improvements before parkway construction begins.  City Council further directs the City Manager to work with the city’s attorneys to develop options for the City to challenge the Jefferson Parkway approvals in court in the event that negotiations do not timely and adequately progress in a fashion that protects the City’s position. The City Manager and the City’s attorneys shall keep the City Council appraised of litigation options and possible deadlines. The motion does not preclude the use of other strategies by the City to advance the City’s position regarding the Jefferson Parkway.

Denver Post Guest Editorial: Protecting Golden From the Beltway

I’ve got an online guest editorial in today’s Denver Post on our effort to protect Golden from the beltway.  The punch line is the same point I’ve been making for a while: we have been and remain fiercely opposed to the beltway, which is a 1950s-style transportation answer that will neither improve transportation in northwest Denver Metro nor protect our region’s considerable open space, scenic view, and wildlife habitat qualities.  But the proponents are close to going to the private market for funding for their more modest Jefferson Parkway proposal, and Golden has to choose between imperfect strategies.