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The original item was published from 2/22/2017 8:37:00 AM to 2/22/2017 8:47:55 AM.


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Posted on: February 22, 2017

[ARCHIVED] A letter to the Lafayette community regarding the Erie condemnation lawsuit

Dear friends and residents of Lafayette,

On July 14, 2016, the City of Lafayette filed a condemnation/eminent domain petition with the Boulder District Court to acquire a 22 acre parcel of land from the Erie Urban Renewal Authority to serve as an open space community buffer between the Town of Erie and Lafayette. This parcel of land is south of Prince Lake No. 1 and abuts Lafayette’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. On February 16, the Court dismissed our petition stating that Lafayette does not have “public purpose”. We may appeal.

In 1994, after Erie annexed property all the way south to Arapahoe Road and built the Safeway Shopping Center, Lafayette was asked to annex north to the Dawson School area. At that point Erie, Lafayette, and Boulder County all agreed to stop the border war and establish the East Central Boulder County Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to prohibit certain land uses and annexations. Then in 2003, all the Boulder County cities joined the “Super IGA” which essentially extended the term and length of various individual IGAs. Under these IGAs, the 22 acre parcel of land Lafayette petitioned to acquire was designated as open space. In subsequent years, Lafayette had made attempts to work with Erie to implement revenue sharing on a portion of the land located on the west side of Hwy 287, while preserving the remaining areas as open space. Erie rejected this partnership and these offers.

The IGAs prevailed until the Town of Erie Urban Renewal Authority (TOEURA) began purchasing properties adjacent to Lafayette’s Beacon Hill neighborhood in 2012. Erie contended that their TOURA was not bound by the IGAs, even though the funds to purchase the properties came from the Town of Erie and the Town Board of Trustees serves as the TOEURA Commissioners. Lafayette also raised questions regarding the legal status of Erie’s Urban Renewal Plan for this area.

On July 1, 2013, Erie withdrew from the “Super IGA” setting the stage to also withdraw from the local Boulder County IGA. Because Lafayette did not want to be bound to an IGA while Erie purchased or annexed more of our backyard, we also withdrew from the “Super IGA” on July 9. It was pointed out in Court testimony that Erie held conversations about their desire to annex the west side of Hwy 287. Lafayette also had conversations about annexation of the west side of Hwy 287. It was apparent to Lafayette that to do nothing about the land on the west side of Hwy 287 was to concede that it would be annexed to Erie.

In the Court filing against Erie, Lafayette argued that open space buffers are public purpose. We have 1,320 acres of open space as buffers. Some are owned by Lafayette and some are owned in partnership with Boulder County, Louisville and Broomfield (view the City of Lafayette map where the green areas are our open space/buffers). Lafayette stated in Court that open space is counted in acres, while setbacks are counted in feet. We have previously partnered with Broomfield and Boulder County to buy the Egg Farm and other parcels to maintain strong, definitive community buffers – not setbacks. We are currently following Louisville’s lead to be a partner to establish the Mayhoffer Farm as a community buffer.

Both Lafayette and Erie’s Comprehensive Plans speak to buffers, yet Erie maintained that a 100 foot setback from Beacon Hill was generous. Erie plans to dig up the site next to Beacon Hill and use the dirt to fill up the emptied Prince Reservoir, thus Beacon Hill homeowners would be looking down on the adjacent commercial development. Erie declared this activity is beneficial to the residents, even though often looking at the side of a development is better than looking at rooftop units. Lafayette argued that a 22 acre buffer was needed. On Hwy 7 we are seeing more proposals for annexation from Erie right up against Lafayette.

In 2003, Erie apparently destroyed wetlands at Prince Lake No. 1 and paid a $150,000 fine to the U.S. Government. The Court decree stated the fine was reasonable and fair in part because of “Erie’s status as a small municipality that needs to expand its capacity during a drought”. After hearing Erie had decided to drain the reservoir, Lafayette objected to the Department of Justice that to abandon the Prince Reservoir as a municipal water supply was disingenuous and undermined the stated purpose of the decree.

Erie argued in Court that Lafayette’s claim was all about stopping King Soopers from moving to Erie. While disappointed to hear that news, we know competition needs to exist. To that end, we contacted King Soopers to suggest expanding the store’s current location as well as other Lafayette-based options. Note that King Soopers was looking to expand because the Lafayette store was over performing and too small. To compete in the industry today, a consumer market, location, and access need to exist. To address access, Lafayette prepared a Transportation Impact Study dated April 24, 2014, for Hwy 287 which resulted in a CDOT-approved Access Control Plan. Lafayette now has a permit to build a full movement intersection at Lucerne/Aspen Ridge Drive dated September 12, 2016, that will locate a traffic signal and advance traffic into the commercial development on the west side of Hwy 287.

An April 24, 2015, Boulder Camera headline read, “$100M in debt and hoping to fit up to 75K people, Erie scrambling for revenue”. The Erie Town Administrator stated that that the “dirty little secret here is that we have to grow”. In Lafayette we balance growth. That means we bring jobs, retail, and homes along in balance to be sustainable. We further aspire to be a “small town” and in recent years paid down our debt to approximately $38M. Conversely, Erie may have built too many homes, too fast, and now is bearing the costs of servicing those homes. As some say, are you getting the picture?

Lafayette has, and will continue to advocate for open space buffers. And yes, open space buffers are a public purpose. In addition to open space buffers, we do not agree with our neighbor to the north on a variety of issues such as fracking, debt, unbalanced growth, and borderless land use. My guess is that 25 years from now Lafayette will continue to have its charm and small town livability while Erie is entrenched in uncontrolled urban sprawl.

Thanks for reading this and for your support.

Gary Klaphake
City Administrator
City of Lafayette

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