LONGMONT — Six families living just outside the city’s eastern border have won permission to explore building 1,300 homes, plus shops and offices, on their properties, potentially bringing thousands of new residents into an area officials had once eyed for open space.
The properties, part of rural Weld County, represent most of the land between County Line Road and Union Reservoir, and from Colo. Highway 119 to Colo. Highway 66. Tuesday night, the Longmont City Council voted unanimously to investigate annexing the land into the city’s boundaries.
The vote reflected a sentiment many council members have been voicing for months: it’s better to welcome — and control — developments on the city’s eastern border rather than let them happen anyway under what they see as Weld County’s growth-friendly attitude.
“It’s not a choice of whether it will be developed or not or be open space,” said Councilman Marty Block. “It will be developed. It’s a matter of who works with them.”
Looking over his shoulder at an area map on the wall, Councilman Fred Wilson said: “No matter how it develops, it will be part of Longmont because it’s right across the road from Longmont.”
Longmont neighborhoods are already springing up along the west side of County Line Road, which marks the boundary between Boulder and Weld counties.
The vote Tuesday night was officially to refer the landowners’ proposal through a months-long annexation review process. That review is an investigation into whether the council feels the project is worthy of being added to Longmont. The council has never rejected a project once it has been referred, city planners said.
Dale Bruns, who represents the landowners, said there is a “perceived value” to developing neighborhoods within existing cities. Otherwise, “I don’t think there’s a lot of difference,” he said.
Bruns said he thinks the cost of developing in Longmont versus Weld County is about the same, and that the fighting over where developments occur comes down to pride. He said both Longmont and Weld County have equally strict rules about what services must be provided and how they will be provided.
“They think they can do it better than Weld County,” Bruns said of Longmont.
And for months, city officials have been saying that, albeit cloaked in niceties and jokes. They’ve talked about libraries, about police and fire protection, about snowplowing, hinting all the while that Weld County is permitting too much development to happen without a proper plan to pay for it.
Tuesday night, Mayor Julia Pirnack said having the projected 1,300 homes in the city would ensure “neighborhood planning to Longmont standards.”
The newfound willingness by the city to work with the landowners near Union Reservoir comes only a year after the council officially rescinded its plans to forcibly buy their land to make room for an expansion of the reservoir.
The city now plans to expand the reservoir without using its powers of eminent domain to force the landowners to sell. And the landowners plan to help the city build the expansion with the dirt from their project.
Bruns said that cooperation shows his clients, many of whom have farmed their lands for more than a decade, bear the city no ill will.
“The services are right there,” Bruns said. “The water’s right there. The sewer line runs across the property. It’s just a logical extension of the city.”
According to city statistics, there were 32,221 homes in Longmont at the end of 2004, with a city population of 81,169. The city’s expected final population is about 101,000 residents. The new development could add about 3,250 new residents.
Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.