Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
 

 

Thursday, January 25, 2007 – 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Loveland Library MP Room

 

The mission of the Larimer County Open Lands Program is to preserve and protect significant open space, natural areas, wildlife habitat, develop parks and trails for present and future generations.  These open lands provide opportunities for leisure, human renewal and protection of our natural and cultural resources.

 

 
 

 

 

 

 


Present:

Open Lands Board Members:

Brian Hayes

Bob Streeter

Jean Carpenter

Peter Kast

Sue Sparling

Bill Newman

Ted Swanson

Ben Manvel

Duane Pond

Mark DeGregorio

 

Staff

Gary Buffington

Kerri Rollins

Meegan Flenniken

Steve Gibson

K-Lynn Cameron

Ernst Strenge

Travis Rollins

Glenn Gibson

 

Absent: 

Jim White

Bill Pinkham

 

 

Chair, Peter Kast called the meeting to order at 5:12 p.m.

 

Peter deferred the meeting minute approval until the next meeting as many Board members did not receive their packets.

 

PUBLIC COMMENT

No public comment

 

INFORMATION ITEMS

·  Thanks to Merrill and Ev Kaufmann for hosting the Open Lands Advisory Board at their home over the holidays!  About 40 people attended this fun evening.

·  Open Lands Accomplishments for 2006 were highlighted by K-Lynn.

·  Larimer County closed on the 184 acre Bradley Conservation Easement in the Buckeye area.

·  Tillie Jessup, matriarch of the Jessup Family and owner of the Sylvan Dale Ranch passed away on January 9, 2007.

·  The Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts is hosting their 2007 Conservation Policy Conference in Denver on February 12 and 13, 2007.  Current conservation issues and meeting our legislators will be the focus.  If you are interested in attending, please let K-Lynn or Kerri know.

·  Finished artwork by Jim Disney, the 1st Parks and Open Lands Visual Artist of the Year will be displayed at this meeting before going to the County Courthouse for display.

·  The Parks Task Force will meet on January 29, 2007 at the County Courthouse.

·  Small Grants subcommittee is reviewing applications and visiting specific grant proposals.

·  Annual report subcommittee – Peter, Ben, Mark and Bill will meet soon to discuss the layout and content of the 2006 Annual Report.

 

BOARD COMMENT:

 

INTRODUCTIONS

·  Troy Peterson, Chair of the Rural Land Use Center introduced Jim Reidhead, Director of the Program, and Kristin Grazier, Board member.  In turn, members of OLAB and Parks and Open Lands staff introduced themselves.

·  Legacy Land Trust filled their Executive Director position with Jeff Jones, formally with American Farmland Trust.

 

ACTION:

·  Laughing Horse Loop at the Devil’s Backbone – Travis Rollins, Park Manager, Steve Gibson, Ranger.

 

Staff recommends opening the east and west sides of the Laughing Horse Loop to all trail users including mountain bikes beginning Feb 1, 2007.  Travis said back in 2004, along with the updating of the management plan, there was a decision to close/separate uses on the trail due to increased use and user conflicts.  The separation of use was implemented with the opening of the Blue Sky Trail in June 2006.

 

The Board asked staff to monitor the situation to determine if this would be a permanent closure.  Staff monitored use for 8 months and have found significant usage throughout the system, but primarily concentrated on the Hunter and Wild portions of the trail.  Steve discussed the varying degrees of difficulty on each trail, adding that the popularity of the Wild loop is likely due to its lesser grades, smoother trails and closer proximity to the trailhead.  Steve also found that the difficult section of trails have been widened as visitors have gone around the area to a distance of 4-6 feet, creating resource damage – particularly on the Laughing Horse loop.

 

Travis said the separation of uses on some trails is a good idea as it provides a safer recreational experience.  At this point bikers are limited to use on the eastside of Laughing Horse.  As this trail is very difficult, Travis recommends allowing bikes on the western part of the Laughing Horse Loop which permits less experienced bikers an easier trail, which can also help reduce resource damage.  So, only on the Laughing Horse loop would bikers be permitted on any part.  Separation of uses would be maintained on the Wild and Hunter loops.

 

Ben suggested we don’t call it a loop if there is separation of use.  They are really two different trails.  Mark asked if the terrain was really that bad, and if so, can we make the difficult portion for hikers and horses and allow the easier part for bikers.  Travis said there is also a demand for more intense, difficult biking.

 

Barb Allan with Diamond Peaks Mountain Bike Patrol – thanked the county for this inclusive process.

 

Dave Matzinger, Allans Park – he has been riding at the Devil's Backbone (DBB) since the opening.  He likes the technical trail, especially in the winter when trails near him are inaccessible.  The Laughing Horse Loop has great technical aspects and Larimer County has done a great job maintaining that.  He said the trail is do-able on the way down, but everyone has to walk on the way up.  It will be nice to have a choice again.  He also recommended opening the Hunter Loop both ways to biking as bikers are generally curteous to other users.

 

Wayne and John David, Loveland – Wayne and his son enjoy riding at the DBB and will enjpy the easier route of the Laughing Horse loop.

 

Duane moved to support staff recommendation that the western part of the laughing Horse Loop be open to bikers, maintaining separation of uses on the Hunter and Wild loops.  Sue seconded and passed unanimously.

 

DISCUSSION:

·  Rural Land Use Program (RLUP) – Troy, Chair of the Board for the RLUP introduced himself and said their Board has started an outreach program to talk to other boards to enhance communication and sharing of ideas.  Troy mentioned that Geniphyr Ponce-Pore is doing an economic development pilot project.  He handed out a summary.  Jim Reidhead said Geniphyr is looking at enhancing appropriate entrepreneurial activities. 

 

The Rural Land Use process resolution was adopted by the Larimer County Commissioners to assist landowners who wish to develop their property while maintaining their land in agriculture or other open space.

Current state law gives landowners the right to subdivide their land into 35 acre parcels without any county land use review. The Rural Land Use Process is a development process which offers landowners a new approach for developing the land without going through full subdivision review.

There are currently 52 completed RLUP projects around the county, totaling 10,000 acres protected including 8,000 acres protected for a minimum of 40 years.  There is no strategic plan.  Jim talks and works with landowners who want to talk to him, and works with many values including “needs of the lands” which means environmental needs like noxious weeds, wetlands, important habitat, etc.  Benefits of working with RLUP are to make the process simpler, preserve land today, potential noncontiguous development, useful in estate planning, etc.  Jim said the RLUP provides a compromise.  Jim talked about zoning.  RLUP projects are a voluntary down zoning to reduce density.

 

RLUP uses 2 tools to protect land.  Statutorily they have to preserve the land for a minimum of 40 years, and can go all the way to perpetuity.  At the end of 40 years the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), through a public process, would decide if the property restriction would be removed.  If it the restriction is maintained, then the county would pay the current appraised value to retain the restriction. 

Bill asked how they deal with the issue of quid pro quo problem by promising increased density for easements on the remaining acreage.  Jim said it could be done through deed restrictions.  Mark asked what the Board does to review individual projects.  Troy said staff work with landowners , gather data, host public meetings, then gives their Board a presentation about the project, who in turn makes a recommendation to the BOCC. 

 

The Rural Land Use and Open Lands programs are similar but different. They both seek to preserve agricultural land, but the Open Lands Program (OLP) uses revenue as an incentive and the RLUP has other incentives, such as density bonuses.  Where the programs can get cross-wise is when there is a RLUP project next door to an open space project, i.e Hidden Valley.  We are looking to be protectors of our open space and Jim needs to look for value in projects, which might mean a house close to an open space boundary where we would desire  a buffer.  Peter asked about moving approved parcels to approved projects closer to the city.  Jim said he is working on something like that now, along with intra-county development transfers.

 

When asked how the OLP could better assist the RLUP, Jim suggested the willingness to hold conservation easements on some of his projects would be a help.  K-Lynn said the quid pro quo is still a gray area and she would still be reluctant to enter in to that kind of situation.  Bob requested that in the next quarter we discuss this issue further to improve our working relationship with the RLUP.

 

·  Open Space Sales tax exemption, Senate Bill-98  – This bill, in its various forms, has been vetoed by the Governor the last 2 years.  K-Lynn distributed a copy of the BOCC’s letter of support.  She said it is a better bill for open space this year because last year it limited the percent of dollars that could go to management.  Ted asked if there is organized opposition.  K-Lynn said in the past Colorado Municipal League has not been thrilled because they look at it as competition for sales tax.  But she hasn't seen any opposition yet this year.

·  IRS audits of conservation easements in ColoradoK-Lynn handed out a copy of letters from Senators Allard and Salazar to the IRS.  Late in 2006 the IRS determined that 98% of conservation easements in Colorado are not valid.  They said that unless land had an endangered species it did not have conservation value.  Since then, the IRS lost a similar case in another state known as the Glass case.  None of Larimer County’s easements were audited that we know of.  Three easements held by Estes Valley Land Trust were audited.

·  Colorado Conservation Easement Tax Credit Program: (see handout)  As a result of the IRS audits, the Dept of Revenue determined that the 2005 cost to the state was $80 million.  It is estimated that the 2006 figure could be $100 million.  The question was raised; what is the state getting for this money?  Two years ago GOCO took on a project called CoMap to map all conservation easements, but it does not differentiate between easements completed  with tax credits and easements that were not.  This information must be documented from now on or the tax credit program will go away.  Appraisals, and ensuring their accuracy, is another issue facing the tax credits.  An issue to be discussed by COSA is becoming an “accredited agency” to be able to hold conservation easements if they have tax credits associated with them, and have money in the bank to protect them if need be. 

·  Update on Red Mountain Open Space management planning process; Over 200 people attended the event held at Fort Collins Senior Center.  Renee Rondeau (Colorado Natural Heritage Program) and Jason LaBelle (CSU archaeologist), as well as members of the city and county staffs gave presentations about natural and cultural resources, visions for the future, etc..  Twelve groups with facilitators were formed.  The no dogs suggestion seemed compatible with all.  Sue, Ben, Bob and Jean attended the meeting and said it was fabulous.  Climbers, archaeologists, horse people, hunters, wildlife enthusiasts and many others were represented at the meeting.  Generally, the group wanted to maximize the public use but protect the resource.  They also wanted to maximize the use of volunteers to help maintain the place.  Kathy Hartman said her group talked about the cultural values that have been used for hunting and grazing for centuries.  Ted commented that if grazing is going to be done by a grazing association, then the management plan must allow cow dogs to help move cows.  Next steps are an open house public meeting in mid-summer.

 

·  Hermit Park and Open Space update – There are lots of irons in the fire.  1) moving towards closing, still scheduled for February 15.  Finalizing things with the easement language, GOCO is reviewing our due diligence. 2) Starting work on the management plan so we can have it done by end of September; this is congruent with the Red Mountain plan.  Expect a presentation at the February meeting, with public meetings in Estes Park and Fort Collins. Funding for the operations will be from revenue collected at the park. 3) Fundraising campaign team includes high level, retired HP executives on the team and many others.  The media will do stories to help launch the campaign, we will have an auction fundraiser at The Rio Grande in Fort Collins; 4) the fundraising team is also doing individual asks, challenge grants, etc. and looking at leveraging these dollars through foundation and other grants.

 

Bob asked when it will open.  K-Lynn said we are learning that when an operation goes from public to private, the standards change.  So, we will have to look in to the water system, the waste removal systems, the propane gas heating, etc. and make sure they meet the set public standards.  Staff are looking at a phased opening starting in the fall.  Since trails and trailheads aren't built yet, they may come a bit later.  Jean asked if the picnic pavilion could be used for family reunions in the future.  Gary said yes, after it opens.

 

 

DIRECTORS REPORT

·  Gary said he appreciates the work the Open Lands staff do.  He encouraged the Board to review the long list of accomplishments that were provided earlier.  Glenn said he appreciated all the extra work on Hermit Park.

 

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION: (24-6-402(4) (a)C.R.S. Purchase, acquisition, lease, transfer or sale of any real or personal property interest.

 

There was no executive session

 

The meeting was adjourned by a motion from Duane.  The motion was seconded by Ben and carried unanimously.  The meeting was adjourned at 7:53 p.m.

 

 

Background Image: Rocky Mountain National Park by Sue Burke. All rights reserved.