Loveland Bike Trail
 

Larimer County Open Lands Advisory Board Meeting

Minutes

 

Thursday, August 25, 2005:  5:00-8:00 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

Duane Pond

Lori Jeffrey-Clark

Bob Streeter

Bill Newman

Jean Carpenter

Peter Kast

Mark DeGregorio

Jim White

Ben Manvel

Ted Swanson

 

 

Staff

Travis Rollins

Ernst Strenge

K-Lynn Cameron

Meegan Flenniken

Dan Rieves

Kerri Rollins

Charlie Johnson

Gary Buffington

Amanda Cook

Glenn Gibson

Greg Good      

 

 

Absent: 

Sue Sparling

 

 

Chair, Peter Kast called the meeting to order at 5:08 p.m.

 

The minutes of July 2005 were approved as printed with a motion from Duane and seconded by Bob Streeter.

 

PUBLIC COMMENT

 

INTRODUCTION:

·  Ben Manvel, Fort Collins City Councilman; represents the City of Fort Collins on the Open Lands Advisory Board.  Other Board participants introduced themselves.

 

INFORMATION ITEMS

·  A good time was had by the 35 or so folks that attended the Open Lands Board Picnic at Red Mountain Ranch on July 31st.  Eric Hamrick was honored for his time served on the Board and his support for Open Lands.  Thanks to all who made this event such a fun time.

·  K-Lynn and Kris Larsen of CCLT (Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts) met with Otero County Commissioners regarding the extinguishment of a conservation easement and their reasons for doing so.

·  On August 31, staff members from Larimer County, Fort Collins and Cheyenne will tour Red Mountain Ranch, Soapstone Prairie and Belvoir Ranch.

·  Colorado Open Space Alliance (COSA) conference in Colorado Springs September 15 and 16. See enclosed agenda.  Bob Streeter from OLAB will attend.

·  City of Fort Collins is applying for an open space grant to acquire the Southwick property south of Soapstone and have requested Larimer County to hold the conservation easement on the property temporarily if they are successful.  Larimer County has submitted a letter of support for this grant.

·  Parks and Open Lands Activities for August were included in packet.

·  Reporter Herald news article on Fossil Creek was handed out.

 

PRESENTATIONS

·  Update on the Poudre River Trail in Weld County – Karen Scopel and Scott Rudd, City of Greeley.

This effort is a grassroots organization run by citizen volunteers over many years.  Scott said in the past 12 months they have built 2.5 miles of trail.  Now there are 18+ miles built of this 10-foot wide concrete trail.  They are only missing a 1-mile section to connect the entire trail together.  There are 3 options to connect this last section: 1) easement along railroad (best option, will hear about submitted request in two weeks), 2) F street (least desirable) or 3) acquiring easement on private land (most difficult).  Scott handed out two brochures; one about the trail and one about the Kaplan-Hoover Bison Bonebed discovered near the trail.

 

Karen said City of Greeley funded educational trail signs.  She posted up the five mock signs and their locations along the trail.  She also discussed the opening of the Poudre Learning Center thanks to their local rotary clubs and a partnership with the four school districts who are contributing to the curriculum that will be taught there.  Karen discussed future planning of the trail, which will go east from Greeley as part of the Colorado Front Range Trail.  Substantial growth in east Greeley will benefit from this future trail.  The Poudre River Trail is also part of Front Range Trail.

 

Scott discussed the Bison Arroyo section of the trail located in the Larimer County part of Windsor, near WCR 13.  It is a State and National Historic Landmark.  See the Kaplan-Hoover Bison Bonebed handout.  They have received a grant from State Trails to pay for half of the construction costs of this project and are looking to raise the other half.  Windsor owns the trail easement area.  Windsor has also pledged $7,000 of their HPOS Larimer County open space funds for construction.  They have three years to complete this project for grant compliance.  Karen discussed plans to widen CR 392 to four lanes as it heads east from I-25 towards CR 13.  This trail must cross CR392 in this area to get to Larimer County’s River Bluffs property.  She suggested we move sooner than later for the underpass, while it is still a two lane road, as when the road is expanded it will cost CDOT to change the underpass to four lanes, and not us.  She encouraged this Board to partner in making this connection from Greeley to Fort Collins, as a transportation corridor and more.

 

K-Lynn said Board members will receive information tonight on a trail prioritization exercise that will allow them to decide which trails are priorities for available money.  The Board will perform the exercise at the September meeting. 

 

ACTION ITEMS

·  Cohen Conservation Easement Final Review.  K-Lynn, Bill, Mark, Jean and Sue have visited the property for an OLAB tour.  This easement is 130 acres adjacent to the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park.  Appraised at $1.5 million, bargain sale cost is $500,000 with the landowner pursuing tax credits for his donation.  This is a two phase project.  Partnership consists of Estes Valley Land Trust (EVLT) putting in $200,000, Boulder County $25,000, and the Larimer County request of $75,000.  Zoned E estate, the landowner is allowed 21 home sites which have been sited, however this project will only allow 2 home sites in an agreeable location.  The project won't happen without a successful GOCO grant and our contribution.  K-Lynn said HPOS contribution to partner with Estes has been almost $500,000 since 1996 (the inception of the Open Lands Program), over and above the dollars they receive by law from the tax.  Over the next six years there are $1.5 million unallocated dollars in our acquisition/development fund. 

 

Wendell Amos of EVLT reviewed their ten-year history of negotiating with this landowner.  He said they could not have negotiated the bargain sale price without the State Tax Credit program.  GOCO is being asked for $247,000.  Wendell said he didn’t think the landowner would consider the sale without the two building sites.

 

Duane said it was a nice property and he liked it.  Jean agreed, it is heavily timbered and she encourages building sites to be close to the road and the other homes adjacent.  She encouraged negotiators to pursue the landowners past history of allowing public access on easement properties.  Jean asked about a Town of Estes partnership.  Wendell said they have not pursued this because they have another important property that they need help with that they will seek such a partnership.  Bob asked how this area figures in to the prioritization exercise the Board went through last year.  K-Lynn said we have money allocated outside of the $1.5 available that has been set aside for the higher priority areas identified in that process.  She reviewed the results of the exercise and Estes fell in the middle priority area.  Bob wondered what projects won’t be able to be done if we put $75,000 into this project out of our $1.5 million.  K-Lynn said some of this discussion will come up in the financial area.  The short answer is we have a shortage of $55 million in projects that could be worked on.  Lori remembered that the prioritization exercise is a living document and that when opportunities that have been worked on for ten years come to fruition then when we should act on them.  Mark remembers that during the prioritization process he encouraged the Board to look forward to unanticipated opportunities and not to be corralled by the exercise.  Jim said the prioritization process serves a great purpose and to move away from it is good to question.  He suggested doing less than $75,000.  K-Lynn reminded the board that the original request was $100,000 and we already moved it down to $75,000.  Peter said he remembered that in the priority exercise Estes didn’t rank high because they always did such a great job by themselves and now that they've asked for help they really need it.

Duane motioned to approve recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners to expend $75,000 towards a partnership in protecting the 130-acre Cohen property with a conservation easement.  Jim seconded the motion.

 

Bob counter motioned to approve recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners to expend $25,000 towards a partnership in protecting the 130-acre Cohen property with a conservation easement.  There was no second to the motion. 

 

The Board voted on the original motion by Duane.  The motion passed unanimously with the exception of a dissent vote from Bob.  Mark abstained from voting as he works for Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

·  Fonken Conservation Easement Donation Final Review.  Meegan reviewed the history of the Fonken property and the history of the family’s donation.  To date we have accepted 175 acres of easement and this donation would add another 35 acres.  Bob asked about trading the residual land.  K-Lynn said Mr. Fonken's dream is to have a trail connection to Young’s Gulch and she believes we will work toward that as we continue negotiation.  Mark asked about the integrity of phasing these easements.  K-Lynn said her and Jerry have had these donations reviewed by conservationists all over the state and at this point it is ok.  If this project were just arising we might rethink the structure, however now it is a sizable protected piece for conservation value.  Bill asked if we have asked Mr. Fonken if he could ask for a monetary contribution for stewardship or defense.  K-Lynn said we have never done that but we can certainly ask the question.

Bob motioned to approve recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners to accept the 35-acre easement donation on the Fonken property.  Jean seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

 

·  Chimney Hollow Stewardship Plan – Meegan has not made any changes to the plan, except for the comments proposed by Bob, since reviewed with the Board in detail last month.    

Brian motioned to approve recommendation to Gary to accept the Chimney Hollow Stewardship Plan.  Duane seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

 

Discussion Items

·  Financial Subcommittee: Draft of future options for the Open Space sales tax.  K-Lynn handed out a packet of information.  She recognized OLAB Subcommittee members who contributed to the information; Peter, Bob and Ted. 

 

The plan is to take feedback tonight and vote next month on one or more recommendations to the BOCC.  K-Lynn reviewed the agenda of this financial discussion, which is included in the packet she handed out. 

 

o  K-Lynn reviewed the Current Situation as outlined in the handout.  This section outlines how the sales tax has been broken up between the cities and the county, and how the county must spend a portion of their funds (70%) on acquisition and development and a portion on management (15%).  There is also 15% discretionary that can be moved between the two. 

o  She then reviewed the outlined reasons for considering an extension of an Open Space sales tax beyond 2018.  Ted clarified on bullet #2 that the repayment of the loan is not the reason for only $1.5 million being available from 2006-2012 for new acquisitions.  K-Lynn recognized that that was a mistake and the last part of the last sentence of that bullet was deleted.  Bill noted that the partnering we have been able to do financially has been great ($1.50 of every $1 of HPOS is average over sales tax) but has contributed to our management costs deficit by allowing us to protect more land than we have dollars to currently manage. 

o  Goals for extending or proposing a new HPOS sales and use tax were reviewed, including the amounts that were projected that would be needed to cover these costs.  The proposed tax will go 25 years beyond 2018 (the sunset of the current tax).  Glenn noted the county is limited to 1% tax and that our current .25 allocation may/could be reallocated for something like a county jail.  K-Lynn said some of the options proposed take that into consideration and rely on bills like the 2005 SB174, which would allow the county to go above that 1% tax for conservation purposes.  Knowing that something like the jail could come up sooner than later would be something to consider in the timing of the options.

o  K-Lynn then reviewed the options as outlined in the spreadsheet.  Each option includes Goal #1, to provide funding for continuing management of the Open Lands inventory existing as of 2018.  The layout describes each Option in a box on the left.  The middle column shows what that breakout of the funds looks like.  Far right box shows a pie chart of that breakdown.  Options 1-5 show scenarios that stay within our current .25 tax.  Options 6-8 assumes state approval of County Open Space sales tax exemption for conservation purposes up to 0.5%, so all scenarios are above the current .25 tax allocation; also assumes Goal #1 regarding management of inventory existing as of 2018 as well as a subsidy to the Parks Program fund. 

 

Discussion ensued.  Mark asked is there negotiating room as cities and towns pass new taxes, to ask the cities to take less of the County tax.  K-Lynn said there certainly is.  Bill and K-Lynn are currently meeting with these entities and finding out what they are currently spending their tax dollars on.  She also mentioned that if the county can go up to a .5 tax then we could essentially provide an open space program for all cities and towns in the County and the entire county would vote on it – including the large population of Fort Collins which tends to pass these measures.  Dan Rieves asked when this would happen.  If some cities go for a tax themselves then that could affect a passing of any of these proposals.  K-Lynn said that would be in the strategy and planning with the cities beforehand and that it would be devised that we would do it when we have the least competition.  Jim asked if we have planned acquisition and development dollars at a lesser need in the future than we have now (knowing our goal has been to protect land now while it's still available).  K-Lynn said yes, but we also could not guess land values for the future, so we assumed that Larimer County would be paying full value (current value) on future properties.  However, we know we can leverage at about the same rate we are now, at least $1.50 for every dollar by partnering and grants.  K-Lynn said we also factored in a 6% inflation for management costs. 

 

Brian reminded everyone that the City of Loveland Council approved a capital expansion fee for open space about three years ago.  It amounts to about $300,000 per year.  Mark said he leans towards lowering the city split options, especially if they can fund open space through their own revenues.  He also said including the Parks Program might cloud passing an Open Space tax, however if they continually come up short it could also cloud the initiative so he thinks it would be ok to include the Parks Program at a small level as suggested.  He agrees we need acquisition funds beyond 2018.  Duane agrees with Mark on all above, he’s concerned about public reaction to including the Parks, but think we should move forward with it as he doesn't think the public differentiates between the two as much as we do.  Brian said he’s looking forward to his meeting with K-Lynn and Bill next week to discuss more, and to hear feedback from his Open Lands Commission.  K-Lynn offered to present this to his Board.  She asked if the City would be against a 50/50 split.  Brian said they recognize that most sales tax is generated in the cities, but when properties such as the Devil’s Backbone are so close they would likely consider and have a favorable opinion.  He would also be interested in how much the cities give back to the county in partnerships and donations.  Ted agrees on supporting acquisition of new lands after 2018, sees the shares to the cities reduced but need to be careful as we need their full support, and sees parks supported – though it may be out of our control if we can’t get bills like SB174 passed.  Lori supports new acquisition which is a lifelong endeavor, and is open to discussing changing the shares to the cities and supporting parks.  Jim thinks he would support continued acquisition, at the very least to maintain existing level, he feels sharing with the cities is important and wants to continue to receive that as they are very invested and will suffer more than the larger cities.  He has mixed feeling about supporting parks.  He agrees with Duane that if user fees continue to rise the public wont support a tax.  Ben agrees with a lot of what Brian said.  Acquisition is important, supporting parks is vital but not going to get people excited, since the city and county partner so much and the city has even ventured to buy lands so far outside of the city it doesn’t seem to matter if the dollars come from the city or county.  He would discourage taking dollars from the city. 

 

·  Proposed changes to the Fossil Creek Regional Open Space Intergovernmental Agreement.  See memo enclosed in packet.

K-Lynn outlined this discussion item that will come back to this Board in September for a recommendation to the BOCC.  City of Fort Collins would like to annex out to the I-25/Windsor interchange (including Fossil Creek Reservoir Open Space) and they would like to have it complete by end of 2005.  An expansion of their GMA has already been approved by County Commissioners.  She referenced a Memo from herself to the Board that was included as background information in the packet.  The county is proposing a change to the IGA that currently states that when annexation is complete management would convert to the City of Fort Collins.  Staff is proposing a transition period that gives us longer to convert the management responsibility, or the Board could decide to recommend to retain the management, which is an idea Peter supports.  Meetings with John Stokes, Natural Resources Director at the City of Fort Collins, have included discussions about splitting the management cost of the open space during the transition period.  John reminded her that the City currently pays the lease on the reservoir ($40,000).  Bob said it would be important we have input on management if the City takes over.  They would/could likely manage the area differently.  K-Lynn said John has already indicated he would not use the building as staff headquarters, etc.  Brian asked if there is an expiration date of the current IGA, K-Lynn said no.  Ben said we should do whatever is most efficient, and would think the county would want to get rid of management costs as soon as possible.  K-Lynn said it is a matter of looking at the bigger picture of our program and other open spaces that will be coming online in later years, allowing staff to adjust as necessary.  Dan noted the public relations benefits of areas closer  to city's, such as Fossil Creek.  He would support IGA language saying we transfer management when it is mutually beneficial to the city and county.  He also said if this transition were to take place as of January 2006 (as suggested in the current IGA) then he would need to lay off staff.  Dan said the biggest management costs are the building/workspace, otherwise the costs are the same as the Devil’s Backbone.  Ben said if that’s the case then we would still need a building somewhere else.  K-Lynn stressed the point that the City wants this to be a quick, voluntary annexation, but asked how we could also make this work for the Parks & Open Lands Department.  Gary said we want this transition to go smoothly and if it takes asking Fort Collins to contribute a few more thousand dollars then we should ask.  Peter said that it is frustrating because the City has said for ten years they would never go outside their GMA.  If we had known about annexation intents before we may never have built the building in the first place.  Dan said he was always told annexations take 2-3 years, and now we’re looking at having it done by December.  Bob asked how long of a transition period is being suggested.  K-Lynn said about 5 years, when Red Mountain and Chimney Hollow open spaces are opened to the public.  Bob asked if the Board needs to support a smooth transition to move forward.  Everyone agreed, and Bob pointed out the staff needs to work on several options on how best to do it.

 

·  Trail Prioritization Exercise Part I.  Directions for exercise were handed out.

Ernst handed out the directions and information for the board to prioritize the 200 miles of regional trails as defined in the Master Plan.  Be prepared to talk about your high priorities at the next meeting.  Board members will have the opportunity to change their priorities after hearing discussion of others in September.  Results will be combined with staff’s results of this exercise for a final recommendation to the BOCC.

 

Director’s Report

·  Nothing to report.

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION:  No Executive session was held at this meeting.

 

The meeting was adjourned by a motion from Duane.  The motion was seconded by Bob and carried unanimously.  The meeting concluded at 8:15 pm.

 

 

Background Image: Loveland Bike Trail by Sharon Veit. All rights reserved.