Lafayette Halts Work on Portion of City Center Site Over Prairie Dog Activity
Work has been stalled in part on Lafayette’s City Center development after officials said over the weekend they found evidence of prairie dogs on site.
Construction has since resumed on the western portion of the development — poised to eventually install hundreds of homes around city hall and likely transform the feel of the city’s downtown corridor — though in a message posted Wednesday to the city’s website, officials said “the stop work order will remain in place on the eastern side of the site until staff is satisfied the developer has successfully implemented a modified plan.”
The mixed-use project is slated to host 207 residential units across 12 buildings and roughly 17,000 square feet of leasable commercial and retail space at South Public Road and South Boulder Road.
Robert Haas of Rubicon Development, the firm behind the project, said Wednesday the team had been making “good faith” attempts to ensure no prairie dogs were on the land before construction began, citing at least eight documented instances over the last year where mitigation efforts were made.
“The developer didn’t intentionally do anything wrong,” Lafayette spokeswoman Debbie Wilmot said. “They went through all of the steps, but that final step before you can start work is that you need to make sure the prairie dogs are removed. They proceeded thinking that was the case.”
Despite their intentions, officials say that by virtue of the developer moving forward on preliminary construction while prairie dogs were present will likely result in fines.
“We take this very seriously,” Haas said. “We felt there was no prairie dogs left on the site when we started.”
He added that work would not resume on the eastern portion of the project until the city “is happy” with the mitigation efforts.
The work stoppage comes amid a citywide moratorium on prairie dog removals that came about as a result of a botched relocation process last summer. City Center is exempt from the moratorium because it was approved before the stay was enacted.
The moratorium is scheduled to expire in October, and a newly formed advisory group is working on drafting new rules for how prairie dog removals are handled.
Eventual policy changes could come via expansion of restrictions for private landowners hoping to remove the animals from their properties, regulations similar to those in Boulder and those being explored in Longmont and Broomfield.
In the meantime, officials say City Center developers have agreed to adhere to the current prairie dog relocation rules that require initial efforts to remove the animals.
Alternatives for removal, in decreasing order of preference outlined in the policy, include relocation to city open space or to alternative sites, removal for use in the black-footed ferret recovery program or other suitable wildlife rehabilitation program, and lethal control.
City Center developers announced earlier this year that the long-delayed project — plans were originally approved in 2016 — was finallyprimed to move forward with the approval of a third amendment to its economic development agreement, which officials said corrected some language in the original deal that now frees up funds for developers to capture their full incentive package and as much of their $3.5 million loan as possible.
Anthony Hahn: 303-473-1422, email@example.com or twitter.com/_anthonyhahn