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Longmont City Council to Consider $8.2 Million Farm Purchase

October 7, 2018

A field northwest of the intersection of Weld County Roads 5 and 26 on Friday. Longmont City Council may decide on Tuesday night to proceed with the $8.2 million purchase of the Newby Farm to preserve most of it as undeveloped agricultural open space.

If you go

What: Longmont City Council

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Civic Center council chambers, 350 Kimbark St., Longmont

Agenda: tinyurl.com/y7epm57b

Longmont’s City Council is to vote Tuesday night on whether to authorize paying nearly $8.22 million to buy 253 acres of farmland east of the city in order to preserve most of that property as open space.

The property, now owned by Newby Farms, LLC, lies north of Weld County Road 26 east of Union Reservoir and extends east toward St. Vrain State Park.

In addition to protecting prime agricultural land from future development, Longmont’s acquisition of the farm and its associated water rights would provide an area where a potential trail system could be developed between the reservoir and the state park, the city staff noted in a memo to the council.

“Its location also helps define and shape our community by limiting development on the eastern side of Union Reservoir,” the staff wrote.

“In addition to wildlife corridors, urban shaping, potential trail connections and agricultural preservation, Newby Farms provides stunning views of the Continental Divide and Eastern Plains.”

David Bell, the city’s natural resources manager, said on Friday that if present or future private property owners were allowed to develop the 253-acre property, “there potentially could have been up to 400 units of housing” there.

On April 24, the council gave its staff the go-ahead to proceed with negotiations toward the purchase of the Newby Farms property, an $8,218,973 acquisition which is to be financed by voter-authorized bonds backed by a voter-authorized 0.2 percent city sales and use tax that’s collected for such open space acquisitions and maintenance.

There are four houses on the 253 acres now, and the staff said in its memo for Tuesday’s meeting that two of those homes are expected to be vacated prior to final closing on the city’s purchase of the property.

The other two homes are occupied by Newby family members who have asked for time to get their affairs in order, and the city will offer those individuals a short-term lease.

It is the city’s intention to sell some or all of those four homes and small-acre lots they’re sited on. The city would retain a conservation easement over the homes being sold to new sets of private owners, however, limiting future development on those lots.

The house lots could be annexed into Longmont.

The Newby Farms property is within an area that’s in a boundary agreement between Mead and Longmont, and Mead expressed no objections to Longmont’s purchase of the property, the city staff said.

The property has a 25-foot-wide strip of land just north of Weld County Road 26 that has been annexed by Firestone. The city staff said that once Longmont closes on the purchase transaction, it could begin the process of de-annexing that strip from Firestone.

The rights to minerals such as oil and gas deposits underneath the Newby Farms property’s surface have been severed from the surface rights, are under separate ownership and are not part of the city’s purchase.

Those mineral rights are currently under lease, and the property has several oil and gas wells on it, the staff wrote the council.

The location and placement of new wells or well pads would be subject to an existing surface use agreement similar to what Longmont requires for new oil and gas exploration and production inside the city limits or on its other properties, to avoid as much surface disruption as possible.

Dan Wolford, the city’s land program administrator, said on Friday that there are eight older vertical wells on the property, one of which has been plugged and abandoned and seven that have been abandoned and that will be plugged.

Wolford and Bell said the city is still negotiating details of another open-space purchase the council supported in April, the 70.6-acre Double Six Ranch LLC property north of Union Reservoir and south of Colo. 66.

The city staff told the council in April that the purchase price of that property and its associated water rights could be about $2.77 million.

Staff said at the time that the Double Six Ranch was a “high quality farm” and that it’s acquisition would help preserve agricultural production and increase the certainty of future farming activities east of County Line Road, as well as protecting lands adjacent to Union Reservoir from urban-level development.

Contact Staff Writer John Fryar at 303-684-5211 or jfryar@times-call.com or twitter.com/jfryartc

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