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Lafayette OKs Extension to Prairie Dog Removal Moratorium As City Explores Policy Changes

March 20, 2019
Prairie dogs on the city-owned water utility property near the intersection of Baseline Road and Rowena Place in Lafayette in July.

Lafayette leaders on Tuesday approved the first reading of a six-month extension of the city’s moratorium on prairie dog removal as officials continue to weigh proposed policy changes.

It comes nearly a year after a botched relocation effort prompted local backlash and an ensuing conversation about if the city’s regulations were doing enough to thwart inhumane removal practices. The look into the matter has taken longer than expected — with members of a proposed prairie dog advisory group yet to be entirely seated and the original embargo’s expiration fast approaching — and officials say they need more time.

Eventual policy changes could come via land use revisions and the expansion of restrictions for private landowners hoping to remove the animals from their properties, regulations similar to policy in Boulder and those being explored in Longmont and Broomfield.

A staff report suggests the city sometime this fall likely will consider an ordinance for amended land use regulations designed to “mitigate prairie dog/ human land use conflicts.” City Attorney Dave Williamson told city council Tuesday his office was in the process of drafting new regulations and that it was “ready to move forward as soon as the group is ready to move forward.”

The extended moratorium exempts three recent development approvals — two of which have no prairie dogs on site — including Sundar Apartments, a planned 700-unit residential project that originally drew concern from some for its proximity to prairie dog habitats.

The exemption is essentially a technicality, Lafayette Assistant City Administrator Roger Caruso told council, suggesting that Sundar developers have faced complications with HUD financing because of the moratorium, and they have promised any relocation efforts will be passive and in accordance with regulations.

It also is uncertain if they will attempt to relocate them any time soon; Caruso said Tuesday that any efforts could come after the city implements its new policy.

Anthony Hahn: 303-473-1422, hahna@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/_anthonyhahn