Government & Politics  November 1, 2023

Timnath group plans another petition drive linked to Ladera

TIMNATH – On the heels of a successful citizen-led ballot issue that slammed a door on a proposed Topgolf entertainment center in the planned Ladera mixed-use development, a group of five residents is about to start collecting signatures for another ballot entry that could delay the project if voters were to approve it.

This new one, if passed at Timnath’s next municipal election on April 2, would amend the Timnath town charter to prohibit the town from annexing areas being used for mining until reclamation work is complete. The wording of the “statement of intent” the group submitted to Town Clerk Milissa Peters calls for the prohibition to be retroactive. That would exclude any applications for annexation that are pending, such as the 189-acre tract that developer Connell LLC wants the town to take in as part of its 240-acre Ladera project. Part of Connell’s preparation to develop Ladera includes related company Connell Resources Inc.’s completion of an asphalt- and gravel-mining operation on about 158 acres of the site, followed by reclamation work.

“It could be years before that reclamation is completed – or even started, for that matter,” said Matthew Wasserman, one of the residents who submitted the statement of intent that was approved by Peters on Monday.

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The other petitioners are Irvan Christy Jr., Harry Devereaux, Dan Ethridge and Christine Landon. Some are or had been part of the Guide Our Growth group that spearheaded the anti-Topgolf drive, but Wasserman said that group is not officially part of the new initiative although it supports it.

Guide Our Growth crafted the ballot issue overwhelmingly approved by Timnath voters in June that prohibited fences taller than 65 feet, effectively blocking Topgolf’s plans.

Wasserman, who owns Make Philanthropy Work LLC, a consulting firm that works with nonprofits, denied — just as Guide Our Growth did when it opposed Topgolf — that the petitioners’ intent is to derail the Ladera development.

“Ladera’s already going through. I don’t think there’s an overarching desire to stop Ladera,” he told BizWest on Wednesday. “We want to have the people’s input. This is a pretty big project for the town. There are a lot of new residents here; do they understand the implications of this going forward? Shouldn’t they have a voice in it?”
He said the reason to delay any annexation until reclamation is complete is that, “when you look at the town’s land-use code, it’s not heavy-industry related. We don’t feel the town can take on something like this. If the town actually annexes the property, the town would have oversight over these heavy industries.”

Not true, countered Grant Nelson with Republic Investment Group, the applicant for the Ladera development that is working with Connell LLC. He said the state Department of Mining and Reclamation Services, which issued the initial permit to Connell Resources, “will see it from cradle to grave. The town would have no oversight.”

According to the Ladera Phase II annexation and development agreement filed Sept. 20, Connell Resources “remains financially and operationally responsible for completing all reclamation of the property per the state permit. As the mine operator, Connell Resources has posted a reclamation surety bond to guarantee completion of reclamation operations. Annexation of the property by the town will not transfer reclamation responsibility or reclamation cost to the town. Similarly, annexation of the property by the town will not transfer jurisdiction over the mining permit to the town.”

Nelson stressed that annexation would not usher in heavy industry to the town, other than that needed to wrap up the asphalt-mining operations and complete the reclamation.

“Our plan is to do mixed-use residential, fairly high end,” he said. “This isn’t heavy industry. It’s just the very tail end of a mining permit. There’s just 1% or 2% left to mine, and then they’re done. In the planned-development overlay, we’re not asking for any heavy industry, and not marketing to it. If we had a heavy industry approach us, we’d tell them we’re not interested.”

The Connell companies want to clear the way for Ladera by relocating the asphalt-mixing plant from the Timnath site to a site in Wellington, but Connell Resources sued the Wellington Board of Trustees after that panel, acting on an appeal filed by two residents living nearby, voted 4-3 on Aug. 23 to reverse the town planning commission’s 6-1 vote on June 5 that approved the site plan.

Connell LLC’s plan for Ladera includes more than 700 homes and about 2 million square feet of commercial, office and retail space including restaurants, a dual-branded hotel, an assisted-living center and storage units.

The town has yet to approve the annexation or even schedule hearings about it, but the Timnath Town Council will meet Thursday with its attorney, Carolyn Steffl of Boulder-based Dietze and Davis PC to discuss the proposed ballot issue.

“This petition would set back the town of Timnath for years and years,” Nelson said. “The whole point of annexing now is that we can plan for the rest of the development – the grading, the engineering, the water, the sewer, the backbone utilities. Knowing we’ll be annexed into the community gives us more comfort that we can do all that.”

Besides, he said, “you have to be released from the mining permit before anyone can issue a certificate of occupancy.”

The petitioners will need 348 valid signatures from registered Timnath voters to get their new issue onto next spring’s ballot. Petitions must be submitted to Peters by Jan. 3, which is 90 days before the municipal election.

TIMNATH – On the heels of a successful citizen-led ballot issue that slammed a door on a proposed Topgolf entertainment center in the planned Ladera mixed-use development, a group of five residents is about to start collecting signatures for another ballot entry that could delay the project if voters were to approve it.

This new one, if passed at Timnath’s next municipal election on April 2, would amend the Timnath town charter to prohibit the town from annexing areas being used for mining until reclamation work is complete. The wording of the “statement of intent” the group submitted to…

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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