Government & Politics  March 3, 2024

Hudson, Lochbuie spar over annexations around BNSF facility

Election planned for overlapping annexations of rights of way

WELD COUNTY — Hudson and Lochbuie, southeastern Weld County communities that are adjacent to a proposed BNSF Railway Co. intermodal facility and logistics park, are sparring over annexations around the massive development.

The town of Lochbuie filed a petition for an annexation election in Weld County District Court, Feb. 1, noting overlapping annexations undertaken by the two towns for certain rights of way.

Stakes are high, with dueling annexations fueled by BNSF’s plans in the area that analysts have estimated could generate billions of dollars in economic activity. BNSF envisions a massive development along BNSF tracks on the east side of Interstate 76, on land located in unincorporated Weld County. The development encompasses about 2,700 acres and is roughly north of Weld County Road 4, south of Weld County Road 10, with some parcels extending eastward toward Weld County Road 47.


Empowering communities

Rocky Mountain Health Plans (RMHP), part of the UnitedHealthcare family, has pledged its commitment to uplift these communities through substantial investments in organizations addressing the distinct needs of our communities.

The project includes an intermodal facility along the BNSF tracks to facilitate transfer of shipping containers between trains and trucks. BNSF filed a series 10 of eminent-domain actions — or condemnations — in Weld County District Court in May 2021 to obtain acreage for the intermodal facility.

BNSF also has purchased property on the open market east of the planned intermodal facility for a logistics park, a project for which it did not have condemnation powers. The intermodal facility and logistics park could accommodate 20 million square feet of logistics/warehouse space, with the entire project generating 10,000 to 20,000 jobs.

The massive project is separate from BNSF’s Logistics Center Hudson, a 430-acre park on the north edge of the town that opened in 2019, offering rail-served lots for companies shipping materials via individual railcars or entire trainloads.

Annexations underway

BNSF’s latest plans — directly between the Hudson and Lochbuie town boundaries — have spurred multiple annexation petitions near the development.

Hudson in February approved the Long annexation, including 323 acres between BNSF’s intermodal development and new logistics park. The property is near the northwest and southwest corners of Weld County Roads 8 and 45.

But the annexation that has vexed Lochbuie is the MSLCAT annexation, 120 acres owned by Don Sack at the southwest corner of Weld County Roads 4 and 45. The property would provide a new facility for Mountain States Line Constructors Joint Apprenticeship & Training, which serves the electrical construction industry.

But the MSLCAT annexation also includes rights of way along I-76 frontage road southwest from Hudson to the Lochbuie town limits, along with rights of way along Weld County Roads 4, 41 and 45.

Lochbuie has initiated annexation proceedings for South Weld Annexation Nos. 1, 2 and 3. South Weld Annexation No. 1 includes 194 acres immediately south of the planned BNSF facility, at the northeast corner of I-76 and Weld County Road 4. The property is part of 700 acres owned by South Weld Holdings LLC, an affiliate of Bromley Cos.

South Weld Annexation No. 1 does not  conflict with planned Hudson annexations, but South Weld Annexations 2 and 3 would include rights of way that overlap with Hudson’s annexation.

“Hudson’s MSLCAT Annexation and Lochbuie’s South Weld Annexation No. 2 and No. 3 seek to annex overlapping portions of Weld County Road 41, Weld County Road 4, and Weld County Road 45,” Lochbuie said in the legal filing..

Hudson filed a response to Lochbuie’s court filing on Feb. 23 agreeing to an annexation election, and on Feb. 26, Weld County District Court Judge Kimberly Baird Schutt imposed a stay on all annexation proceedings. A status conference is to be scheduled “to discuss procedural matters related to the annexation election,” including the areas to be included.

Under Colorado law, annexations can occur in three ways:

  • A landowner petition.
  • An annexation election, in which only landowners and registered electors in the area may vote.
  • Unilateral annexation of an enclave or municipally owned property.

If a conflict exists over competing annexations by multiple municipalities, an annexation election must be held. 

Hudson offers annexation incentives

Hudson town manager Bryce Lange, in letters obtained by BizWest to property owners along the rights of way to be annexed, said property owners would not face annexation unless they choose to pursue it.

But, in a Dec. 7 letter, he offered several reasons that they might seek annexation, including extension of the town’s fiber broadband, the ability to use a central water and wastewater system in the event that wells or septic systems fail, and the potential to increase value and marketability of their properties.

Lange followed up in a Jan. 25 letter with offers of direct incentives to annex.

“The Town of Hudson’s intent with this annexation near your property should neither be seen as to facilitate uncontrolled growth, nor to put a complete moratorium on it,” he wrote, “but rather as a way to ensure that both existing property owners and the Town of Hudson are considered together within the plans of future developers, and to ensure that development, as it occurs, is an asset and not a liability.

“This said, we need your help to accomplish what we feel to be a mutual goal. Understanding that a decision to annex is certainly not an easy one or one to take lightly, the Town of Hudson will offer properties abutting right-of-way involved in the pending annexation the following incentives:

  • Development of your annexation proposal to the Town of Hudson free of cost.
  • Reimbursement of any personal costs you incur as a result of your petition to annex.
  • A cash payment of $250/acre that you choose to annex into the Town of Hudson in a lump sum paid to you upon completion of your annexation.”

Lange did not return calls from BizWest to discuss the annexations. Lochbuie town administrator A.J. Eukert declined to comment.

Conflicting growth areas

Hudson late last year approved an amendment to the town’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan, laying out its plans for the area, including infrastructure improvements..

“In 2020, BNSF began purchasing land, approximately 1,200 acres, in order to increase its operations with an Intermodal Facility and Logistics Park,” according to the Comprehensive Plan. The interchange at I-76 and WCR 8 is more likely to occur in this Plan’s planning horizon. WCR 8 is also a major arterial that runs west through Fort Lupton and connects to US-85.

“The Town’s ability to serve the area with water and sewer and the extension of utilities south to WCR 8 is essential to providing essential public facilities to all parts of the Town. Improvements to the transportation network, namely to WCR 45, WCR 4, WCR 8, WCR 10, WCR 47, WCR 49 and the WCR 8 and I-76 Interchange are also essential to the economic success of this area.”

Hudson on March 6 will consider adoption of an update to the town’s three-mile plan, required by state statute when considering annexations within a three-mile area. A three-mile plan must describe the location of planned annexations, as well as how a municipality would provide infrastructure and services to the area.

Lochbuie also has been eyeing the area, identifying the BNSF development as a “Pre-Application Project” on development reports. The town has also identified annexation of the BNSF areas as a top priority for 2024.

Former Lochbuie trustee Dave Ott, speaking during public comment at a June 2023 board meeting, urged the Town Board to develop water resources in the area to facilitate BNSF’s annexation.

“With Burlington-Northern coming, they’re going to want us to supply water,” Ott said. “And if we can get the water in here … that will certainly grease the wheels of Burlington-Northern coming into this (community) … Somebody is going to get it, so it might as well be us.”

Lochbuie Pre-Application Projects
Lochbuie has identified the BNSF project for potential annexation. Source: town of Lochbuie documents

Lochbuie’s objections

Lochbuie has objected to updates to both Hudson’s comp-plan update and three-mile plan.

In a July 27, 2023, letter responding to Hudson’s Comprehensive Plan update, Lochuie community development director Chris Kennedy outlined the town’s concerns.

“Staff has found that the proposed future boundaries of Hudson’s draft plan would extend significantly into the only areas where Lochbuie has substantial growth potential and which Lochbuie has identified publicly since at least 2017 as its future growth area in its Three-Mile Plan and Future Land Use Map (FLUM) in the Town’s 2017 Comprehensive Plan,” Kennedy wrote. “Also, much of the territory Hudson is proposing to claim for its future growth abuts existing development in Lochbuie and would be better served by Lochbuie’s infrastructure. Because of the proximity to existing services, Lochbuie has already spent substantial time and resources in these areas collaborating with landowners and potential developers, planning for new land uses and supporting infrastructure, and generally preparing for future growth in a rational way.

“Hudson’s proposed plan conflicts with these efforts and would appear to undermine Lochbuie’s desire to grow, develop its economy and improve the quality of life of its residents. Having overlapping plans that conflict to this degree could also be unnecessarily confusing to potential developers, builders, homebuyers, and new businesses in the area, which could negatively impact both communities. As a result, Lochbuie strongly objects to Hudson’s draft plan …”

Kennedy said Lochbuie’s proximity to Hudson, Fort Lupton and Brighton means that its “growth and economic development potential is largely limited to its ability to annex and facilitate the development of territory lying to the north and east of its existing corporate boundaries …

“If it could be fully implemented, Hudson’s proposed plan would almost entirely prohibit future growth and economic development for Lochbuie, outside its existing corporate limits. Without the ability to annex adjacent territory where intense development is anticipated, Lochbuie would be subject to major impacts without the jurisdictional authority and additional revenue to help with the mitigation of those impacts.”

Kennedy also suggested in the July 2023 letter that the two communities negotiate an intergovernmental agreement to resolve growth boundaries and other issues.

“Lochbuie respectfully requests that Hudson consider revising the proposed boundaries of the three-mile plan shown in its draft comprehensive plan to address the issues raised previously,” Kennedy wrote. “There is enough unannexed, undeveloped territory in the area for each town to grow as needed without conflict.”

Hudson:Lochbuie three mile
Hudson and Lochbuie’s three-mile plans overlap significantly. Source: town of Hudson documents.

Christopher Wood
Christopher Wood is editor and publisher of BizWest, a regional business journal covering Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. Wood co-founded the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995 and served as publisher of the Boulder County Business Report until the two publications were merged to form BizWest in 2014. From 1990 to 1995, Wood served as reporter and managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. He has won numerous awards from the Colorado Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
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