Government & Politics  April 25, 2024

Hudson, Lochbuie dispute who should vote in annexation election

WELD COUNTY — Hudson and Lochbuie, battling over competing annexations around the massive BNSF Railway Co. development, have found another issue to dispute before a planned annexation election: exactly who should vote.

Both towns have initiated annexations for the same portions of Weld County Roads 4, 41 and 45, Hudson as part of the planned MSLCAT annexation and Lochbuie as part of South Weld Annexations 2 and 3.

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

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The parties held a status conference March 13, agreeing on the areas of conflicting annexations but disagreeing on who may participate as electors.

In competing filings submitted to Weld County District Court on April 17, the two southeastern Weld County towns provided differing interpretations of state law that governs annexation elections. State law provides that landowners and registered electors are eligible to vote in annexation elections.

Lochbuie, in a filing submitted by attorneys Joseph Rivera and Gerald Dahl, with the law firm of Murray Dahl Beery & Renaud LLP, stated that only Weld County — as owner of the rights of way — should vote in the election.

“Weld County is the only voter entitled to vote in the election … because (1) the area claimed by both municipalities consists entirely of real property reserved for use as public rights-of-way and (2) Weld County reserved the surface of the area at issue for use as public rights-of-way in 1889,” Lochbuie’s attorneys stated.

“Under the Municipal Annexation Act and related case law, public rights-of-way are not owned by any of the underlying landowners. Instead, for the purpose of determining ownership of the area to be annexed and determining contiguity, all public rights-of-way are treated as a separate and distinct interest in real property.”

Hudson, in a filing by attorneys Nicholas Hartmand and Hilary Graham of Hoffmann, Parker, Wilson & Carberry PC, states that of 45 property owners abutting Weld County Roads 4 or 41, “34 have deeds and/or recorded exemption plats showing an ownership interest from the private property is retained to the centerline of the applicable right-of-way (and in one case, the entire right-of-way).

“Regardless of the county’s ability to access and use the right-of-way, the official platting of the county shows that these 34 landowners retain an ownership interest in the right-of-way to the centerline,” the filing states. “These individuals pay taxes to the centerline of the respective rights-of-way and, therefore, should be allowed a vote in the conflicting annexation election.”

It’s unclear when the court will rule on the dispute.

Flagpole annexations

BNSF’s planned development encompasses about 2,700 acres along BNSF tracks east of Interstate 76, roughly north of Weld County Road 4 and south of Weld County Road 10, with some parcels extending eastward toward Weld County Road 47.

Analysts have estimated that the project could generate billions of dollars in economic activity. BNSF has not submitted annexation petitions to either town, but the two communities have begun annexations of surrounding properties.

Annexations of rights of way such as those contemplated by Hudson and Lochbuie are dubbed “flagpole annexations” because they use a street or a road as a “pole” to reach a certain property, or a “flag.”

Hudson is considering 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.

Separately, 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.

Lochbuie and Hudson disagree on who should vote in an upcoming annexation election.

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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