Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Time for a Reconsideration

Time for a reconsideration
Richard Juday

Two items of current interest merit joint attention. One is construction of a drainage improvement under Highway 119, and the other is Firestone Mayor Chad Auer's assertion that a majority of each city's citizens "agree on LifeBridge annexation". Regarding the drainage, I think that the voters would welcome the opportunity to reconsider expenditures under a bonded indebtedness. Council should suspend all action on this drainage improvement. Regarding Auer's report of agreement, I offer premises and observations that support a different conclusion.

We can not ignore the Church/State/Money elephant in the room. I contend that churches do not belong in the land development business. If a church's principals wish to cooperate as individuals in a business venture outside church activities, clearly that's their prerogative. But as much as I believe in capitalism, I also believe in the separation of Church and State, and I am bothered by LifeBridge's various actions. Rather than rehash the whole debate, I'll just say that LifeBridge has financially inserted itself into what should be just a citizens' debate within Firestone, and an inter-City debate in court. LifeBridge liberally funded the distribution of a flyer preceding Firestone's election on this issue, and now it is funding the legal battle on Firestone's behalf. This is a hugely more intrusive action than even secular lobbyists are permitted.

Mr. Auer and I have different perspectives and will each generally converse with separate self-selecting subsets of the populace. Thus he and I will experience differing popular opinions. Nevertheless, I think that two circumstances when examined neutrally will undermine his assertion. First is that an absolutely unprecedented number of Longmont citizens signed a petition to bring the Union annexation to a recall election. Second, LifeBridge subsequently withdrew their Longmont annexation request. No fools LifeBridge -- they had done their polling homework and knew they would lose the election. Rather than deal with that impending defeat LifeBridge has thrown in with Firestone. "You can't fire me, I quit."

Well, the Longmont/Firestone disagreement will play itself out in court. But there is another situation that Longmont should pay close attention to. Back when it seemed that the Union annexation for LifeBridge would be within Longmont, our voters were asked whether certain drainage improvements around the City should be bonded for. Among them was a very large culvert under Highway 119 that is necessary for the development of property around Union Reservoir. Fully implemented, this would be at an initial cost of $5 million that essentially doubles to $10M in retiring the bonds. That works out to about $115 for every Longmont citizen.

I am of the opinion that a developer should bear his up-front development costs and pass them along to his purchasers. Then the buyers are paying the realistic costs. It is not fair to ask the whole citizenry of Longmont to subsidize any specific development. Given the fracas going on between Firestone and Longmont, it is especially ill-considered for Longmont citizens to construct drainage improvements that Firestone should pay for. If, as Auer states, Firestone wants the Union development within their boundaries, let Firestone construct that culvert. It is bad enough for the Clover Basin folks to be taxed for a fire station that the City would have provided under other circumstances. At least those taxpayers directly benefit from having the fire protection. It is far worse for Longmont utility rate-payers to pay off bonds that support Firestone's desired development. Other locations within Longmont need drainage improvements for the tangible benefit of Longmont citizens, such as reduced or eliminated flood insurance.

Listed priorities stated as far back as Longmont's 1995 Master Plan for managing stormwater rank the Spring Gulch improvement near the bottom. Complexities and associated costs of the higher-priority projects listed in the 2007 bond election have increased enough to consume all of the bonded funds. Not until the courts have ruled will it be clear whether any development around Union will be in Firestone or Longmont. And finally, the developer of Union property should bear these costs itself.

Let's reconsider whether we want even to draw up plans for the culvert.


ToLo said...

"Lifebridge" strikes me as oxymoronic.

I see no LIFE other than "life sucking" and no BRIDGE that is anything more than a "bridge to nowhere."

Hair Trigger said...

Duane Leise appeared at council on Tuesday (Mar 31) with the suggestion that the Spring Gulch culvert "improvements" under Hwy 119 be placed as the lowest priority on the list of storm drain projects. This wise thought represents the idea that if there are cost overruns (a natural occurrence) that those costs would be back filled by the budgets of the less needed storm drain projects. Of course that would need the approval of council, but it would be possible. However, if the larger and less needed projects get higher priority when the money well runs dry we'll have a giant mess of an unfinished improvement without a resource. Then the CC will come back to the voters for more funding.
Sort of like Reason to Drive (RTD).