The long and winding story of the Jefferson Parkway took two sharp corners recently, as one federal court ruled in favor of allowing a U.S. Fish and …
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The long and winding story of the Jefferson Parkway took two sharp corners recently, as one federal court ruled in favor of allowing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service land swap to move forward, only to have an appeals court announce a temporary injunction last week.
A federal judge on Dec. 21 dismissed the lawsuit that sought to stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from transferring a 300-foot right of way, 617 acres along the eastern edge of the Rocky Flats Wildlife Reserve.
Five days later, an appeals court ordered the temporary injunction.
That strip of land is proposed to become a 10-mile toll road called the Jefferson Parkway. The new road would connect Highway 128 in Broomfield to Highway 93, about three miles north of the city of Golden, as part of the continuing effort to complete a ring road around the Denver Metro Area.
A year ago, the cities of Superior and Golden, along with two environmental groups, all filed lawsuits to halt the land swap, arguing that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had not done adequate environmental review to justify the sale, specifically mentioning the possibility of buried radioactive materials that could be disturbed as a result.
Bill Ray, the interim executive director of the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (JPPHA), called it ironic that environmental groups were asking the court to halt a plan that he says would dramatically improve the Rocky Flats Wildlife Reserve.
He added that the land swap, including a provision to add 600 acres of open space to the reserve, was vindicated by the ruling.
“The decision is very comprehensive. It is very clear, very thorough that none of the arguments presented by the plaintiffs were accepted by the federal government,” Ray said.
According to Ray, the land swap deal, which includes about $17 million in funding from multiple agencies and municipalities, had been set to close escrow on Dec. 31.
The city of Superior, along with the environmental groups WildEarth Guardians and Rocky Mountain Wild, immediately appealed the lawsuit to the 10th Circuit District Court of Appeals, and filed an emergency motion to stop the deal.
According to the temporary injunction, the JPPHA and fellow defendants had until Dec. 27 to file a response to the injunction. After reading that response, the 10th Circuit court judges decided that the plaintiffs would have until noon on Dec. 28 to file a rebuttal, which they did.
The court’s injunction was scheduled to lift one hour before the escrow deal is set to close, on Dec. 31.
If the judges do decide to extend the injunction past the 31st, Ray said it could imperil the entire land swap deal.
He said more than one of the involved agencies had expressed doubts about sticking with the deal if there were any more legal delays.
Ray added that even with the court’s blessing, the parkway would still be years and several environmental studies, away from breaking ground.
“The granting of the injunction preserves the status quo for now, and Golden can review its options, which I think is a good thing,” said Golden Pro Tem Joe Behm.
Behm said the Golden City Council would have to discuss whether to join in the appeal of the lawsuit, as well as how to proceed broader negotiations with the county and the Colorado Department of Transportation about future transit improvements. He said that the city continues to be concerned about overall 470 beltway plans.
“It’s because out of the 150 miles of planned road, the five proposed miles in Golden are really the only section that bisects an established community, so it really is critical for us,” Behm said.
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