The news that Jefferson County Open Space is considering a proposal for a land swap from Martin Marietta Materials, concerning Heritage Square, has gotten people curious about what may become of the …
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The news that Jefferson County Open Space is considering a proposal for a land swap from Martin Marietta Materials, concerning Heritage Square, has gotten people curious about what may become of the vacant property.
However, that decision may not be made until later this year.
Heritage Square is “in a beautiful spot (that's) very representative of Jefferson County,” said Tom Hoby, director of Jefferson County Open Space, during a community meeting on March 5.
“The art of it,” he added, will be providing something that is a benefit for the community with the least amount of negative impacts.
Hoby added that should a land exchange happen, “we're going to make sure that whatever gets done there will fit in well.”
The land exchange proposal
Jeffco Open Space recently received a proposal from Martin Marietta Materials — the mining company that currently owns the Heritage Square property — about a land exchange.
“For now,” Hoby said, “we're looking at it as a land-for-land deal.”
The proposal has three components. First, Open Space would receive 83.7 acres from Martin Marietta. This land consists of 78 acres of the former Heritage Square site — which is 125 acres total — and the 5.7-acre Bachman property located at U.S. 40 and Heritage Road.
Second, Open Space would deed about 64 acres of Matthews/Winters Park to Martin Marietta. This portion of Matthews/Winters Park is located north of I-70 and is currently not open for public use.
Should the land exchange happen, Martin Marietta would be able to expand the footprint of the Specification Aggregate (Spec-Agg) quarry. The mine currently consists of 285 acres and is situated north of Matthews/Winters Park and south of the Heritage Square site. The exchange would also allow Martin Marietta to extend the mine's operational life to upwards of 25 years or more — Open Space's best estimation for what the extended life of the mine may be.
Third, Martin Marietta would deed the remaining 47 acres of the 125-acre Heritage Square site to Open Space, once mining operations are complete. This would be in addition to the mine's entire 285 acres that Open Space will gain — when mining and reclamation are complete — from a 2002 deal. That deal, between Jeffco Open Space and Lafarge of North America, former property owner of the mine, exchanged 60 acres of Matthews/Winters Park for 522 acres of open space.
Future of the site
“All future uses are just ideas at this point,” Hoby said, adding that any future development will include plenty of opportunities for community input.
However, he presented a few ideas at two community meetings on March 2 and 5. The same information was presented at both meetings.
Some of Jeffco Open Space's ideas, at this point, include turning Heritage Square into a public park, relocating Open Space's headquarters to the site, exploring food-and-beverage opportunities for a portion of it and turning part of the site into a business park. More than one of these can feasibly be implemented, but it could include selling a portion of the land.
Two things that Hoby said are not options: housing development or additional mining.
There are two other benefits to the proposed land swap. One is potential trail connectivity along U.S. 40. This could provide better, multimodal access to and from places like the Jeffco government center and the nearby Dinosaur Parking Lots, for example.
The other benefit is future reservoir/water storage. With this re-use of the mining site, it would be possible to store “about as much water as Chatfield Reservoir does today,” according to Jeffco Open Space.
PLAN Jeffco, a nonprofit volunteer-led organization of open space advocates based in Jefferson County, supports the proposed land exchange, said Peter Morales, the organization’s co-president.
“Ultimately, there would be great gains to Open Space with all the land that would come with it,” Morales said. “Open Space is an important aspect to the quality of life for Jefferson County residents and the rest of the metro area.”
However, unlike most projects with a foreseeable future of about a year to a year-and-a-half for completion, this proposed project is looking far into the future, Morales said. The important thing now is the vision, he said.
“Now is the time to start thinking about it,” Morales said.
Concerns of the proposed land swap
Although there are many benefits, Open Space does have some concerns about the proposed land swap, Hoby said.
If the community favors the site to be turned into a public park, it would cost a lot of money, Hoby said. And the only funds available for that would come from lottery money — Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), which “invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state's parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces,” states its website — and the county's Open Space Fund.
“I want to make sure we don't overburden the Open Space Fund,” Hoby said.
Depletion of it would mean funds would not be available to purchase other lands, should they become available, for open space use, he said.
Hoby also pointed out the ongoing concern of the impact to nature — wildlife and landscape views, for example — that any kind of development might have.
The land exchange proposal is just the beginning of a lengthy process to determine what may become of Heritage Square.
The proposal is expected go in front of the Jeffco Open Space Advisory Committee this spring for review and eventually, a recommendation to the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners.
“Until we get to final terms, we're in negotiations,” Hoby said.
Anticipating a date sometime this summer, the county commissioners will entertain a public hearing on the proposed land exchange and a vote.
Pending the county commissioners' approval, Open Space will start working on planning and land use for the site, expected to occur during the fall this year through possibly summer 2020.
If the exchange happens, Open Space will own the land, but Heritage Square is in the city of Golden's jurisdiction. This means any site plan and development proposal will have to go through the proper channels with Golden before any construction could begin.
The site is zoned for mixed use, which allows for residential, office, lodging/hotel and light industrial, among others, said Steve Glueck, Golden's community and economic development director, at the March 5 meeting.
Additionally, should the land exchange happen, Open Space would consider conveying the Bachman property to Golden for possible use as an historical, neighborhood park and trail. Golden's park and recreation department and advisory board would be involved with this.
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