Proposed agreement would have Mines agree to a new review process

Deal would set building height limits on school, but still no veto power for city

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 12/28/20

The city of Golden has released a draft of an intergovernmental agreement between it and Colorado School of Mines that outlines processes and regulations both parties would voluntarily adhere to when …

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Proposed agreement would have Mines agree to a new review process

Deal would set building height limits on school, but still no veto power for city

Posted

The city of Golden has released a draft of an intergovernmental agreement between it and Colorado School of Mines that outlines processes and regulations both parties would voluntarily adhere to when it comes to planning future Mines development and expansion into Golden.

The city is now seeking public comment on the contents of that agreement, which would need to be approved by both the Golden city council and Mines to take effect.

During a virtual public meeting held on Dec. 17, Golden City Manager Jason Slowinski introduced the IGA as the product of long simmering discussions about how the city can best assert its interests when it comes to new development in the city by Mines.

The ability of Golden to regulate and control land use matters involving Mines has long been contested, with Mines asserting that it has a legal right as a state college to engage in activities to provide education that trumps Golden’s right to regulate and control land use within the city.

Slowinski said that while the city is confident in its legal position that its right to regulation overrides those of Mines, City Attorney Dave Williamson has concluded that a legal battle would be extraordinarily expensive and a court would most likely order the two parties to work out land use disagreements among themselves, rather than ruling in one party’s favor.

As a result, Golden and Mines have been operating under what Slowinski described as informal understanding in which Mines goes through the motions of the city’s review process when a new project comes up “but at the same time maintains that they are not subject to our regulations.”

“It really has presented strange conflicts between the city and the university,” Slowinski said. “And it’s never been satisfactory, not for the city, not for the university and certainly not for folks who live near campus and have seen the changes on campus over the years.”

Slowinski said the proposed IGA attempts to address that by providing residents with more certainty and predictability when it comes to addressing concerns related to campus expansion and the issues it can create.

New review and comment process

Among the key tenants of the proposed IGA is a new process it outlines for the city of Golden to review and comment on any proposed construction of new Mines buildings or work on existing ones that would impact their exterior.

That process will begin with a community informational meeting organized by Mines where the community can provide input. Mines is then obligated to hold a second public meeting to explain what project changes have been made and/or rejected. The Golden City Council then has the option of providing a written set of comments, which Mines is then required to respond to after giving them “good faith consideration.”

Golden Community and Economic Development Director Steve Glueck said one potential shortcoming of the agreement is that it does not give the city the power to actually veto projects. That’s because Mines would not agree to giving the city that authority.

“We would most likely need to rely on leverage and political pressure if they are not agreeing to some of the things that are most important to the community,” he said.

Councilmembers Casey Brown and Bill Fisher, however, argued that even without veto power, the agreement does represents a step forward from the city over the status quo.

The proposed agreement also outlines limits for building heights in certain sections of the city. It would limit buildings facing Washington Street to 35 feet or less, buildings facing Jackson Street to 50 feet or less and those east of the alley separating Jackson and Ford streets to 35 feet or less. The agreement would last for five years, with the city hoping to extend it beyond that, but could be severed by either side with 90-days notice.

Public feedback at the meeting was mixed with some hailing the agreement as a step forward while others said it did not address many major concerns and expressed concern about the severability of the agreement.

“This is nothing like what we would think of as a traditional agreement where two sides sit down and try to work together,” Fisher said. It’s a little bit more, ‘how do we kind of exist and maybe use this to build the cooperation I don’t know that we necessarily have had?’”

Brown said a date has not been set for the agreement to go before council as the city wants to ensure residents have time to provide input before that happens.

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