July 14, 2008

Ranch Land a Treasure

By J D Hylton

Denver is preparing to step into the international spotlight as the Democratic National Convention approaches, and the city has promised the "greenest" convention ever by implementing practices leading to lasting change.

That's why we think this is a good time for Denver to take a bold step toward a sustainable future by reconsidering plans to sell property that Denver Water has owned since 1930 to a developer who plans high-density residential development along with massive office and commercial space.

We live adjacent to the Fehringer Ranch in Jefferson County just outside the Denver city limits, west of Kipling Parkway and bordering Quincy Avenue. This land is one of the last large undeveloped tracts in metro Denver and is home to abundant wildlife.

Now, Denver Water has agreed to sell 168 acres of the property to LNR Western Investments which announced plans in a series of public meetings to rezone the property to include high-density housing allowing 3,000 or more residents.

We believe that many things have changed since Denver Water decided to sell the land a decade ago, and that another look at this property is in order, using a greener lens.

For example, our metro area went through one of the worst droughts in our history and Denver Water made it clear that continuing extensions of water taps to suburban users could not continue indefinitely. Yet LNR plans to obtain water from Lakehurst Water and Sanitation District, a Denver Water reseller.

The world's top scientists are sounding alarms about the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gases. Why agree to an intensive development of a piece of land that will generate significant pollution when Denver Water could instead use it as a true legacy project? The land could be used to demonstrate carbon sequestration, community-based agriculture, renewable energy development, aquifer recharge, urban wildlife preservation and other landmark uses.

The only reason for the intense development plans that we have received from either the developer or Denver Water is financial. We believe we need to think of costs and benefits in a broader way.

Metro Denver voters agreed to a tax increase to support FasTracks. With a planned public investment of more than $6 billion in a transit system that has not even been started, we believe high- density residential development belongs near these public transportation corridors. Fehringer Ranch is miles from any station or track.

We have documented the presence of at least two threatened sage and grassland species on the property in addition to the teeming wildlife that is using the land as an important sanctuary and corridor. In April, the Colorado Division of Wildlife launched its Habitat Protection Program to preserve and protect habitat critical to such wildlife. The program will be funded this cycle by about $15 million. Through its participation in this program, the city of Denver could further demonstrate its stated commitment to preservation of ecosystems, protection of endangered wildlife and service to all citizens of Colorado.

We hope that Denver Water will take these issues into account before proceeding with the sale of this jewel in our midst.

J.D. Hylton is a national award-winning author, most recently of Thief, and a neighbor of Fehringer Ranch since 1973. Karen Peiffer's family has lived on the Fehringer Ranch since the 1930s. This piece is based on a letter hand-delivered to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and also signed by 57 other neighbors of Fehringer Ranch: Lee Alexander, Ray Anthony, Christian Baker, Travis Barr, Patrick Begley, Marty Broaddus, Mark Bronner, Dr. Hendrika B. Cantwell, Rebecca Cantwell, Dawn Conwell, Barb Davis, Pamela DeBoth, Rudy Dingman, Karen Dingman, Sandy Dodson, Roger M. Edward, David Elkins, Adrienne Franseen, Angie Fulmer, Geraldine Gallegos, Robin Guy, Mike Hester, Jessie Humbert, Bonnie Hylton, Eric Irwin, Suzanne Koecher, Brad Koenig, Kathleen Koenig, Larry Love, Linda Lundborg, Jessie McFadden, Shane Meyer, Annie Morrissey, Blanca Montes, Patricia A. Nelson, Kenneth C. Noble, Miegel Palma, Mark Peiffer, Christie Peiffer, Gary Peiffer, Lisa L. Percival, Janie Reyna, Dawn Richmond, Stormy Richmond, Barbara Robertson, Marvin Ross, Bart Roundy, Patty Roundy, Shane Shine, Rebecca Shine, Brian Snow, Sierra Snow, Helen F. Stanton, Kris Vardaman, Phil von Hake, Joan Waldheim, Bruce Wyatt

Originally published by J.D. Hylton, Karen Peiffer et al.,.

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