One of the major goals of the City Administration is to increase the city’s population so as to create more customers using local businesses. The largest remaining undeveloped area left in Lakewood is the Rooney Valley on the southwest edge of the city abutting Morrison and unincorporated Jeffco.
The northern two-thirds of Rooney Valley is part of the City while the southern one-third of the valley is in the Village of Morrison. The City and Morrison have a joint management plan for the valley called Plan Rooney Valley. Over the past decade, an Inter-Government Agreement (IGA) has governed operation of development in the valley. So far the development has concentrated in the Solterra neighborhood.
Morrison has been trying to develop a shopping center (called Red Rocks Centre) on their portion of the valley at the northeast corner of the C-470 and Morrison Road interchange. However, developers have been unwilling to build commercial projects without more customers in the immediate area.
Morrison currently has over 300 acres and water rights for up to 5000 dwelling units. Morrison’s current zoning allows for over 1000 additional dwelling units. However, if Morrison were to allow the owner/developer to build homes on this land, the new residents would become citizens of Morrison. The village does not want this because Morrison only has about 400 citizens. The new residents would outnumber (and outvote) the current residents and be able to take over the village government. To avoid destroying the character of their village, Morrison wants Lakewood to take the new residents into the City.
Developer Seeks to Expand Special District Without the Necessary Authorization
In the category of making lemonade out of lemons Lakewood City Attorney is seeking to turn the political debacle involving the City’s “gift” to the Rooney Valley developers into a back-door green light to develop Dino Ridge, Bandimere and the remaining open areas of Rooney Valley.
In 2007, Lakewood gave $3 million and Jeffco gave $6 million to a developer group (Green Tree metro district) to build the freeway interchange at C-470 and Alameda in order to facilitate development of the Rooney Valley. To get it through public scrutiny it was described as a “loan” that would be paid back by the new residents that were enticed in. However, it was never intended to be repaid and was quickly forgotten.
A decade later, during November’s de-TABOR election, critics questioned why the City should retain the citizens’ TABOR refunds when there was millions of dollars owed the City from the developers. At first the City claimed it was not a loan that needed to be repaid.
Now the developers and the City Attorney have come up with a scheme to either get out of the loan repayment or to use it as a way to get around the legal requirement the City must approve any changes in the “special districts” they created in the valley.
The developers want to expand their current districts (Big Sky and Green Tree) to create a regional sewer provider to allow for the development of the remainder of the valley. However, in order to do this they have to apply to the City for a modification in their original service plan that only authorized services in properties within the City borders.
They are now proposing a “settlement agreement” that does NOT pay back the original 2007 loans but rather offers a new promise to pay back sometime in the next couple decades.
In return for yet another promise to pay back the loan, they want the City to give up its oversight requirements and allow the developers to merge the two special districts. The settlement further specifies IF the new district is not allowed to exploit local water districts to facilitate their sewer-provider plan then they won’t have to pay back the new loan promises.
So the deal is IF the City gives them everything they want now (the blank check to turn a public utility into a profit-making business) in return they will make a new promise to pay back the loans someday.
And the City Attorney is saying this sell-out is in the “best interests” of Lakewood citizens.