Let’s talk Hughes and the Environment

Let's talk Hughes and the Environment

Throughout Fort Collins, we’re living the impact of a singular focus on building a community around an admittedly very-special hub: Old Town.

While I love and appreciate what Old Town has to offer, when it comes to the edges of Fort Collins, we’ve left it largely to developers to fund and plan literally everything. That’s a sure-fire recipe for sprawl, upward spiraling housing costs, congestion, and car dependency.

Worse: because many areas of Fort Collins’ GMA are in the County or overlapping with service areas, things like Fort Collins’ trail system, canopy initiatives, xeriscaping grants and conservation rebates, and smart ideas like buried power lines and other services are not available or heavily modified for most neighbors in North East Fort Collins in District 1 – this dependency on development to fund basic city service improvements ultimately increases the cost and decreases safety and quality of life for ALL neighbors of Fort Collins.

Low-hanging fruit in the area of conservation and sustainability – insisting on xeriscaping and water-and-energy saving features by default in new homes created in our community, partnering with HOAs to establish xeric gardens, pollinator pathways, and recycling/composting training initiatives, and partnering with ELCO and FCLWD to expand rebate and grant programs for water conservation – are not pursued.

These are key distinctions between my opponent and I; and key to how you cast your ballot. Shortly after being elected, I asked my opponent if she’d join me for a neighborhood walk – she declined, preferring to meet at Sprouts instead of seeing the issues first-hand. This pattern repeated time and time again in her approach to issues in front of the Council.

Beyond being frustrating and disenfranchising for neighbors to be so disconnected and ignored, these issues are also informative for our neighbors in all non-central areas of the City, none more so than our neighbors near Hughes.

Development should not be required to fund infrastructure improvements. I’ve been asked many times about my position on Hughes – and here’s where I’m at: we need more creative solutions than what we’ve currently got from our City Council.

My stance on Hughes is this: Hughes is special and open space should be preserved, and as a small business owner whose job is to be creative on a regular basis, it’s incredibly frustrating that the lack of imagination around these negotiations required the PATHS team and so many neighbors to stand up and use the only tool they had at their disposal in this ballot initiative.

I don’t like the ballot initiative because it forces a polarizing action and opens us for a potential lawsuit when more tact can be enacted to get a truly visionary outcome for Fort Collins. This is not a slight on PATHS who understandably sought out whatever point of leverage they could find.

I simultaneously dislike the necessity of the ballot initiative while appreciating the passion and advocacy behind the PATHS team’s intent. I believe after discussing with the PATHS team and other stakeholders that the most likely outcome will leave our natural areas worse off, even while working to make sure Hughes stays open.

The ballot initiative is a mallet that will bludgeon CSU and the City back to the table with no foresight to unintended consequences, and I dislike it from that perspective despite fully agreeing that Hughes is a bad spot to turn into houses or place a transit center.

The wording of the ballot measure opens up the City to be sued regardless of the outcome. We’ve got a track record of this happening in other areas, and I don’t think it’s a gross misrepresentation to say that doubling our bid from $7M to $14M (the amount required per the Coloradoan to offset CSU’s development option) is going to leave a lot less money in the budget for other things like creating recreation paths and improving the transportation infrastructure in that part of town, two things both desperately needed according to the neighbors I’ve talked to in that area. This budget shortfall also occurs with a lawsuit.

Per that article: “If the ballot measure passes, the city would “resume efforts to acquire” the land, Daggett said, picking up where it left off last fall with a purchase offer of about $7 million for all but 10 acres of the site. CSU System’s Board of Governors rejected the offer after Chancellor Tony Frank said it was too low. Lennar Homes is under contract to purchase the site for $10 million, and the CSU System expects to make an estimated $4 million in revenue-sharing from Lennar home sales.”


“Passage of the ballot measure, then, would force the city to revisit negotiations that were unsuccessful last year. It would also present the possibility of a legal challenge contesting the election outcome or the city’s rezoning decision. It wouldn’t be the first time the city’s been sued over a ballot measure – the Colorado Oil and Gas Association sued Fort Collins over its citizen-initiated fracking moratorium, which was ultimately struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court after a costly legal battle.”

The ballot initiative also makes it ridiculously easy for opponents and proponents to become hyper-polarized around a specific outcome and in either case: Fort Collins loses the best possible outcomes as parties to the negotiation get pissed off and walk away leaving the most optimal outcomes on the table. Folks I’ve talked with in the PATHS team agree and acknowledged the lawsuit outcome could come to pass despite best intentions. I’ve had multiple conversations on this element alone with key stakeholders.

Why not pursue a land-swap for the Mulberry corridor where a transit center would make so much more sense as it could connect regionally to Greeley, Windsor, Wellington, and Longmont easily, and you could develop much-needed connective infrastructure for more nearby neighbors? A similar land swap in the past with CSU resulted in both The Gardens on Spring Creek and the UCA + Experimental Flower Gardens.

Why not pursue affordable housing in tangent with the Kroger redevelopment on Drake + College and build upward with CSU establishing staff housing for folks at 30-75% AMI directly adjacent to the MAX bus line?

Why not augment the trails system and establish the institute for sustainable outdoor recreation policy and hire directly and purposefully from the local homeless population to build and maintain trails in partnership with Bike Fort Collins, The Murphy Center, and Outreach Fort Collins?

I mean, these are just a few informal ideas by your neighbor running for City Council, but… they’re better than the most extreme outcomes that seem to be likely, right? As a small business owner, being creative and a capable negotiator is the name of the game – it’s creative leadership expertise that I can bring to the table.

Does the ideal outcome seem likely if we insist on bludgeoning the parties back to the negotiation table?

My fear is that Hughes might be preserved through a largely pyrrhic victory and take generations to restore and responsibly re-path. That would be a lesser victory for everybody when more tact and creativity to save Hughes AND enable creative improvements across our City in partnership with CSU and the Developer could be empowered by way of a new Council, an outcome that seems likely in the very near future.

Ultimately: vote your conscience, either way it’s exceedingly likely the City will be getting sued and regardless of the outcome, getting the best results for the City (saving the Hughes open space, augmenting it with new and desperately needed trails, and achieving the goals of a regional transit center and affordable housing elsewhere in the City) is going to require creativity, negotiation savvy, and tact from City Council.

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