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7 acres near Elk Meadow eyed for open space

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By Vicky Gits

Jefferson County Open Space has recommended the county purchase 7 acres of residential-zoned vacant land adjacent to Elk Meadow Park for $600,000 and maintain it as a nature preserve.

The purchase has to be voted on and approved by the county commissioners.

The proposal was unveiled during a regular monthly meeting of the Open Space Advisory Committee in Golden on Sept. 4.

Most of the committee members agreed the land should be incorporated into Elk Meadow Park, although two voted against the purchase for cost reasons.

“We think it’s important to protect the view shed,” said committee member Rebecca Watson.

“It’s very visible from the Pioneer Trail,” said Felicity Hannay.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property, but I was hoping it would fit more into the limited resources, instead of making a large park 7 acres bigger, when we could use landscaping,” Ken Morfit said.

John Litz said he was voting yes on grounds it was a significant riparian area.

Morfit and Bob West voted no.

The open space committee, which is responsible for making acquisitions, held a 20-minute executive session to obtain legal advice and then agreed to allow staff to go forward with a $600,000 offer.

The square-shaped 7 acres have been owned by Warren and Virginia Lewis since 1959. The parcel is part of the 25 acres that was rezoned in 2005 for single-family housing and the Rocky Mountain Academy.

The Jefferson County commissioners approved the 2005 rezoning from agricultural-2 to planned development zoning to allow as many as 17 single-family homes and a school.

At the time, the rezoning was highly contentious and opposed by a sizable contingent of neighbors. But in the end, three commissioners voted in favor of the school and 17 houses.

The purchase means the land will be left vacant as a nature preserve and that only eight houses instead of 17 can be built. The zoning approval states the developer must build an easement to the remaining residential use area, and the easement must come from other than John Wallace Road, except for emergencies.

At the time of the rezoning, the voting commissioners were Kevin McCasky, Dave Auburn and Jim Congrove.

The open space program is funded by a 0.5 percent sales tax. Since 1972, more than $285 million has been spent in the cities and unincorporated areas of the county to acquire over 51,000 acres of land, water and facilities. In 1998, voters approved a bond of $160 million for property acquisition.