Developer sues Elk Creek Fire

Lawsuit wants to force the department to approve a Fire Service Expansion Agreement

Deb Hurley Brobst
dbrobst@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/16/21

The developer trying to build a controversial housing development behind Conifer Safeway is asking a judge to compel the Elk Creek Fire Protection District to sign a Fire Service Expansion Agreement …

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Developer sues Elk Creek Fire

Lawsuit wants to force the department to approve a Fire Service Expansion Agreement

Posted

The developer trying to build a controversial housing development behind Conifer Safeway is asking a judge to compel the Elk Creek Fire Protection District to sign a Fire Service Expansion Agreement that would provide it with adequate equipment and personnel to provide fire and medical services to the property.

The lawsuit, filed in district court in Jefferson County on May 6, says Elk Creek Fire negotiated the agreement with Foothills Housing 1, led Foothills to believe it would be approved, and then the district’s board denied it.

On April 8, the Elk Creek Fire board voted 3-2 not to approve the agreement that would have allowed Foothills to spend about $3 million to buy the district a fire truck and pay part of the salaries for three additional firefighters. Those voting to approve the agreement said it would improve fire service for all residents in the district.

Those who voted against said they felt the agreement would give the appearance that the developer was trying to get preferential treatment through the agreement. In addition, they were unhappy with what one board member called a “gag order” that didn’t allow district officials to say anything negative about the development once the agreement was signed.

Elk Creek Fire Chief Jacob Ware said last week that he could not comment on the lawsuit because it was in litigation. Stuart Borne, who represents Foothills Housing 1, also did not want to comment because he didn’t want to “inflame the situation” further.

Foothills Housing 1 is hoping to build 188 residential units on 47 acres. The development was originally called Conifer Commons and is now called Conifer Center.

A vocal group of area residents are vehemently opposed to the development, and they have voiced their concerns to Jeffco Planning & Zoning and the county commissioners. The concerns are typical of those in the foothills who oppose large developments: water availability, wildfire evacuations, fire protection and the number of additional cars that would fill already congested roads, including U.S. 285.

As of late last week, Elk Creek had not responded to the lawsuit.

Background

In April 2020 after Foothills filed it rezoning application, Ware wrote a letter to Jefferson County Planning & Zoning stating: “The fire district would be ‘unable to protect’ the proposed development because the fire district lacks the funding mechanism, infrastructure, staffing, operational resources and specialized firefighting. apparatus to service the proposed higher density rezoning use. The fire district would recommend that the rezoning be denied at this time to allow further study of all the impacts of the proposed rezoning.”

Subsequently, Foothills and Elk Creek Fire representatives began negotiations that resulted in the Fire Service Expansion Agreement. If the agreement was signed, the fire department’s objection to the development would be gone, and the developer could move forward with the rezoning application.

The lawsuit alleges that “despite previous agreements and promises, as well as what is fiscally responsible for Elk Creek, its Board of Directors has taken steps to thwart development plans of Foothills on the project. Specifically, … Elk Creek repudiated its prior agreement with Foothills and rejected the Fire Service Expansion Agreement.”

Foothills also contends in the lawsuit that “Elk Creek’s efforts to become involved in land use planning … are beyond its statutory powers.”

The lawsuit asks the court to order Elk Creek to sign the agreement and to pay “substantial, continuing and increasing damages resulting from Elk Creek’s repudiation and breach of its obligations to provide service to Foothills.”

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