Boulder County finalizes purchase of BNSF land
December 7, 2017
Plans for a parking lot west of Old Town Niwot took another step closer to reality last week after Boulder County and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) closed on the deal to purchase a two-acre vacant parcel between Murray Street and the railroad tracks north of the Excel Electric building on Dec. 1.
The final purchase price was $170,000 plus inspection, survey and closing costs, which the Boulder County Commissioners formally approved in their business meeting on Nov. 28. On hand for the closing were long-time Niwot Business Association volunteer Tim Wise, who helped initiate efforts to buy the property as far back as 1994, and Biff Warren of the Niwot Future League, which negotiated the deal, along with Conrad Lattes from the Boulder County Attorney’s Office, who was authorized to sign purchase documents on behalf of the Commissioners.
In other parking lot developments, the commissioners held a public hearing on Nov. 28, to vote on a proposed update to the Land Use Code that will allow for “offsite parking in areas where onsite parking is constrained and where the allowance of offsite parking facilities would help maintain the character and function of the area.” In short, the proposed amendments will allow parking as a primary use in more than one type of zoning after a special review process.
Back on Nov. 15, the Boulder County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of amendments, which also include a lengthy provision concerning requirements for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in parking lots with more than 15 spaces.
The planning commission approval was granted over the strenuous objection of several residents of Niwot’s Murray Street, who argued that a public parking lot across from their homes will lead to obstructed views, increased traffic and decreased property values.
No such contingent was on hand during the county commissioner hearing’s public comment period, but the commissioners did review written comments beforehand, both from members of the public and other interested parties. Satisfied that many concerns had been addressed appropriately, the commissioners voted 2-0 to approve the amendments. (Commissioner Domenico was absent.)
“I feel like we threw a party and no one showed up,” commented Commissioner Elise Jones before the final vote. “…I suppose that’s the culmination of a good public process, if all concerns and questions have been addressed at this point.”
Public parking in Niwot is still months, if not years, away from realization. Any specific designs will be required to undergo the County’s Special Review process, which includes public participation, and must meet strict standards for safety, landscaping, and stormwater management. The lot may also be required to have at least one Electrical Vehicle (EV) charging station, which will add thousands of dollars in additional costs.