By Vicky Dorvee 

Colterra rebuild mired in confusion


October 18, 2018

Photo by Karen Copperberg Colterra Food and Wine in Niwot suffered extensive damage due to a fire in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Oct 18. Although confined mostly to the kitchen and rafters above it, the restaurant will be closed until further notice. Building inspectors have posted an unsafe to enter sign on the front door.

Owing to a surprise six-month development moratorium imposed on Sept. 20 by the Boulder County Commissioners for the Niwot Rural Community District (NRCD), Bradford Heap, owner of Colterra Restaurant, a mainstay in the Old Town commercial area, stated, “The moratorium is preventing me from reopening [Colterra] and that’s what I know. That’s a fact. I can’t go into the particulars, but there are a lot of things.”

Colterra, which opened in 2005, suffered fire damage to the kitchen in early morning hours and was subsequently shuttered in Oct. 2017. It sits on the corner of Franklin Street and 2nd Avenue, within the NRCD. In addition to the main building where the fire took place, the property includes the historic Bader House, which was used for extra seating and for private parties.

In the Sept. 20 press release titled Boulder County’s Commissioners enact temporary moratorium on processing applications for proposed development in the NRCD, it was stated, “The current regulations concerning the NRCD were written in 1993, and last updated nine years ago, prior to various changes in development patterns, community needs, and population growth. The regulations are due for review in light of the current concerns over the impacts of continuing development activities within these districts and the Niwot community.”

When asked specifically about Colterra’s rebuilding in light of the moratorium, Senior Planner Summer Frederick from the Boulder County Land Use Department stated in a letter:

“The moratorium will not delay Colterra’s SPRW [Site Plan Review Waiver] review/approval process. As I previously stated, and as the owners of Colterra have been informed, because their application was deemed complete prior to the implementation of the moratorium their project is not subject to the moratorium and will continue to move forward. We are waiting for some final information/documentation from the owners to complete our review, and then the Determination Letter will be issued.

“As for building permit applications for interior renovations only that would not be a part of the moratorium. The moratorium applies to those proposals that need a planning review/approval (Site Plan Review, Special Use, Subdivision Exemption, etc.)”

As reported earlier in the Courier, Colterra’s SPRW application, which was submitted in conjunction with Colterra’s insurance company, “indicates that no changes are planned to the historic Bader House on the property. However, the entire rear structure, which was originally built as a barn, was severely damaged and will be demolished. The new structure, which will replace it, will include several modifications to bring it up to current code, including raising the structure by 18 inches to improve drainage, installation of a fire protecting sprinkler system, a small increase in the kitchen size, a new entryway, and a slight reorientation of the building to make it square. The new building will increase in size by 343 square feet.”

Denise Grimm, a senior planner with Boulder County Land Use in the Historic Preservation Office, also stated at the October Niwot LID meeting that Colterra’s proposed plans would not be slowed by the moratorium.

But even in light of county officials’ contention that the moratorium will not stall rebuilding of Colterra, Heap remained unconvinced.

“I put all my life savings and a lot of hard work into this building,” Heap said. “It’s my retirement and I’m really trying to recover from a disaster. Colterra’s been very popular in the community. We’ve created a lot of good memories. We’ve created a lot of taxes. It’s a tremendous asset to Niwot and the moratorium will prevent me from getting a permit. I cannot pull a permit because of the moratorium. And I’m very upset about it.”

Heap added in an email, “This restaurant is also how I feed my family. It’s my livelihood.”

While Heap’s SPRW application to rebuild in the same footprint as the damaged building might be unaffected by the moratorium, any substantial deviation would require Site Plan Review, which would be stopped by the moratorium.

Boulder County is seeking public input to shape the Boulder County Land Use NRCD regulations, which includes property along 2nd Avenue from west of Murray Street to Niwot Road. Staff will provide an overview and answer questions about the moratorium on new development. The primary focus of the meeting, according to the county notice, is to gather community feedback and public comment to inform the revisions to the land use regulations for the NRCD.

More information can be found at


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