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Appeals court ruling paves the way for Northwest Parkway land swap

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By Ramsey Scott

A controversial deal between Jeffco, Boulder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service involving 640 acres of the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant was finalized Dec. 31. 

The deal transfers ownership of the land to the federal government to be used as a wildlife refuge. In exchange, Boulder has ended its longstanding opposition to a 3-mile, 300-foot transportation corridor being granted to the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority east of the refuge.

That corridor is a key acquisition for the proposed Jefferson Parkway, the final segment of the metro Denver beltway, said Jeffco Commissioner Don Rosier.

“There are a lot of next steps,” Rosier said. “This will allow us to move forward.”

With the land deal now moving forward thanks to a ruling by a federal appeals court, it will be easier to find private partners to invest in the proposed toll road, Rosier said.

Jeffco’s purchase of the 640-acre parcel, known as Section 16, with $5 million of Open Space funds in December 2011 came under fire from several environmental groups, as well as the cities of Superior and Golden, which sued to stop the land deal. 

“We believe using the lawsuit was one tool we had to promote an appropriate regional transportation solution,” said Joe Behm, a member of the Golden City Council. “We’re not opposed to transportation solutions that include Golden, but we want it to be cooperative and reflect our local needs.”

Some saw the county’s use of Open Space money to fund a purchase that would lead to development as counter to the intent of the taxpayer-approved fund. 

Behm said Golden’s City Council must now decide how to move forward, including whether or not to appeal the court’s ruling.

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.