Jeffco Open Space seeking to streamline land acquisition process

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By Ramsey Scott

Jefferson County Open Space is looking to streamline its process for acquiring property. 

During the Open Space Advisory Committee's retreat last week, committee members discussed a blanket resolution that would allow the Open Space Division to enter into negotiations for property that fits into its master plan.

Under the current system, if Open Space is approached by a landowner wishing to sell property, it must seek permission from the advisory committee before beginning negotiations. 

"We were recommending we do something similar to our peers in the governmental sector, which is providing (Open Space) a resolution one time and allow us more flexibility to discuss with the landowner the details of a sale," said Amy Ito, manager of park planning and construction for Open Space. "As of now, we cannot actively negotiate with the landowner until we have gone to the Open Space Advisory Committee. Sometimes that can be somewhat limiting, depending on the timing."

Ito said that because the committee meets only once a month, a significant amount of time can elapse between when a property becomes available and when Open Space can determine a price for it. That delay can be a burden on a landowner who wants to sell property to Open Space, Ito said. 

"We're not saying the system is broken. It's certainly workable. But is it as beneficial as it could be? No," Ito said. "In my mind, if we can even improve one land deal or one point of clarification for landowners, it's worth doing."

Open Space already has a blanket resolution to enter into negotiations for property located in specific areas, like the Hogback. 

Ito said Open Space would still have to gain approval of the advisory committee and the Board of County Commissioners before any land was purchased. The new process would also include briefing the advisory committee on real estate negotiations as they are progressing, something not currently done.