Editor's Note: 'Our Colorado' helps us all navigate the challenges related to growth while celebrating life in the state we love. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at OurCO@TheDenverChannel.com. See more 'Our Colorado' stories here.
LAFAYETTE, Colo. — Residents in Lafayette are accusing the city’s redevelopment agency of buying land from under local businesses to sell to a developer to build condominiums, and doing it all behind closed doors.
“With this project, they have not breathed one word about it in public,” resident Seth White told Denver7.
The "they” he’s referring to is the Lafayette Urban Renewal Authority, or LURA. The agency's description on the city’s website reads in part: “The authority works in partnership with property owners to improve existing structures, bring new commercial and mixed-use development to raw land within the blighted area, and prevent deterioration of properties within the area.”
But White and fellow resident Vicky Uhland say the authority is overstepping their bounds by buying land along South Public Road, and in the process, forcing out small businesses. Two businesses between Kimbark Street and Waneka Parkway have closed recently, including Coal Creek Barbers and La Nena’s Beauty Salon.
“A few of us heard from the local businesses,” Uhland said.
Denver7’s Jason Gruenauer spoke to multiple sources who confirmed that LURA is planning on buying “the entire block” of land on the west side of South Public Road with plans to sell to a developer to build condominiums, possibly as part of a mixed use development.
“Why are we looking at scraping historic character form our downtown?” Uhland asked.
“And they won’t discuss their vision, goals, motivation, or how their plans are in keeping with the will of Lafayette citizens,” White added.
There is no mention of the project on the city’s website, and Uhland and White claim it’s never been discussed at any of LURA’s public meetings.
“This is not only our tax dollars but it’s our city block and I think people have a right to weigh in on that,” Uhland said.
That’s why she decided to start a petition, titled “Save our Public Road,” on Sunday. More than 275 have signed as of Tuesday afternoon.
“It shows a broad section of Lafayette is interested and upset by this,” she said.
LURA responded with a statement, stating that the property owner along South Public Road has decided to sell.
LURA has collaborated with the property owner to provide administrative resources to assist his existing tenants with potential relocation, and to ease transition to the next step of preparing the property for redevelopment.
A final plan for the property has not been established. Any plans for a final project along the 700 block of Public Road will be discussed in public meetings and extensive community and stakeholder input is anticipated.
The statement went on to claim that LURA did not violate any transparency standards, citing Colorado law regarding executive sessions.
A regular scheduled city council meeting is planned for Tuesday night. The meeting will include a behind-closed-doors executive session, which according to the agenda, is “to obtain legal advice regarding the acquisition and disposition of property by Urban Renewal Authorities." A city spokesperson said that was not in reference to any specific project.
“There needs to be light shed on what’s happening. This is an entire block of our historic center, the heart of Lafayette,” White said. “And they’re determining its entire future in secret and that’s not OK.”