Boulder County advisory panel to consider conservation easement purchase north of Longmont

If you go

What: Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Third-floor hearing room, Boulder County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl St., Boulder

People traveling into Longmont‘s northeast side wouldn‘t be greeted by oil derricks on at least one farm northwest of Colo. 66 and East County Line Road, under terms of a conservation-easement acquisition that‘s been negotiated with the farm‘s property and mineral rights owners, according to the Boulder County staff.

Boulder County‘s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee on Thursday night is to consider the county‘s proposed participation in a joint effort with Longmont to pay $720,000 to buy a conservation easement to limit future development of the 20-acre Harper property at the northwest corner of Colo. 66 and East County Line Road.

Mel Stonebraker, a land officer in the county‘s Parks and Open Space Department, wrote the advisory panel that ownership of the mineral rights has been severed from the property‘s surface rights but that there is no existing oil and gas lease of those mineral rights.

As part of the sale of the conservation easement, the Harper family and the owners of the mineral rights have agreed to sign a covenant to not disturb the surface of the property, Stonebraker said.

That means that if the mineral rights were ever leased to an oil and gas company, the leaseholder would not be allowed to drill wells or install tank batteries or any other oil- and gas-related infrastructure on the Harper property‘s surface, he said.

Drilling would have to be done directionally, from another location away from the property northwest of Colo. 66 and County Line Road.

Under the proposal, the city and county would pay $720,000 to purchase the conservation easement over the Harper property at 12621 Ute Highway, with Boulder County paying $240,000 and the city $480,000.

The Harper property would remain in private ownership, but the two local governments‘ conservation easement would restrict future development of the land.

On the west end of the property, there now is a 4-acre area that includes an existing house and all the agricultural accessory buildings. A building envelope would be placed around that area, Stonebraker said.

All structures now or in the future could only be within that 4-acre envelope, and the conservation easement would limit the property to no more than one residence and the size of that residence to no more than 6,000 square feet. The total agricultural accessory buildings would also be limited to no more than 6,000 square feet.

The rest of the property, about 16 acres, is now used to grow hay and pasture horses. Under the terms of the conservation easement, no development of any kind would be permitted on that acreage.

“The Harper property is located at the intersection of two of the busiest roads in Boulder County. It stands at the eastern gateway to Boulder County and the northeastern gateway to the city of Longmont. The city and county feel it is important that the property remains as it is today, essentially undeveloped, so that the open space presented by the eastern 16 acres of the property remain visible as people enter the county and city at that location,” Stonebraker said in a memo for Thursday night‘s county advisory panel‘s meeting.

“While the property is currently zoned residential, there is no certainty that it will remain so. The city and county believe it is valuable to guarantee that at some future date the property not be rezoned for commercial use. The acquisition of the conservation easement would eliminate that possibility and insure that the property is protected and remains undeveloped.”

The county‘s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee is to consider whether to recommend that the Board of County Commissioners proceed with the conservation easement purchase by the county and Longmont.

The Longmont City Council last month directed the city staff to proceed with negotiations for the Harper conservation easement acquisition.