The city of Golden will not continue its legal fight against a land swap between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (JPPHA).
Golden Mayor Marjorie Sloan said the decision was made during a closed-door meeting on Jan. 10.
“It was based on the pros and cons, presented by our legal counsel,” Sloan said.
After a year in the courts, a federal judge in late December ruled against Golden, the city of Superior, and environmental groups WildEarth Guardians and Rocky Mountain Wild. The groups had argued in a joint lawsuit that the Fish and Wildlife Service had not acted appropriately in granting a 300-foot major highway right-of-way along the eastern edge of the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge to the JPPHA for more than $10 million.
Specifically, the groups argued there had not been proper environmental review of how the highway might affect any remaining contaminants in the Rocky Flats area, as well as the presence of endangered species in the area.
“It took the judge 96 pages to resolve all the claims (in favor of the JPPHA). We still believe we had a solid justification,” Sloan said.
However, proving that a government agency had acted illegally concerning its own area of expertise is an uphill battle, Sloan said.
Golden Finance Director Jeff Hansen said he has kept a running total of the city’s legal fees involved in the fighting of the parkway plan, going back to 1997.
“Since that time we have spent slightly over $2.3 million,” Hansen said.
Sloan said she could not speculate whether Golden might legally challenge any future efforts of the JPPHA to complete the parkway — a 10-mile tollway that is considered one of the missing links in the 470 beltway.
Sloan did say that the city’s best option moving forward seems to be “working with CDOT on technical solutions to make the roads work for those who live here, and for traffic still move smoothly for those just passing through.”
To that end, Sloan said the city has just updated its Highway 6 to 93 corridor plan, existing stretches of road that might be expanded to become part of the beltway.
The JPPHA held a short meeting Jan. 17, its first meeting of the year, and the first since acquisition of what it calls the “Rocky Flats transportation corridor.”
“Congratulations for everybody who was involved with this complex transaction,” said Jefferson County Commissioner and JPPHA board member Donald Rosier at the meeting.
“It was an additional year, but we got it done,” said Arvada Mayor and JPPHA Chair Marc Williams about the year-long legal battle.
The JPPHA still has years of planning and study ahead of it before construction would begin on the parkway, according to the group’s Interim Executive Director Bill Ray.
Though the land swap has already occurred, the other members of the original lawsuit have already filed appeals to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. First briefs are expected to be filed in the appeals case as early as February.