The news that Jefferson County Open Space is considering a proposal for a land swap from Martin Marietta Materials, concerning Heritage Square, has gotten people curious about what may become of the …
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The news that Jefferson County Open Space is considering a proposal for a land swap from Martin Marietta Materials, concerning Heritage Square, has gotten people curious about what may become of the vacant property.
However, that decision may not be made until later this year.
Heritage Square is “in a beautiful spot (that’s) very representative of Jefferson County,” said Tom Hoby, director of Jefferson County Open Space, during a community meeting on March 5.
“The art of it,” he added, will be providing something that is a benefit for the community with the least amount of negative impacts.
The land exchange proposal
Jeffco Open Space recently received a proposal from Martin Marietta Materials — the mining company that currently owns the Heritage Square property — about a land exchange.
“For now,” Hoby said, “we’re looking at it as a land-for-land deal.”
The proposal has three components. First, Open Space would receive 83.7 acres from Martin Marietta. This land consists of 78 acres of the former Heritage Square site — which is 125 acres total — and the 5.7-acre Bachman property located at U.S. 40 and Heritage Road.
Second, Open Space would deed about 64 acres of Matthews/Winters Park to Martin Marietta. This portion of Matthews/Winters Park is located north of I-70 and is currently not open for public use.
Third, Martin Marietta would deed the remaining 47 acres of the 125-acre Heritage Square site to Open Space, once mining operations are complete, in 25 or more years. This would be in addition to the mine’s entire 285 acres that Open Space will gain — when mining and reclamation are complete — from a 2002 deal. That deal, between Jeffco Open Space and Lafarge of North America, former property owner of the mine, exchanged 60 acres of Matthews/Winters Park for 522 acres of open space.
Future of the site
“All future uses are just ideas at this point,” Hoby said, adding that any future development will include plenty of opportunities for community input.
However, he presented a few ideas at two community meetings on March 2 and 5. The same information was presented at both meetings.
Some of Jeffco Open Space’s ideas, at this point, include turning Heritage Square into a public park, relocating Open Space’s headquarters to the site, exploring food-and-beverage opportunities for a portion of it and turning part of the site into a business park, or some combination of those.
More than one of these can feasibly be implemented, but it could include selling a portion of the land.
Two things that Hoby said are not options: housing development or additional mining.
PLAN Jeffco, a nonprofit volunteer-led organization of open space advocates based in Jefferson County, supports the proposed land exchange, said Peter Morales, the organization’s co-president.
“Ultimately, there would be great gains to Open Space with all the land that would come with it,” Morales said. “Open Space is an important aspect to the quality of life for Jefferson County residents and the rest of the metro area.”
However, unlike most projects with a foreseeable future of about a year to a year-and-a-half for completion, this proposed project is looking far into the future, Morales said. The important thing now is the vision, he said.
“Now is the time to start thinking about it,” Morales said.
The land exchange proposal is just the beginning of a lengthy process to determine what may become of Heritage Square.
The proposal is expected go in front of the Jeffco Open Space Advisory Committee this spring for review and eventually, a recommendation to the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners.
“Until we get to final terms, we’re in negotiations,” Hoby said.
Anticipating a date sometime this summer, the county commissioners will entertain a public hearing on the proposed land exchange and a vote.
Pending the county commissioners’ approval, Open Space will start working on planning and land use for the site, expected to occur during the fall this year through possibly summer 2020.
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