Longmont Group Seeks To Halt Church Annexation

A group of Longmont residents, distressed over a city council vote approving a controversial annexation of a hunk of land designated for a substantial Christian-based development, took steps today to force elected officials to reconsider — or push the matter to a vote of the people.

“What I’m hoping they’re going to do is listen to what the citizens of Longmont are saying,” said Jen Gartner, a Longmont resident who is working with a core group opposed to the annexation.

Earlier this month, Gartner and others delivered a petition, signed by 880 Longmont residents, opposing the plan. However, after three hours of sometimes-heated testimony, the city council approved the annexation 6-1. The plan allows LifeBridge Christian Church, and its nonprofit development arm, Corporation for Community Christian Connections, to annex 348 acres to the city of Longmont, on which it plans to build 700 homes, a 160,000-square foot fitness center and commercial retail space.The petition was circulated to Longmont residents using a listserv generated by the Denver-based liberal group ProgressNow, but Gartner says the organization otherwise has no formal involvement.

Gartner says that opponents are concerned over the religious aspect of the development — including questions about whether the church’s nonprofit status will allow homeowners within that community to be exempted from property taxes. In that scenario, property owners in the rest of Longmont could be forced to bear the cost of paying for infrastructure and other costs in the new annexation.

But Gartner said a number of other questions have not been addressed, including the potential environmental impacts of the annexation, which is near Union Reservoir three miles east of Longmont.

Opponents, Gartner maintains, would be just as concerned about the proposal if it were a Wal-Mart or a McStain neighborhood.

The city clerk has five days to approve the group’s referendum petition and, once approved, they will have 21 days to collect 4,021 valid signatures. If they are successful, Gartner said the group plans to take the petitions to the city council and ask for them to reverse their approval of the annexation. If they won’t, she said, then they will likely take the issue to a general vote.

The group has set up a website, What’s in it for Longmont.

Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at cdegette@coloradoconfidential.com

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