A controversial church-backed commercial and residential development has withdrawn its application to be annexed by the city of Longmont. The 348-acre Union Project was part of an effort by LifeBridge mega-church to enter the development business.
The Longmont City Council’s initial approval of the annexation of the project from Weld County sparked a grassroots’ political revolution that would have put the annexation to a vote of the people in January.Instead, LifeBridge on Friday announced through its development arm, 4C, that it had withdrawn its request for annexation by Longmont.
“Though we believe the opposition to Union is based on misconceptions and misinformation, our goal is to serve the community, rather than divide it,” 4C official Martin Dickey said in a statement.
The council’s support for the project caused a fast, successful collection of signatures to overturn the annexation. Though only one Longmont Council member voted against annexation, questions remained among city residents about a church getting into the commercial and residential real estate business on such a grand scale, as well as concerns that the project would cost the city more than it would pay in revenues.
“This will be good for the city’s infrastructure,” opposition leader Jen Gartner said of LifeBridge backing out of the annexation fight. “We need to focus on existing needs.”
Gartner, who helped raise several thousand signatures on petitions to force a vote on the annexation, believes a January election would have overturned the council’s actions on the Union Project anyway.
“This lets people know they can have a voice,” Gartner said. “We were very successful in a very short amount of time. I hope the new council will be more responsive to the people.”
The Union issue played in November elections, which appeared to change the balance of the Longmont Council from a majority of Union supporters to a majority that questioned the project.
In his statement, Dickey said 4C and LifeBridge will continue with plans for the development that envisions retail shops and homes costing as much as $2 million. But the project will be built in Weld County.
He acknowledged the change in political sentiments in Longmont.
“Last month … a new city council was elected and they are currently in the process of defining a new direction for Longmont,” Dickey’s statement said. “Based on public statements of the majority of city council, Union does not fit into the new direction. To date, the Union annexation process
has delayed construction of the project by two years and any additional delays will impose a hardship on the congregation of LifeBridge Christian Church.”
Without annexation, the LifeBridge project will pay tens of millions of dollars more for water, according to Longmont Councilwoman Karen Benker, the only council member to vote against the annexation.