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Fort Collins council gives final nod to ‘1041’ rules

FORT COLLINS – The Fort Collins City Council on Tuesday gave final approval to rules that implement its authority to address environmental and other concerns under state “1041” regulations.

Its 6-1 vote, with council member Shirley Peel dissenting, mirrored its first-reading approval at its May 2 meeting.

The ordinance amends the Fort Collins Land Use Code to include the 1041 regulations, which give local governments the ability to regulate particular development projects occurring within their jurisdictions, even when the project has broader impacts. According to materials provided by city staff to council members, “the 1041 regulations would allow for reviewing and permitting of two designated areas and activities of statewide interest: major domestic water, sewage treatment and highway projects.”

Guided by suggestions given by council members on May 2, said Paul Sizemore, deputy director of planning, development and transportation for the city, staffers amended the ordinance to remove pipeline size and projects on public rights-of-way from consideration under the 1041 rules, as well as approving a project based on Finding of No Significant Impact — known as FONSI or “Fonzie” — instead of the previous Finding of Negligible Adverse Impact, or FONAI.

“This is certainly toned down from what most people have in the state,” said council member Kelly Ohlson, noting that conservative Colorado Springs “has far more comprehensive 1041 regulations than we do.”

Noting what he called a “gigantic compromise on pipe size and public right-of-way,” he characterized the final draft as “crawling before we’re walking. We’re not doing anything dramatic here. It’s nothing we’re going wackadoodle on. It’s a very conservative approach to 1041.”

Passed in 1974, Colorado House Bill 1041 gives authority to local governments in cases where governmental units are in conflict over developments, especially those of “statewide concern,” with one asserting authority over another. The Fort Collins City Council had placed a moratorium on such projects through June 30.

One such project is the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which has been in the works for years. Spearheaded by the Berthoud-based Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, known locally as Northern Water, NISP has received the state and federal regulatory approvals it needs to build two reservoirs in Northern Colorado and supply the water to multiple cities and water districts. One of those reservoirs, Glade, would be built north of Fort Collins and would feed into a pipeline running south and east, traversing some land within the city.

In September 2015, just after Larimer County commissioners had expressed support for NISP, the Fort Collins City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing it over concerns about diminished flows of the Cache la Poudre River through the city.

Still, Northern Water public information officer Jeff Stahla sounded hopeful on Wednesday.

“We appreciate that staff engaged with us throughout the process, that the process that was approved yesterday was certainly different than the first draft, and because of the willingness of city staff to hear some concerns, we appreciate those efforts,” he said. “They changed from FONAI to FONSI, and that’s more consistent with other permitting thresholds that other organizations do.”

Although Stahla said Northern Water is still evaluating what the council’s action “means for our future infrastructure that will touch land inside Fort Collins city limits,” he noted that “we’ve worked with Fort Collins for decades, back to the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects. We know we have a long history of cooperation behind us. We certainly hope that spirit of collaboration will continue to present itself in Northern Colorado.”

Because NISP didn’t receive approval through the city’s Site Plan Advisory Review (SPAR) process, the water project will need a 1041 permit for the portions of the project that fall within city limits. Project proponents can appeal 1041 decisions, either through city processes or in court, but can’t unilaterally overrule them.

Peel again opposed imposition of the 1041 rules on Tuesday night, echoing officials from nearby towns and water districts who said intergovernmental agreements provided a much better solution to cities’ environmental and other concerns about such projects.

Source: BizWest