Following the Weld County Board of Commissioners' decision to deny the city of Thornton's application to build a water pipeline through the county, Thornton intends to use a state statute to overrule the commissioners' decision.
Thornton City Council will vote on a resolution at a June 29 meeting directing the city to bypass the board's denial and commence pipeline construction, according to a meeting agenda posted Thursday. If approved by the city council at that meeting, Thornton will skip past an otherwise lengthy and cumbersome process for getting the pipeline approved at a point where the city feels like time is wearing thin.
“Thornton has followed all of the processes and regulations required in every jurisdiction our project will impact,” said Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann in an email statement. “But at the end of the day, we have to use every option we can to make sure the pipeline is constructed, and the water arrives here in Thornton.”
Thornton's goal is to complete the entire Thornton Water Project, a 75-mile-long pipeline from a reservoir near Fort Collins, by 2025. So far, the city has built six miles of the pipeline in other municipalities where Thornton has negotiated agreements. However, the two biggest sections – one in unincorporated Larimer County and the other in unincorporated Weld County – have faced setbacks.
The Larimer County Board of Commissioners denied Thornton's application for a “1041 permit” to build the pipeline in 2019, leading to a series of ongoing court battles between the city and Larimer County board. Then in May, the Weld County board denied Thornton's application for a “use by special review” permit, causing Thornton to file a complaint against the board in Weld County District Court.
Thornton began to seriously consider using a state statute that would essentially reverse the board's decision right after the Weld County commissioners' denial, said city spokesperson Todd Barnes. Colorado Revised Statutes 30-28-110(1)(c) allows a utility that is financing and authorizing the construction of a project to overrule a denial by a county board of commissioners.
Thornton can use the statute for the denial in Weld Co., but not in Larimer Co. because the two permit application processes are different. Barnes said the city’s legal challenge in Weld County District Court “remains in place to preserve Thornton’s rights.”
The Weld County board was made aware of Thornton's intentions to overrule the commissioners' decision before the June 29 city council meeting agenda published, and the board negotiated with the city certain terms and conditions for the pipeline’s construction. Board Chairperson Steve Moreno issued a response to the city that was included in the agenda packet.
Moreno said, “Clearly, the Thornton City Council has statutory authority to override the Board’s decision.” Moreno asks the city to comply with the newly negotiated terms and conditions that are “based upon the original Conditions of Approval and Development Standards of USR 18-0130 (use by special review permit) but have been modified to better fit the circumstance of an override by Thornton.”
Moreno adds, “Although not expressly stated in the terms and conditions, we trust that Thornton will continue to deal with Weld County’s citizens fairly.”