The concept of negotiating an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the City of Golden and Colorado School of Mines (Mines) was under discussion as early as 2015. At that time, it was thought that an approach where both the Golden community and Mines could anticipate future construction activities by Mines with a level of certainty and predictability might be preferable to the then current approach where Mines would go through the motions of the City’s land use process, while concurrently maintaining that the City had no jurisdiction over their land use or construction decisions. In 2017, the City conducted neighborhood planning efforts adjacent to the CSM campus. With the completion of the latest Mines Master Plan in 2019, City and Council directed staff to negotiate an IGA. The parties have developed a draft agreement, which incorporates the following points:
- The Development IGA provides predictability and a level of certainty as to the location and intensity of Mines construction for the next several years, especially along the edges of campus.
- The Agreement clarifies the fact that no construction that would impact the 12th Street historic district neighborhood is planned, with the possible exception of the Maple Street tennis court area. In this area, setbacks and height limitations are clearly defined.
- The Agreement specifically address building heights for any new properties acquired by Mines in the area of Washington Avenue and eastward to Ford Street.
- The Agreement includes a commitment to utilize the Secretary of the Interior’s standards and guidelines for alterations of any acquired historic structures on the State or National Register of Historic Places.
- The Agreement includes a commitment to contribute to infrastructure improvements necessitated by Mines construction.
- If the Agreement is approved by the City, the City will adopt an ordinance amending the zoning code to formalize the Agreement’s provisions related to community review and input process for Mines construction projects.
In addition, city staff also developed an Operational IGA with the Colorado School of Mines. This IGA focuses on documenting the agreements between the City and Mines about how they will interact together on an on-going basis, including transportation, pedestrian and vehicular traffic and parking, drainage, and utilities. Some key features of this agreement are:
- Joint data collection for transportation projects
- Continued collaboration on parking
- Both agree that pedestrian circulation and safety are a vital element of the community
- Coordinated plans for snow and ice removal
- Plans for usage of City Water, Wastewater and Storm Drainage Utilities
- Guidelines for campus work in Public Rights of Way
- Acknowledgement of campus operations regarding noise, lighting and general hours for activity
Is the City giving up the ability to assert the legal position that Mines is subject to Golden’s local land use regulations?
- No. The IGA clearly states that both parties continue to maintain their respective legal positions regarding Golden’s jurisdiction and that the Agreement does not affect such positions.
Can the City still try to enforce our land use regulations through court action, if desired?
- Yes. The City retains the option to affirmatively assert our legal position about jurisdiction over land use matters. However, so long as the Agreement is in effect, development by Mines that is consistent with the Agreement and the 2019 Mines Master Plan would likely not violate Golden’s land use regulations.
Is the Agreement permanent?
- No. This agreement is for a period expiring on December 31, 2025. The City and Mines would have to discuss an extension or modification of the agreement at that time.
What if one party wants to terminate the agreement?
- The IGA provides that either party can terminate the agreement with 90 days notice. If the agreement was terminated, the City would be in a similar position as we are in today. Termination by either party would then give rise to the question of asserting either party’s legal position/rights, as is the case today.
Can the City enforce the provisions of the Agreement if Mines does not comply?
- The Agreement, as proposed, is enforceable so long as it is in effect. We anticipate that the Agreement will be incorporated into Golden’s land use regulations – meaning that if the Agreement is in effect, it can be enforced as other land use regulations.
What benefits does the IGA offer to the City over current circumstances?
- Predictability and a level of certainty as to the location and intensity of Mines construction for the next several years, especially along the edges of the campus.
- Agrees that little to no construction that would impact the 12th Street historic district neighborhood is planned. Any building in the Maple Street tennis court area would be set back substantially from Maple Street and limited in height.
- Sets building heights for any new properties acquired by Mines in the area of Washington Avenue and eastward to Ford Street.
- Commitment to utilize the Secretary of the Interior’s standards and guidelines for alterations of any acquired historic structures on the State or National Register of Historic Places.
- Commitment to contribute to infrastructure improvements necessitated by Mines construction.
What risk does the City have in agreeing to the IGA?
- If development on the campus is consistent with the Agreement and the approved 2019 Mines Master Plan, the City will have limited input into such development.
Can the City take Mines to court now to clarify if local regulations can be enforced?
- Yes, but there could be significant ramifications to both the City and Mines as to future development and cooperation, depending on the outcome of litigation. See City Attorney memo dated November 10, 2020, which states “Council and Golden’s citizenry should also be aware of a general reluctance of the courts to intervene in disputes between governmental entities, the courts most always encouraging a cooperative resolution if possible.”
What is the current process if Mines wants to develop a property?
- Currently there is a customized process for Mines projects that is carved out within the R-3 zone district of the Municipal Code.
- If a planned structure is 35 feet high or less, Mines does not have a public process, but shares the plans with City staff for comments, with specific emphasis on utilities and fire-related requirements.
- Mines structures that are between 35 feet and 50 feet in height require a Special Use Permit process, which begins with a neighborhood hearing before going to a Planning Commission hearing for a formal vote.
- Structures that are planned to exceed 50 feet in height require a PUD rezoning. This rezoning process begins with a neighborhood meeting, then a Planning Commission hearing, followed by a Council hearing for a formal decision.
What is the process outlined in the IGA if Mines wants to develop a property, or amend its Master Plan?
- As proposed, the new process would not involve public hearings before Planning Commission or City Council. Instead, a new project would first involve a neighborhood meeting that would be hosted by Mines. Mines would have the opportunity to present the project and the community would be able to ask questions and provide input and raise any concerns.
- Following the neighborhood meeting, Mines would have a period of time to make any revisions needed to the proposal before inviting the community to a second neighborhood meeting to share the amended plan and further explain the project.
- Within 20 days of the second neighborhood meeting, Council will have the opportunity to convey any remaining concerns to Mines in writing, which may lead to the need for a joint discussion between Mines and Council to come to a resolution.
- It’s important to note that Mines’ development proposals will be tied to its Campus Master Plan, with specific agreements on building height, setback and step-back requirements. Areas that are further restricted from redevelopment are defined within the IGA itself. Neighborhoods that would be off limits to demolition for new development include historically designated properties, the 12th Street neighborhood, the neighborhood south of 18th Street, and the Court House Hill area along Washington Avenue.
How do other communities address similar issues between colleges and cities?
- IGAs are often used to address issues and the courts usually encourage a cooperative resolution if possible. From the City Attorney letter dated November 10, 2020, “This appears to be the same approach that has been followed by other Colorado municipalities that are faced with this issue, such as Boulder (University of Colorado), Ft. Collins (CSU) and Denver (Auraria Campus), none of whom have pushed the issue to litigation. When I have contacted the city attorneys for these cities, all agree that there is no clear and definitive answer from the courts on the supremacy of the zoning power. All acknowledge that the ability to cooperate and work with the universities on land use matters was the key to a resolution that was ultimately acceptable to all sides.”
The Colorado School of Mines (Mines) has been an integral part of Golden throughout its history. Mines is a prestigious university that has not only brought students, faculty and staff to the community, but also jobs in the form of companies that have either started in Golden or relocated to Golden to be in close proximity to the talent it attracts. Mines and its adjacent neighborhoods have evolved side by side over the years. In recent years, Mines has constructed a number of new campus buildings. While many of these new structures are in the core of campus and do not represent a direct impact on the adjacent neighborhoods, some have been constructed on the edge of campus and have created challenges for residents.
For many years, Mines and the City have not agreed about the process for community review and input into campus construction. Mines has argued that its status as a state institution does not require compliance with local zoning ordinances, with the City maintaining that local zoning regulations must be followed. As a result, the process for community review and comment on Mines construction projects has been frustrating for all. Beginning in about 2015, there began to be consensus from residents that the status quo situation related to the Mines land-use entitlement process is not desirable and leads to ongoing contention, and that the City may be better off seeking to achieve an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to better define the relationship between the City and Mines.
The argument for an IGA was that an IGA can create more certainty for both Mines and area residents. The idea was that an IGA would give the community more certainty about what happens at the edge of campus, and Mines more predictability about what can be developed in the core of campus.
Mines and the City began to discuss a potential IGA in earnest in 2016 with a goal to establish building limits for campus edges that Mines would commit to, while future construction in the interior core of campus would be more discretionary for Mines. The City initiated an effort similar to the City’s traditional neighborhood planning effort to discuss the campus edges and interface with adjacent neighborhoods. Following the completion of this community discussion in 2017, the effort primarily related to coordinating with Mines’ proposed new Master Plan that would identify proposed construction throughout campus.
For most of 2019 and early 2020, discussions between Mines and City representatives focused on defining potential building locations and massing for the campus edges near Golden neighborhoods. The process was very detailed and finally resulted in the current draft IGA.