The Beltway Economic Enhancement Project Act would create a 19-member Beltway Completion Authority charged with constructing the 20-mile Jefferson Parkway portion of the proposed Denver Metropolitan Region Beltway that runs through Golden, Arvada, Westminster and Broomfield. The act's definition of dominant eminent domain grants the authority to condemn property for the beltway route that is superior to city, town and county or other public corporations.
No formal sponsors have been announced, but a letter obtained by the Golden Transcript from state Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, to the Denver Regional Council of Governments indicated her support for the bill's passage.
“I firmly believe that completion of the beltway will provide tremendous benefits for the state and region,” Boyd wrote. “Construction of the beltway will enhance commerce and create jobs, promote mobility throughout the metropolitan area, mitigate pollution and impacts of traffic congestion and provide opportunities for additional bicycle, pedestrian and recreation trail facilities along the corridor.”
Although the state Office of Legislative Legal Affairs schedule notes April 19 was the last day to introduce bills and resolutions, an office representative said special exceptions allow some bills to be introduced into the Legislature as late as May 7 — two days before the end of the legislative session — but would not say whether the Beltway Economic Enhancement Project Act had received an exception.
“I think the fact that people are resorting to this is an indicator of how they see us as kind of a threat,” Golden City Councilwoman Marcie Miller said. “We might actually win.”
Superior Trustee Chris Hanson confirmed Superior recently retained a lobbyist to represent the city's opposition to the proposed bill, with lobbying efforts capped at $10,000.
“If you look at all the things that this bill is trying to do, it really strips every community — not just in the Denver metro area but areas outside as well — of their rights, so you how can you do that,” Hanson said. “How can you take one small group of people, strip the rights of many people, so there's benefit for a small few? I just don't get that.”
Superior Mayor Andrew Muckles said, "It is abhorrent to give that kind of power to a nongovernmental entity, because it would override local interests. It's concerning to use that justification for commercial development, because those are decisions that should only be exercised by elected officials in the municipalities that it (eminent domain) is designed for.”
Jeffco Commissioner Don Rosier said the county and JPPHA are seeking support from the Denver Regional Council of Governments and state legislators.
Rosier said dominant eminent domain is a common practice exercised by many municipalities for public works projects, would only be exercised to build the 20-mile Jefferson Parkway and then lapse once construction is complete.
But Hanson said the bill's language concerning dominant eminent domain is vague and creates a loophole that can be used to justify future highway expansion projects absent in projection maps.
Beside the increase of traffic in Superior, Hanson said the city's primary concern is the possible release of toxic plutonium particles during the beltway's construction through the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
“Because there's some local squawking, the meaning gets lost because people see it as a local issue,” Arvada Deputy City Manager Bill Ray, who also serves on the JPPHA board, said as he noted the beltway's construction was integrated into the city's plans nearly 30 years ago — plans that included acquiring space, ensuring right-of-way designations and zoning developments around its proposed route. “This is not a local issue. This a regional and statewide issue.”