Thornton Cancels Weld Pipeline Denial

Following the Weld County Board of Commissioners’ decision to deny the Town of Thornton’s request to build a water pipeline across the county, Thornton intends to use state law to annul the decision of the commissioners.

Thornton City Council will vote on a resolution at a June 29 meeting ordering the city to bypass the council’s refusal and begin construction of the pipeline, according to the meeting agenda released Thursday. If approved by city council at that meeting, Thornton will avoid an otherwise long and tedious process of getting the pipeline approved at a time when the city feels time is running out.

“Thornton has followed all the required processes and regulations in every jurisdiction our project will impact,” Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann said in an emailed statement. “But at the end of the day, we have to use every option we can to make sure the pipeline is built and the water gets here at 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 built six miles of pipeline in other municipalities where Thornton has negotiated agreements. However, the two largest chapters – one in unincorporated Larimer County and the other in unincorporated Weld County – suffered setbacks.

The Larimer County Council of Commissioners denied Thornton’s request for a “1041 permit” to build the pipeline in 2019, which has led to an ongoing series of court battles between the town and Larimer County Council. Then, in May, Weld County Council denied Thornton’s application for a “special examination use” permit, leading Thornton to file a complaint against the council in Weld County District Court.

Thornton began to seriously consider using state law that would essentially overturn the council’s decision immediately after Weld County commissioners refused, city spokesman Todd Barnes said. Colorado Revised Statutes 30-28-110 (1) (c) allows a utility that funds and authorizes the construction of a project to overturn a denial by a county council of commissioners.

Thornton can use the law for denial in Weld Co., but not in Larimer Co. because the two permit application processes are different. Barnes said the town’s Weld County District Court “remains in place to preserve Thornton’s rights.”

Weld County Council was informed of Thornton’s intentions to overturn the Commissioners’ decision before the June 29 town council meeting agenda was released, and the council has negotiated with the town certain terms and conditions and conditions for the construction of the pipeline. Council chairman Steve Moreno sent a response to the city that was included in the agenda package.

Moreno said: “Obviously, Thornton City Council has the statutory authority to override the council’s decision.” Moreno is asking the city to comply with the newly negotiated terms and conditions which are “based on the original approval conditions and development standards of USR 18-0130 (use with special examination permit), but have been modified to better accommodate the circumstances of a waiver by Thornton.

Moreno adds: “While not expressly stated in the terms and conditions, we hope Thornton will continue to deal fairly with the citizens of County Weld.”

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