Boulder County commissioners on Tuesday agreed with the county Housing Division staff's recommendations for hiring consultants to conduct studies of the wildlife habitat and the groundwater and other hydrological conditions in the Twin Lakes area of Gunbarrel.
Commissioners Deb Gardner and Elise Jones contended in comments during their business meeting and in interviews afterward that the two studies wouldn't conflict with the separate process that's underway to amend the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan's land-use designations of the 20 acres of publicly owned properties north and south of Twin Lakes Road.
The Boulder County Housing Authority and the Boulder Valley School District have proposed eventual development of the area for one or more affordable-housing projects, while the Twin Lakes Action Group — an organization of neighboring property owners — wants the land preserved as open space.
Nor, said Gardner and Jones, should proceeding with the wildlife and hydrology studies interfere with a professionally mediated "facilitation" process that's underway among the housing authority, the school district and the Twin Lakes Action Group.
Gardner said the studies will be part of a separate process that gives the county and school district information they'll need before taking further steps to develop housing on the now-vacant properties, and what might need to be done to mitigate the impacts on wildlife, soil and water conditions before that may occur.
"It's important to get that information up front," Gardner said.
Jones said the studies' results could influence what's finally done with the properties, something she said is part of the "due diligence" any property owners should practice before deciding the feasibility of — and then proceeding with possible design of — any kind of development.
Twin Lakes Action Group members have argued that a mixed-density housing development would jeopardize wildlife habitat that's there now and that existing homes in the area already experience groundwater problems that would also pose problems for residents of any new housing built in their midst.
However, several of that organization's members and Mike Chiroplos, an attorney for the action group, also have criticized the county for going ahead with requesting consultants' proposals for the wildlife and water studies.
The Twin Lakes Action Group's position is that the studies are premature — since they presuppose that a comprehensive-plan change will be made and that would lead the way to the city of Boulder's eventual annexation of the unincorporated lands and the city's permission to permit a development there.
Jones and Gardner on Tuesday agreed with the county staff's pick of Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig of Centennial, which would be paid up to $10,000 for the wildlife habitat study, and of Martinez Associates of Golden, which would be paid up to $25,000 to study groundwater and soil conditions.
Commissioner Cindy Domenico did not attend Tuesday's meeting, which did not include a public-hearing opportunity for housing-development supporters or opponents to comment on the proposed studies.