Rather than trenching across the Rocky Flats buffer zone and dealing with the attendant federal red tape, Westminster officials approached JCA about routing the line across land owned by its members. The timing was good for JCA. Its 1989 development deal with Jefferson County and Arvada required it to construct the utilities serving the proposed 18,000 acres of Jefferson Center. Getting a waterline into Westminster's trench would save the landowners more than $2 million.

After a convoluted series of negotiations that included JCA promising to foot the bill for future line relocations, JCA wound up getting a water pipeline worth nearly $500,000 for an out-of-pocket cost of $168,489, according to a March 6 memo by Westminster public works director Ron Hellbusch. (Hellbusch wrote that he felt compelled to total up the figures after Lacy told Jefferson County's open-space advisory committee that he and his associates had spent "several million dollars" on the pipeline.) Bruce Nickerson maintains that JCA's out-of-pocket outlay was more than $600,000.

JCA and the city also locked horns over $96,000 Lacy's group was given to cover reseeding costs. JCA offered to pay for revegetating the land after construction but didn't follow through on the pledge. Not long afterward, a group of Blue Mountain residents opposed to Jefferson Center got wind of JCA's procrastination and began writing to city, county and state officials accusing the Lacy group of pocketing the funds. In April, about two months after the pipeline was installed, Lacy responded to Westminster's demands that JCA live up to its end of the bargain. In his letter, Lacy explained that "JCA landowners have requested that we not introduce foreign grasses on their property until it is verified that the native grasses will not naturally reseed the disturbed areas." That determination couldn't be made until the fall, he wrote.

Then Lacy took aim at Blue Mountain resident David DePenning, who had written a letter expressing the concerns of the citizens' group to the city. DePenning was "imposing" himself "into the execution of a contract between two other parties," wrote Lacy, and therefore "we have turned the matter over to our attorneys."

In May, when reporters made inquiries about the dispute between Westminster and Lacy's group, JCA reversed its position, promising to reseed the portion of the bare ground running along State Highway 72 as soon as the ground dried this spring. Heavy rains have prevented that so far, says Nickerson. "Fall is the time that nature reseeds itself," he says. "But we decided to go ahead and reseed" as soon as weather permits. "We try to be a good neighbor."

Some residents of Blue Mountain have been neighbors to Howard Lacy for more than two decades. And they choose words other than "good" when they talk about him.

"He's like an amoeba," says Marj Rust, president of the Blue Mountain Land and Homeowners Association. "He spreads, and the next thing you know, he's taken in all these other things. He came up here about 25 years ago, and before you know it, he bought Ralston Buttes. He owns the whole south end of the valley. He has a house on either end of the mountain. He's bookends."

Now Lacy wants to develop lots for thirty luxury homes on land he owns directly south of Blue Mountain that is part of Jefferson Center. Though fifteen of the sites lie within the Blue Mountain Water District, the well-water system in the area, already showing signs of strain, can't support the additional homes, says Rust. Lacy helped organize the water district now serving the area and felt his neighbors owed him a favor, says Joe Tamburini, a resident now serving as president of the Blue Mountain water board. But the board turned down Lacy's request for fifteen new water taps that would tie into the existing system, deciding it could only afford to grant Lacy seven of them.

"He was first president of the district and was instrumental in getting the district off the ground," Tamburini says. "He was helpful at the time, and we thank him for that, but other people up here have also volunteered. We're not going to thank him by handing over hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of benefits from our system."

Lacy subsequently proposed using the Blue Mountain system to transport water he said he had secured from Arvada to his planned luxury-home lots. According to Tamburini, the Blue Mountain water board later found the water hadn't actually been secured; it was still Arvada's, and any deal struck to bring it up the hill to Lacy's property would have to be done with the city, not Lacy.

In trying to hash out a deal with Blue Mountain, the developer also apparently misrepresented the status of a plat for his proposed subdivision, which lies in an area annexed by Arvada. The city had already accepted the plat, Lacy claimed in his proposal to the Blue Mountain board. But according to Mike Elms, Arvada planning director, such a plat can't be accepted until water and sewer service are run to the site. Says Rust, "He has a history of saying whatever he thinks someone will buy."

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