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HOT PROPERTY

WITH DEVELOPERS RUSHING IN, ROCKY FLATS ISN'T GROUND ZERO ANYMORE.

Lacy, however, denies misleading his neighbors. His plan to pump water through the Blue Mountain system was simply scotched by legal contraints, he says. And he blames opposition within the Blue Mountain subdivision on "a vocal minority of no-growthers. The newcomers tend to be against what I'm doing," says Lacy. "I suppose it's human nature to want to close the gate behind you and not let anyone else in. If they don't want me to develop it, that's fine. They can buy it."

The way Bruce Nickerson sees it, the Concerned Citizens of Blue Mountain--the group opposing Jefferson Center--is less a citizens' group than a "special-interest group." The residents have a hidden agenda, claims Nickerson: "They're opposed to development of any kind."

For almost thirty years, Chuck and Gloria Barrick have lived on 49 acres of land near Plainview, a small community that has grown up where the plains meet the ridges of the Front Range a couple of miles west of Rocky Flats. "You don't choose to live out here with the mud and the snow and the wind if you're not a pretty tough old bird and maybe a little eccentric," says Gloria. "You don't move out here if you want city living."

City living is exactly what Jefferson Center would impose on Plainview, say the Barricks. Specifically, they and other landowners fear having their property annexed by Arvada and made part of the Jefferson Center plan against their wishes.

Lacy insists that would never happen, though he acknowledges he can't guarantee it. "It's just not good politics," he says. "Arvada has never annexed anyone out here who didn't want to be annexed. And I'm sure they never would."

The development plan for Jefferson Center has the area around Plainview marked for houses on two-acre lots. About a half-mile east of the town, the plan includes an option for office buildings and light industry. And when the advisory committee for Jefferson County's Open Space Department considered acquiring up to 3,000 acres of land in the area, Lacy and Arvada officials fought the proposal vigorously.

Arvada officials argued that keeping the area open for development was crucial to the economic future of their city. "We're essentially a bedroom community," says city council member Shelley Cook. "We need to enhance our tax base and create jobs to replace the ones that we'll be losing at Rocky Flats."

Earlier this year, Lacy threatened to sue the county, alleging that its plans for open space violated the 1989 intergovernmental agreement. Open-space advocates argued that the county's open-space master plan was published two months before the agreement was signed, and they designated portions of the land as candidates for acquisition. The advisory committee, chaired by Denver West developer Greg Stevinson, struck a compromise last month, recommending that the county pursue about 900 acres running up to the hills but allow Lacy's group to develop a 2,100-acre chunk fanning out from the intersection of Highways 72 and 93.

The advisory committee's proposal would provide enough open space east of Plainview to give the town a front yard of more than a square mile. That open parcel would touch the corner of the Barricks' property. But the battle's not over, says Gloria Barrick, who says the committee compromise falls short. "We have a herd of elk camped out here right now," she says. "We want to preserve this area. That's a process that should go through the county, not Mr. Lacy."

During the open-space hearings, Lacy argued that although his 18,000-acre Jefferson Center plan appears to include only 50 acres of designated open space in the form of an equestrian center, it actually contains large tracts of vacant land. Lacy pointed to 6,000 acres of buffer zone at Rocky Flats, several thousand acres atop the Leyden coal mine (where Public Service Company stores natural gas), and Section 16, a fenced parcel owned by the state land board that cuts into the buffer zone. When a committee member observed that such tracts didn't the fit the traditional definition of open space, Lacy replied they were "visual open space."

Lacy insists his commitment to open space is genuine. "I sold 185 acres on Ralston Buttes to open space for a tenth of its value," he says. "I owned it for thirty years. They wanted it for open space, and I wanted to do it for the eagles up there."

But the steepness of the slopes on the craggy Ralston Buttes would likely preclude development there anyway, says a real estate broker familiar with the area. "You can claim your property is worth any amount of money, but finding someone who will pay it is another thing," she says.

Over the years, Lacy and his colleagues at JCA have grown as adept as the Rocky Flats public-relations staff at putting out brushfires. And developments in recent weeks have kept them hopping. A number of property owners have hired the Denver law firm of Holland & Hart to press the argument that the original intergovernmental agreement was illegal. And in an ironic twist, a major roadway that Lacy and Arvada pushed for, the Northwest Parkway, may end up giving critics another excuse to question the agreement.

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