HOT PROPERTY

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

A spokesman for Holland & Hart says the firm plans to send a letter to Arvada and Jefferson County this week arguing that Lacy and government officials violated a state statute when they signed the agreement. That law required that all of the landowners in the 18,000-acre Jefferson Center area be notified before the document was approved, claims Gloria Barrick, one of those who retained the law firm. Adds another resident, who has clashed with Lacy on real estate deals in the past, "It was done without the public knowing about it." He likens the pact to the financial chicanery engaged in by Jefferson County commissioners in the 1980s to fund Jeffco's monumentlike county headquarters without voter approval: "I call it Taj Mahal II." In another irony, the relevant statute was passed in 1989 in part at the urging of Howard Lacy--who testified before a House committee, says Bruce Nickerson, because he and the county believed the bill would "put teeth into" their agreement.

Lacy insists the public was fully notified about Jefferson Center and the intergovernmental agreement. "There have been over a hundred public meetings on this and many, many notices in newspapers," he says. But those meetings and notices concerned the North Plains Community Plan, a growth plan for Golden, Arvada and the Rocky Flats area drawn up by Jefferson County with public input in 1990. The Jefferson Center plan was based on the North Plains document, says Lacy, and though it doesn't conform exactly, it comes close enough for purposes of notification.

The proposed Northwest Parkway is another potential roadblock for Lacy and his associates. The roadway was championed by Arvada and JCA as a vital transportation corridor. But Jefferson County Commissioner Gary Laura points out that the original Jefferson Center development plan was based on the proposed route of W-470, which was to run along the south and east boundaries of Rocky Flats. The parkway would reverse that arrangement, instead skirting the plant's north and west sides. "I think we need to take a fresh look at [the intergovernmental agreement] if they want a new alignment for that road," says Laura.

Any attempt to reopen the agreement would raise a host of new headaches for Lacy and his colleagues at JCA. But given the plan's support from both Arvada and the county, it's unlikely that perceived legal defects could scuttle the Jefferson Center plan entirely. Rust, Barrick and other open-space advocates say they know that development on the plains near Rocky Flats is inevitable. They just want the call to be made by someone other than Howard Lacy. "His friends talk about how shrewd he is," says Rust. "But I guess what it comes down to is, one man's shrewdness is another man's conniving."

A clue to Lacy's character can be found in his 1991 shoplifting arrest, say his critics. "Here's a 68-year-old man who's developing 18,000 acres, and he's stealing a garage-door opener," says one property owner.

"They're digging pretty deep, aren't they?" responds Lacy. His arrest by Arvada police at a Home Club Retail Warehouse was "a total misunderstanding," he says. "The opener fell out of the box and out of the cart and I picked it up and put it in my pocket. Then I forgot about it." Lacy says he can't recall if he had to enter a plea in court; a court clerk says Lacy received a "deferred judgment" and that the case was dismissed after six months.

His arrest has "nothing at all to do with" Jefferson Center, Lacy adds. What matters in the end, he contends, is that he and his partners have the best plan for the area around Rocky Flats--and the best chance of seeing it put into action. That, he says, may be what's really eating at his enemies. "I own a lot of land," says Lacy. "Maybe there's a litle bit of jealousy because I'm rather successful.

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