Environment

Broomfield Fires Back at Arvada, Jefferson County Lawsuit Over Jefferson Parkway

The former Rocky Flats Nuclear Plant is now a wildlife refuge.
The former Rocky Flats Nuclear Plant is now a wildlife refuge. Catie Cheshire
In June, the City of Arvada and Jefferson County sued the City and County of Broomfield for pulling out of the Jefferson Parkway project, which seeks to build a toll road that would cross Broomfield, Arvada and Jefferson County, almost completing a loop around metro Denver by connecting Highway 128 in Broomfield with Highway 93 in Golden.

In 2008, Broomfield had signed on to be part of the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority that wants to build the Jefferson Parkway. But in February 2020, the Broomfield City Council voted unanimously to leave the JPPHA because of concerns that the route ran too close to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses much of the former Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant.

After Broomfield councilmembers raised concerns about the plant’s history involving the production of plutonium triggers, soil tests were conducted in May 2019; the results registered plutonium levels generally lower than the Environmental Protection Agency’s c50 pCi/g cleanup standard for Rocky Flats, though they were still at detectable levels. The highest rating of 264 pCi/g of plutonium, more than five times the 50 pCi/g cleanup standard for Rocky Flats, was recorded along Indiana Street, near the proposed path of the parkway.

Broomfield pulled out of the project after those results were released.

In the process, Jefferson County and Arvada claim, Broomfield breached a 2008 contract, revised in 2010, that stated the three parties would rely on each other and only undertake actions that respected that reliance. Broomfield was required to obtain unanimous consent in order to withdraw and did not, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit also calls Broomfield’s departure from the project “sudden,” and says that Broomfield did not satisfy its outstanding obligations before withdrawing, including making financial contributions to JPPHA and conveying the land needed to complete the project. According to the lawsuit, Broomfield hasn’t paid its share of operating costs since 2018, nor covered its share of the soil sampling that eventually led to its departure from JPPHA.

The lawsuit asks that Broomfield be required to convey the land and pay damages for its breach of contract.

On September 22, Broomfield responded, filing a motion to dismiss the suit on the grounds that Jefferson County and Arvada don't have the standing to sue because JPPHA is the entity in charge of the project and its board has yet to act on Broomfield’s request to withdraw.

After Broomfield submitted its notice of intent to withdraw in September 2020, Arvada and Jefferson County drafted their preferred terms for Broomfield’s withdrawal, submitting them to the JPPHA board. The board has yet to act on those proposed terms, according to the motion. “JPPHA’s board, not Arvada or Jeffco, has sole authority to determine JPPHA’s obligations and what property and financial contributions are needed for the Parkway, if the Parkway remains viable,” the motion states.

“Given significant financial and political changes during the past two and a half years with no action by JPPHA to move the Parkway project forward, there are doubts about the viability of JPPHA as an entity and the feasibility of the Parkway project — even if Broomfield were to provide the property and financial contributions which Plaintiffs allege are owed (which Broomfield disputes are owed),” the motion continues.

The motion argues that the case can’t go forward without JPPHA as a party, and argues that the lawsuit is premature because until the JPPHA board meets and determines the provisions by which Broomfield is required to withdraw, Broomfield can’t have violated a contract by withdrawing.

Arvada and Jefferson County have until October 13 to respond to Broomfield’s motion. In the meantime, Jefferson County declined to comment, and Arvada did not respond to a request for comment on the suit.
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Catie Cheshire is a staff writer at Westword. After getting her undergraduate degree at Regis University, she went to Arizona State University for a master's degree. She missed everything about Denver -- from the less-intense sun to the food, the scenery and even the bus system. Now she's reunited with Denver and writing news for Westword.
Contact: Catie Cheshire

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