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Golden mayor considers lawsuit over Jefferson Parkway

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Last month, we told you about Golden mayor Jacob Smith's opposition to the Jefferson Parkway, a project he described as a "weird, disconnected road to nowhere."

Nonetheless, the Denver Regional Council of Governments, popularly known as DRCOG, officially made the parkway part of its long-range transportation plan at a meeting last night.

Golden is currently deciding whether to mount a legal challenge to stop the parkway, Smith says, and he believes other communities "that are severely impacted by the decision," as well as a number of environmental groups, are likely considering lawsuits, too. In his opinion, DRCOG is legally vulnerable "because the decision last night doesn't follow the law."

How so?

"DRCOG's board can only adopt a transportation plan that is fiscally constrained, which means there's a reasonable likelihood of funding everything in that plan," Smith explains. "And the argument for putting the parkway on the plan last night was that the proponents asserted that they can raise the money, as opposed to actually demonstrating that they can get it. Literally, all DRCOG did was certify that the applicant told them it can get the money. And that just doesn't meet the legal standard."

If the pro-parkway forces can't raise enough cash, why consider suing? Here's how Smith sees it:

"I think they're going to have a difficult time financing it," he concedes. "It is a tough market. But that said, there are investors out there who make really bad investments. So the fact that it's a tough project with tough numbers doesn't mean they won't find some sucker who's willing to put the money down."

In the meantime, opposition to the parkway is growing, if not by enough to have swayed the final tally.

"About a year ago, there was a similar vote about the same issue, and we had five or six people voting on our side," he notes. "And last night, we had seventeen on our side," as opposed to 35 who supported the parkway. And these opponents "are all working together to promote good solutions and oppose bad ones."

Indeed, Golden and its allies put together an alternative proposal, dubbed the 6/93 plan, which Smith sees as offering a far more beneficial approach to transportation needs in the area. But these ideas didn't get much attention last night or in the weeks prior.

"I think what's ironic and maybe most unfortunate is that the City of Golden has made it clear we're willing to sit down and help come up with something that works for everybody," Smith allows. "I think it would have better served everyone if that had happened. Now, if DRCOG really does get sued, that's going to make it tougher to get investment dollars, because investors don't like that kind of uncertainty. So there may still be a chance for all parties to sit down and work something out. But I suspect it will be more difficult."

Pursuing objections through the courts won't be any easier. But Smith clearly sees the parkway as something that needs to be stopped, if at all possible.

"This feels very much like a Huey Long highway project," he says. "It's a project a few people benefit from but a whole bunch of people get impacted by. It's a bad proposal. It doesn't make any sense, except for the developers who'll make out on it."

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