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New parking lot on I-70 at El Rancho

A parking lot will be built at the El Rancho exit 251 where drivers get onto westbound Interstate 70.

The Jefferson County Planning Commission in August unanimously approved the state’s location and extent application, which means the Planning Commission, not the county commissioners, is the final authority.

The El Rancho West Parking Lot will be on 2.5 acres at 29899 Highway 40 for the CDOT’s Department of Transit and Rail shuttle service, which operates the Bustang/Pegasus bus service.

Brad Palmer with CDOT said while the original plans called for 80 parking spaces, it now will be 50 spaces. CDOT wants to add the lot primarily for ski traffic in the winter to help alleviate backups on Interstate 70.

Planning staff recommended allowing the parking lot to be constructed as long as landscaping was put in to minimize impacts on nearby homes. A small structure is planned for travelers to wait for the bus.

Case manager Sara Hutchinson reminded the Planning Commission that this proposal is not related to RTD and its bus service.

Jeffco Planning & Zoning received 18 letters from area residents against the plan. They wanted CDOT to find a better location, said this location would add to congestion and degrade the visual appeal at that entrance to Evergreen, said the lot would add to traffic congestion on Highway 40 and Evergreen Parkway, and would be a detriment to nearby residents.

Some suggested that CDOT should use the RTD parking lot across from Walmart instead.

Grass fire extinguished in El Rancho

Crews from several fire agencies extinguished a grass fire northeast of El Rancho Brewing Co. after fighting the flames for about two hours on a windy Labor Day afternoon.

The Rainbow Fire scorched about a quarter acre on Denver Mountain Parks property, and firefighters from Foothills, Genesee, Evergreen and the West Metro fire departments responded.

Foothills Fire spokesman Mike Amdur said the dry, windy conditions caused concern that the fire could get out of control. The department’s fire investigator said the cause was undetermined, which means it can’t be proven what one thing caused the fire.

Someone driving along Interstate 70 saw the smoke and called 911 at 3:06 p.m., Amdur said. The fire was fully contained by 5:35 p.m. 

Firefighters accessed the grass fire off Summit Ranch Drive, and homes in the area were evacuated for a couple hours, Amdur said. He said the area was steep and rocky, and eventually brush trucks could get near the site. Firefighters monitored the area for more than 24 hours to ensure there would be no flare-ups.

Amdur reminds residents not to be complacent because the area has received so much rain.

“It’s always fire season,” he said. “We always need to be prepared for wildfire. If you see smoke, call 911. If you believe there’s a fire in your area, grab what you can and evacuate.”

He also asked residents to sign up for Lookout Alert, which is an app that notifies residents about wildfire, emergencies, severe weather and more.

EPRD residents to vote on property-tax extension

It’s official: Voters in the Evergreen Park & Recreation District will be asked in November to extend a property tax set to expire in 2025.

If voters approve the tax extension, the district would get about $1.3 million a year, and after the bond is paid off, the district would use the money for three goals: take care of what it has, rebuild recreation and expand services.

The wording in the ballot measure, which the board approved on Sept. 6, does not list any specific projects. However, the board expects to finalize a strategic plan in October that will detail projects and timelines. 

A community meeting is tentatively set for 5-6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18, at the Wulf Recreation Center to discuss the strategic plan and the projects in it.

At the Sept. 6 meeting, board members said that in the first five years of the property-tax extension, about 65% of the funds would be used for maintenance and updating the district’s facilities and parks; 20% for rebuilding recreation; and 15% for expanding facilities and services.

Resident Robert Gottsman suggested that the board hold off on asking voters for a property-tax extension because of the uncertainty of what property taxes will look like thanks to increased property valuations throughout the state.

Another ballot measure for Elk Creek Fire

Residents in the Elk Creek Fire Protection District will be asked to extend a sunsetting property tax if voters don’t approve consolidating three fire districts.

The Elk Creek board on Sept. 5 unanimously approved putting the measure on the November ballot. Elk Creek is requesting to continue a 2.5 mill property tax that was approved by voters in 2013.

In addition, the measure would remove the Taxpayer Bill of Rights of TABOR limitations, allowing the district to change the mill levy to keep the amount of money the fire district receives even. Without removing the TABOR restrictions, the fire district needed to go to voters to make any changes to its mill levy. 

This third ballot measure is in addition to two questions, the first asking voters about consolidating with the Inter-Canyon and North Fork fire departments and the second asking whether Elk Creek voters want to increase property taxes by 5.97 mills to 16 mills to fund the new Conifer Fire Department. About 2.5 mills of the 5.97 mills is the property tax extension.

If the consolidation and the tax-extension measure are defeated, Elk Creek would lose about $750,000 in revenue starting in 2024. According to Fire Chief Jacob Ware, 2.5 mills is about 14% of the department’s $5.38 million budget.