This content was originally published by the Longmont Observer and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
Five years ago this week, Longmont suffered the most devastating flood in its history. As the city not only looks back on the 2013 flood but continues to update its Land Development Code, now is the perfect opportunity to rethink our development procedures to better protect human life, property, and the natural environment.
In the years since the flood, the city has made significant progress on its Resilient St. Vrain project (RSVP) to restore the St. Vrain Creek corridor and mitigate the damage from future floods. When the RSVP is finished, it is anticipated that more than 800 acres will be taken out of the floodplain, but funding and plans for the entirety of the RSVP have not yet been finalized. Therefore, it makes sense to hold off on approving any new or redevelopment applications adjacent to St. Vrain Creek until the project is complete and FEMA approves the new floodplain boundaries. It is irresponsible to build in an area that will still be within the floodplain until mitigation work has been finished.
Recently, the Colorado chapter of the American Public Works Association awarded the first two phases of the RSVP with its Sustainability Award for a large community. I applaud city staff for their efforts to incorporate natural channel design and native plantings in the RSVP to create and enhance wildlife habitat rather than building a cement channel. To further protect wildlife along the St. Vrain and help protect new homes and businesses from future floods, I urge Longmont to retain the 150-foot riparian setback that is currently in the city’s Land Development Code and strengthen the requirements through which developers may request a variance to that setback.
While we cannot prevent all potential damages from future flooding, these are important first steps that also respect our natural community.