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Developers and an animal rights group have clashed in Longmont over the decision of how to deal with a prairie dog colony currently living on what will very soon be a building site.
HSW Land LLC plans to build a 20,000 square foot flex space. The property, to be the site of what's being called the Great Western Flex Building, is on the south-west corner of Third Avenue and Great Western Drive and west of the Mill Village. The group 'Prairie Protection Colorado' (PPC) have stepped in as there is currently a 13-acre prairie dog colony living on the site which they argue, needs to be relocated before work can commence. The developers are in the process of making a decision to either passively relocate the prairie dogs out of harm's way and onto the remaining eight acres of their land or to euthanise the colony. The planned development plot size is 2.6 acres.
Supporters of Prairie Protection Colorado attended the Longmont City Council meeting Tuesday, May 23rd. The prairie dog issue was not on the agenda for that evening but more than 10 supporters spoke against allowing the developer of the project to euthanize the prairie dogs. Longmont's municipal code requires developers to make "good-faith effort" to relocate the prairie dogs.
Longmont's Code 15.05.030(G)(9)(a) states: "Before the commencement of construction on the development site, any black-tailed prairie dogs inhabiting portions of the site that shall be disturbed shall be relocated according to a relocation plan approved by the city." and further: "Only after a good faith effort to relocate the prairie dogs and after consultation with the city about alternatives, may an applicant eradicate the prairie dogs. All good faith efforts shall be documented in writing and submitted to the city for consideration."
Andy Welch from HSW Land LLC agreed to meet with the Prairie Protection Colorado group last Friday, May 26th to discuss the possibility of passive relocation and then full relocation of the colony. Deanna Meyer from PPC spoke to the Longmont Observer to explain that the technique they wish for the developers to use would entail placing one-way trap doors over the prairie dog tunnels within an established zone. This would mean they could leave their burrow but not re-enter therefore encourage prairie dogs to relocate of their own volition. The PPC requested that the developers consider hiring Sandy Nervig with Growing Ideas, a contractor who assessed the site and assured the owners that she could passively relocate all of the prairie dogs within 3-4 weeks which would meet their tight timeline.
After the meeting, PPC made this statement about how they feel it went.
"It was made clear that the owner of the property preferred a lethal option because of the cost and the complications that come with relocations. However, the lead developer, Andy Welch, agreed that a passive relocation was something they would consider. Growing Ideas was asked to submit a formal proposal to them this week for the passive relocation, and all agreed to reconvene and discuss options after considering the proposal. It is our hope HSW will decide to do the right thing and passively relocate the prairie dogs out of harm's way. Doing so would show that they are making the "good-faith effort" as required by Longmont's municipal code."
Deanna Meyers told the Longmont Observer she hoped the PPC could work with the developers for a successful outcome for everyone but that they also now have a lawyer ready to fight the developers should the need arise.
"We are currently working with the developers for a good outcome for the prairie dogs. We are very close to securing a relocation site for them"
Deanna explained the process of securing and moving the animals to a new site can take time and because of the developers wish to start the construction on July 1st this year, they have suggested the passive relocation as a temporary solution until the new site can be confirmed.
PPC now await the developer's decision on whether to go ahead with the relocation plan. If they choose not to they will need to demonstrate their good-faith efforts to the Longmont Council.
The Longmont Observer contacted Andy Welch from HSW Land LLC on Thursday, June 1st for a comment on this article. We have yet to receive a response.