Golden has a long history of community members coming together to solve problems or tackle challenges. This usually happens with challenges that the city and other existing groups weren’t able to tackle on their own for any number of reasons. Groups like the Golden Backpack Program, Golden Schools Foundation, Citizens for Golden, and Save the Mesas are all examples of Goldenites stepping up to make things happen.
The Golden Community Land Trust is another instance of this long community tradition. Protecting Golden’s open space buffer around our community, and making it easier for members of the Golden community to live here, are two of our more difficult land-related challenges. Rather than wait for someone else to do it, a group of community members decided to figure it out. The Golden Community Land Trust – a nonprofit that will work closely with the city while remaining focused on these two challenges – is the result.
As we continue to put all the pieces in place, we welcome your thoughts, feedback, and collaboration opportunities.
What is the Golden Community Land Trust?
The Golden Community Land Trust is aimed at tackling two of Golden’s most important unresolved and related challenges - both tied to land trust activities - for maintaining our small town character: protecting our community’s open space buffer from development, and making it easier for people who work in Golden to live here affordably.
What does the Golden Community Land Trust actually do?
The Trust acquires, manages, and land banks properties and conservation easements that help advance this dual mission of open space protection and making it easier for people who work in Golden to live here. The Trust may also run educational and other programs that support this work.
Why is the Trust working on both of these issues?
Because successfully tackling open space and housing affordability challenges are both closely tied to land banking and other land-related activities, integrating the two efforts within a single land trust makes good sense. It is more cost-efficient, for one thing, and integrating these efforts provides important synergies. For instance, there may be opportunities to swap development rights in an area that is especially well suited for development in exchange for conservation rights in a critical unprotected open space area. By integrating these two goals, the Trust can leverage its land acquisitions and land banking in ways that amplify its impact on both parts of its mission.
In addition, open space in and around Golden is a key driver of Golden’s property values, which in turn are a key driver of our housing affordability challenges. We believe that Golden can and should protect our community from the expanding Front Range sprawl and growth that threaten our small town community character, and we believe that Golden’s unique character is also about people from a wide range of backgrounds and circumstances being able to live here, including those who work in Golden and those who now live in Golden and want to remain here.
Although the City has made important progress on open space protection, it hasn’t had the resources to make the larger acquisitions around Golden’s perimeter that are increasingly at risk of development. Similarly, while the City has made progress on housing attainability for low-income seniors and others (in partnership with Jefferson County Housing Authority), it has been challenging to tackle workforce housing (the so-called “missing middle”) for moderate income folks who either work in Golden but can’t afford to live here or live here now and want to remain part of the Golden community but are at risk of getting squeezed out by rising costs. By tapping a wide range of funding sources and focusing exclusively on these two challenges, the Trust can be more nimble and responsive to opportunities than the city can be on its own. And by collaborating closely with the city, we can ensure community accountability and ensure that everyone’s work is coordinated and mutually supportive.
Why create a separate organization? Why not simply ask the City of Golden to take on these challenges?
We are proposing that the board of directors for the Trust include a specific number of seats appointed by City Council, and the Trust’s activities governed by specific operating agreements between the Trust and the City identifying mutually agreed upon parameters, limits, and expectations. If we create the Trust in collaboration with the City, the Trust’s bylaws will require the organization to follow the state’s open records and open meetings rules as if it were a governmental entity, as well as conflict of interest rules. Changing these and other core portions of the bylaws would require a supermajority of the board. The Trust will also be required to have regular, independent financial audits and publish the information on its website.
How can we ensure that the Golden Community Land Trust will remain accountable to the community?
What kinds of activities will be allowed on new open space areas?
On some new properties, low-intensity recreational activities will probably be appropriate. On other new properties, whether for wildlife conservation or other reasons, recreational activities may not be appropriate and the land will be managed accordingly.
The Trust will either acquire a property or conservation easement or help other appropriate entities, such as the City of Golden or Jefferson County Open Space, make these acquisitions. For properties and easements the Trust acquires, the Trust can maintain ownership over time or transfer properties to other entities where doing so makes sense.
Who will own new open space areas?
The Trust will be focused on the so-called “missing middle,” which is also sometimes known as workforce housing, and includes folks who work in Golden but can’t afford to live here, as well as folks that call Golden home but who are getting squeezed out by rising housing prices. The Trust will have the ability to use a variety of tools. This may involve acquiring existing buildings in order to provide workforce housing at affordable rents, workforce housing subsidies (a common strategy in other tourism-heavy towns that are too expensive for many who work there to also live there), or redevelopment projects with deed restrictions. Any development or redevelopment project that the Trust is involved in will fully align with Golden Vision 2030, the city’s Comprehensive Plan, any applicable neighborhood plans, and Golden’s land use and zoning code. Because the goal of the Trust is to protect Golden’s character, this is a core principle for the Trust’s efforts.
What will the Trust’s workforce housing efforts look like?
The Trust will not have any special privileges or rights when it comes to development and redevelopment. Because the owner of a property in Golden can build whatever the city’s code allows, we must make sure that the city’s zoning and codes are fully aligned with Golden Vision 2030, the city’s Comprehensive Plan, and the city’s neighborhood plans. Any gaps between the vision and plans and what is actually in the code present real problems for Golden regardless of who owns the property. If we get the code right, it will ensure that any projects going forward in Golden fit the character of our community.
How do we make sure the Trust doesn’t take part in development projects that don’t align with Golden Vision 2030, the City of Golden’s Comprehensive Plan, and the city’s neighborhood plans?
The Trust will be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a board of directors consisting of Golden community members with a range of backgrounds. A number of the board positions will be appointed by the Golden City Council. At least one board member must be a professional/expert on workforce housing, at least one must be a professional/expert on open space acquisition, management, and protection, and at least one must be an attorney experienced in relevant real estate and/or nonprofit law. The board will also aim to include board members with background and experience in one or more of the following: land use planning, urban planning, land conservation, architecture, and real estate-oriented finance.
How will the Trust be organized?
The City of Golden has a conservation trust fund but it is too small to support protecting Golden’s open space buffer. Likewise, Jeffco may be a good partner on specific projects, but Jeffco is not prioritizing the unprotected properties around Golden’s perimeter. If we want to protect these properties, the Golden community will have to make that happen.
Don’t we already have a system for funding open space purchases?
Golden residents have, for many years, expressed strong support for taking more effective action on both of these two priorities. For instance, Open Space/Parks and Affordable Housing were the top priorities identified in the public input for the Golden Investment Forum Task Force. The Clear Creek Master Plan highlighted substantial community interest in protecting parkland. Similarly, in a statistically significant June 2016 survey, the top priority for future focus and future needs was “open space/natural areas,” followed closely by “trails and pathways.”
How do we know that Golden residents support these open space and workforce housing priorities?
In fall of 2017, City Council was assessing how to move forward on a manageable list of big projects that various community constituencies were pushing forward. This list of almost $200M of needs ranged from acquiring open space, to park upgrades and new museums, to big transportation projects and affordable housing. To help focus the city’s efforts City Council created the Golden Investment Forum Task Force (GIFT), which first met in December of that year. During 2018, the group worked hard researching individual project ideas and getting citizen input on community priorities. In late 2018, the task force sent a comprehensive report to City Council laying out all the projects, their pros and cons, and a decision matrix. Other important priorities took precedence for City Council at the time, and in true Golden fashion a subset of the task force started meeting to tackle the open space and housing affordability challenges. That effort grew into what is now the Golden Community Land Trust project.
How did the idea of a community land trust get started?
Have any other questions? Feel free to contact us anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org