Flatirons Open Space Committee

A Brief History of the Flatirons Property

Boulder, Colorado


Deepe and Van Vleet family farms operate on the land. Most of it is used for cattle grazing.


Gravel mining by Flatiron Company begins on Deepe farm under a lease.

June 20 1972

City Greenbelt Committee unanimously resolves that "since this general area provides an entry way to the City…its general character should be that of open space. " Later in the year, it accepts mining of entire site provided the "land remains open space at virtually no cost to the public" after the mining is completed.

Jan. 18 1973

The City offers to buy the 167.4-acre Deepe farm and threatens to start condemnation action if the offer is rejected.

April 1974

Flatiron Co. purchases the property before the City completes its negotiations with the Deepe family.

Nov. 1974

Flatiron Co. and City discuss "land reclamation and transfer of land to city of Boulder." The City would develop and operate a regional park.


The City seeks open space easement over 300 acres. It fails in 1976 due to IRS rejection of Flatiron Co.'s proposed tax write-off as part of the deal.


Parts of the property are designated as Open Space in the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.


Parts of the Van Vleet farm are purchased by the Flatiron Co. for gravel mining and by the City for Open Space. This acquisition brings the Flatiron Co. property to 308 acres.


220 acres of the property are identified as future open space in the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.

Aug. 20 1981

B.J. Miller, Open Space Board of Trustees member: "I'm a little concerned that throughout the graveling process, the Open Space designation will not be forgotten. I still would feel better if we could indicate that we are going to purchase this or get development rights and make this part of our Open Space program."


Open Space regulations are amended "to allow off-trail public access for passive recreational purposes." Neighbors start to use the land as informal open space.

Jan. 1995

Flatiron Co. requests annexation to City to build 78 luxury homes and a 100,000 sq. ft. Women of the West museum with huge parking lot and outdoor exhibit area.

A citizen group, Neighbors for a Liveable Boulder, is formed to oppose the development of the property.

April 1995

City/Community Review Group hears citizen objections to development plan during public hearing.

March 1995

Following rainstorms, the northern part of the property is under 2-3 feet of water. The property managers excavate a channel through a paved interior road and drain the water into Viele ditch.

May 1995

CU and Flatiron Co. begin secret negotiations. Flatirons Co. completes the graveling operation soon thereafter.

March/April 1996

CU Regents approve purchase of the property and sign agreement with Flatiron Co. in April. They announce that CU has no specific plan for the land except to have room for future growth, with no development expected until 2020.

July 1996

City Council and County Commissioners unanimously pass a resolution to "take all necessary actions" to ensure that CU follows the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan in developing the property.

Gov. Romer asks regents to respect his "smart growth" policy and to work with the City and County on future development of the property.

The Board of County Commissioners: "On behalf of our citizens, our concerns relate primarily to 1) the apparent inflated purchase price, based on values of comparable land in the County; 2) the less than open process by which the purchase agreement has evolved; and 3) concerns about the University's commitment to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan's land use regulations and guidelines…"

Sept. 1996

Regent Bob Sievers says CU would be more "straightforward" with the city as development plans evolve and added that he doesn't expect development to be "in my lifetime."

Oct. 1996

State legislators from Boulder ask Regents to delay purchase until the flood plain and reclamation issues are resolved and request that CU show openness to citizen input.

Oct. 15 1996

Boulder County reprimands CU for unauthorized increase of berm by 2-3 feet, which violates its use permit and increases potential flood hazard to residents downstream.

Oct.16 1996

City conducts independent appraisal of property, which values it at $9.2 million.

Oct. 17 1996

At a Regents' meeting Chancellor Park says, "In 15 or 20 years, or whenever the University develops the property, I assume the current obsession with control that the City has demonstrated will have subsided…"

Oct. 25 1996

A lawsuit by a group of neighbors adjacent to the property is filed to stop the purchase; it fails. The Judge rules that the private citizens had "no standing" to sue the University.

Nov. 4 1996

Ballot issue 205 to seek funds for the City to buy the property (along with another one in North Boulder) fails to pass.

Nov. 1996

CU purchases the property for $16.4 million of which $5.4M is a "gift/discount" from Flatiron Co. The Board of Regents cancels the Woman of the West Museum project on the property and offers to lease13.5 acres of the CU Research Park as an alternative site.


CU trucks hundreds of tons of fill dirt to the property from the NOAA/NIST excavation then spreads and "stockpiles" it.

Summer 1997

CU fills 3 small lakes, reducing the water-covered area from 30 acres to 4 acres. It also fills several wetlands and levels the property.

March 1998

CU requests FEMA certification of the berm as a federally approved flood control structure. FEMA declines certification.


A new citizen group, the Flatirons Open Space Committee, is formed to seek to preserve the property as entirely open space.

Another group, Boulder's Floodplain Independent Review Panel, comprised of technically qualified volunteers, is formed. Its purpose is to monitor the floodplain studies and to advise the City with regard to the South Boulder Creek Master Plan-phase A.

July 1999

CU appeals to FEMA for certification again. It is denied again.

Feb. 2000

CU appeals to FEMA another time, still without success.

August 2000

Strengthening and reinforcing the berm during the previous year has brought part of it up to FEMA technical standards. If/when CU finally obtains FEMA certification for the southern portion of the berm, most of the property will be removed from the official floodplain. This certification would make it easier for major development to take place.

Sept. 8 2000

The Denver Post reports that "CU wants to relocate sports and recreation fields to the site it bought in 1996… and has maintained its right to fully develop the land for future growth."

Oct. 2000

Taggart Engineering completes Phase A of the South Boulder Creek flood study. It shows that the Northern part of the property and large portions of the City are within the 100-year flood danger zone.

Jan. 18 2001

CCHE approves a change to the CU master plan, eliminating the phrase "it is anticipated that the property will be fully developed to include uses and facilities typically found on a modern university campus" including academic buildings, research facilities, and student and faculty housing. Regent Gail Schwartz says that the regents may be misleading the public by striking all reference to long-term plans for the South Campus.

Feb 20 2001

The City Council unanimously passes Resolution 877 indicating it "stands willing to purchase the Flatirons property from a willing seller at a fair price, for open space or flood mitigation purposes, in fee title or by means of conservation easement; or to contemplate whatever agreement might lead to the maximum practicable preservation of the Flatirons property as an environmental asset."

Feb. 27 2001

CCHE approves the CU 2008 master plan. It authorizes building a track, 2 baseball fields, 12 outdoor tennis courts, 4 softball fields, 3 multipurpose fields, and a soccer field and bleachers on 75-85 acres. But no buildings or permanent structures are allowed.

Feb/Mar 2001

CU conducts secret talks with Superior and Lafayette to obtain water and sewage services for athletes and spectators. These attempts fail because the U.S. 36 Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) specifies that only Boulder can annex the property.

March 2001

The City calls for volunteers to join a South Boulder Citizen Advisors group to advise it regarding the South Boulder Creek floodplain study and mitigation recommendations.

Mar. 6 2001

Regent Jim Martin calls for an "era of trust" and says that the University should not be seeking any deal to get water for the Flatirons property that goes against the spirit of the U.S 36 IGA Agreement. He comments, "We should not do through the back door what we should do through the front door."

Mar. 7 2001

Boulder Mayor Will Toor says, "Personally, I would be uncomfortable with providing services to the site even for recreational purposes until we have a comprehensive agreement on the future of the entire site."

Mar. 8 2001

The City mails a flyer to residents in neighbourhoods bordering South Boulder Creek announcing the March 22 public meeting to hear the mitigation alternatives proposed in the Taggart floodplain report.

Mar. 12 2001

Another citizen group, South Boulder Creek Stakeholders, is formed to represent the interests of residents whose homes may be potentially endangered due to the flood mitigation plans under consideration.

Mar. 19 2001

The City announces a series of public meetings on the floodplain issue from March 22 –April 30.

Mar 22 2001

The Taggart report is presented to the public. Recommended flood mitigation includes a 30-acre overflow water holding area in the Northern section of the property to contain up to1,100 acre/feet of floodwater. This area is likely to be where the proposed sport fields would be located.

April 3 2001

The Boulder County Commissioners unanimously reject all "active" flood mitigation alternatives in the Taggart report and that "…we seek other partners to look at what other alternatives, including the maximum use of the CU site for flood storage, might be."

April 8 2001

The Daily Camera quotes CU President, Elizabeth Hoffman, as saying that she would like to be remembered for "restoring high-quality town-gown relations."

April 10 2001

The Boulder City council also rejected all five options in the Taggart report and Urban Drainage and Flood Control District halted the study. CU-Boulder Chancellor, Richard Byyny, and Vice–Chancellor, Paul Talbot, in the Daily Camera: "…we agree that up to 75 acres of land within the CU-Boulder South property could be used in a flood emergency to store excess water…(but) The flood study...was not to deprive CU of the eventual use of its property."

July 18 2001

The Boulder County Planning Commission met to consider proposals from The Flatirons Open Space Committee to strengthen the County's legal authority over future development in flood plains under regulation 1041. The commissioners heard input from the public supporting the changes. Paul Tabolt, Vice Chancellor of Administration of University of Colorado/Boulder, warned the Commission that it was exceeding its authority by trying to increase it regulatory powers. The Commission voted to continue its considerations at a public hearing on Oct. 17.

Sept. 12 2001

CU Boulder hosted an "open Forum" to present the University's conceptual land use assessment and tentative plans for development of the Flatirons property. Due to the shock of the terrorist attack on America the day before, few citizens attended. Maps and charts were displayed and several consultants were available to answer questions. The plan contemplates 128-170 acres for development of buildings, 82 acres preserved for natural areas, 45 acres for sport fields combined with potential flood storage.

October 10, 2001

The City of Boulder Open Space Board of Trustees considered the Draft Framework Plan for the CU South Campus. The Board voted to recommend that the City defend the provisions of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan as they pertain to Flatirons property. The Comprehensive Plan would preserve 221 acres of the 308-acre property as Open Space. The trustees also discussed their concerns about the University's proposal to develop a trail through environmentally sensitive Open Space east of the property.

Nov. 1, 2001

The Boulder County Commissioners, unanimously voted to adopt new, more stringent rules governing requests for building in flood plains. These regulations apply to the University of Colorado/Boulder and would place CU's long-term plans for permanent structures at the South Campus under the purview of County officials.

Nov. 8, 2001

The CU Board of Regents unanimously accepted the CU-South land use assessment and potential development plan. The plan formalizes the University's intent to establish athletic and recreational fields on the Flatirons property over the next several years. Regent Tom Lucero praised the work of those who prepared the plan. "For the first time in my involvement with the university," he said, "this is the first project I have seen that I would say private-sector developers will be envious of the job you've done."

Note: The chronology above is based on various public records and private notes. Every effort has been made to ensure that it is factual, accurate, and objective. Please bring to my attention any omissions of key information or corrections, if needed.

Gary M. Wederspahn


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