Dick Brauch wants to set the story straight. The heart of his farm will be the first to go with a proposed pipeline and pump station from the city of Thornton.
“My folks purchased this piece of ground in 1962,” he began. When his dad died in 1995, he had the property appraised and was able to buy the rest of the land from his siblings.
“My neighbors all think I’m colluding with Thornton,” he said. “I’m trying to get this road thing trashed because I care about all the people on each side (of Douglas Road) who won’t be able to use this road. This will affect the whole of northern Larimer County because a lot of people use this road, especially the Poudre High School students who would either have to go 3 miles north or down to the Y and take that route.”
He also says of the Thornton Water Project team, “Don’t believe them when they say they’re not taking any private land because they’re taking the heart of my farm.”
Brauch is the sole owner of the plot of land and former tree farm to the east of Starlight Drive where the Thornton Water Project plans to put their pump station. He pointed out the 2.82 acres he had marked off with traffic cones in the center of his farmland. “That big piece of ground is what they want to take.”
He invites anyone who is interested in the scope of the project to drive by his property on the north side of Douglas Road to look at the circle of traffic cones and see how big the area is.
He has yet to sell anything to Thornton, however.
Instead, he cites what he thinks is the better option for the city. Grey Rock Road north of the Eagle Lake neighborhood is a dirt road with much less traffic than Douglas. Taking that route for the pipeline would affect fewer people. That route, he said, would cost the city of Thornton much less because they wouldn’t have to re-surface the road.
Brauch believes this was initially the preferred route. However, he said the Thornton Water Project team held two “secret” meetings with the Eagle Lake residents who allegedly brought in three attorneys for an undisclosed sum of money. A letter from Rob Helmick, Larimer County senior planner, was sent to to Mark Koleber, Thornton Water Project director, on July 11, 2017. The letter states specifically:
“…we’re planning to present the Alternatives Analysis to, at least, the Eagle Lake, Woody Creek and Braidwood HOAs, and the residents of the S-Bar-G Lane area. We believe it would be beneficial to invite others that could be impacted by work on Douglas Road. …”
Brauch claims that neither he nor any of the residents that he has spoken to south of Eagle Lake were informed of these meetings.
A meeting on Sept. 12, 2017, at the Larimer County Courthouse office building was the first Brauch knew of the pipeline. He was studying a map with an aerial view of the proposed route of the pipeline and an enlarged view of the pump station site was placed in one corner. The site turned out to be his farm, which, until then, he knew nothing about.
He said he also is concerned the project will disrupt the traffic on the two-lane Douglas Road.
“As you can see here, how are you going to dig a 6-foot-wide ditch and bring in excavators and a dump truck and still have room for traffic even (on) one lane ?”
If the Larimer County commissioners don’t vote down this proposal, he said he will have no choice but to sell the acreage in the middle of his farm as well as the easement on the east side for the pipeline route.
He would like to assure the neighbors that it would be to his advantage to stop this project. Early indications were that Thornton would take the whole farm. In other conversations with them, they said they would only take the 2.2 acres in the center of the farm, which would make farming the rest of the land almost impossible.