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A prairie dog is seen at the Hogan-Pancost property on Friday. Plans for dealing with prairie dogs on the city-owned property have not yet been finalized, but they are protected in place for now.
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Boulder City Council on Tuesday is set to put to rest the question of what will become of the Hogan-Pancost property, a 22-acre swath of land south of East Boulder Community Park divided by 55th Street.

Council in February 2018 approved the purchase of the property for $5 million to kill the three-decade “zombie” that was the recurring controversy over possible development there. Staff in October outlined a number of potential uses, including agriculture, recreation, housing and open space, and council indicated a preference for flood mitigation.

Staff on Tuesday will recommend the weedy, overgrown property ⁠— now estimated to be worth $182,000 ⁠— be split into a 19-acre parcel for flood mitigation and a 3-acre parcel for open space.

“We’re getting them to sign off on the long-term land use for the property to close the question of what’s going to happen there,” said Pam Davis, senior management analyst.

A high-level engineering analysis determined creation of a water detention area would cost somewhere between $2 million and $6 million, a high figure given the 26 nearby homes that would benefit. There is no timeline for when it would be implemented, and a staff memo to council noted it would not be funded in the foreseeable future because of the poor cost-benefit ratio.

However, it could eventually fit into the broader flood mitigation plan for South Boulder Creek, which includes the developing plans at the University of Colorado Boulder’s property south of U.S. 36. The engineering analysis found that detention on the Hogan-Pancost property could replace or complement proposed detention at nearby Manhattan Middle School, city spokeswoman Meghan Wilson said.

“We’re really following council direction on this,” Wilson said. “Since we own the property and there would be a flood benefit, it’s low-hanging fruit and it would make sense to proceed with flood mitigation.”

Often, land acquisition or conservation easements serve as barriers to flood mitigation projects in the city, Wilson said, but the city owns the land in this case.

“This would be a relatively easy project to implement given that we don’t have that particular barrier,” she said.

Another component of the property is a lease that allows two horses to graze there. The lease stipulates grooming and other care instructions, but neighbors have repeatedly raised concerns about the horses’ welfare.

A lease that allows two horses to graze on the city-owned Hogan-Pancost property expires on July 24. Staff has proposed restoring the land as a natural area.

Animal protection has responded to 10 complaints since November about their welfare. The city has not issued any tickets, but staff has spent “considerable” time checking on the horses and investigating the complaints, Wilson said.

Cheryl Haugen, a neighbor, came to council in February to invite council members to the property to see the condition of the horses. She described the “bucket brigade” she and other neighbors formed to bring water and hay to the horses, as well as to remove burrs.

“Neighbors have been afraid to bring this to the attention of authorities because they don’t want the animals removed from the property,” Haugen told council at the time. “They are very beloved, and the neighbors are very resolved to helping these animals.”

City Attorney Tom Carr told council at the time that his staff had been among other city staff who had been working for months to identify a solution.

The city terminated the lease, which will end July 24, and staff has proposed restoring the land as a natural area, according to the memo. The acreage is overrun with noxious weeds, and staff is proposing a “limited restoration” approach to mow certain weeds, mow and treat others and provide maintenance.  It would cost about $5,000 to $10,000 in upfront costs and annual maintenance of $500 to $1,000, according to the memo.

Davis said that, pending council approval, the property will largely remain similar to how it looks today.

Plans for prairie dogs on the property have not yet been finalized, but they are protected in place for now, Wilson said.

The matter is scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday.

If you go

What: Boulder City Council meeting

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: 1777 Broadway

Agenda: bit.ly/30vEtmu

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