DOAA Status for Broomfield County Commons: A Brief Overview

A move made last spring by the CCOB to designate the Broomfield County Commons as a Designated Outside Activity Area, or DOAA, affects residents of the RedLeaf neighborhood and others, especially those bordering the open space. Per the requirements by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), a notice was sent to all mineral and property owners in Mid-December within a 350 foot buffer space around the Broomfield County Commons. This notice included a map of the area and a notice of the now-postponed hearing item at the COGCC.  The hearing was postponed because the COGCC requires published notice of the application in two newspapers in addition to the certified mailings– a requirement with which the CCOB seemingly did not comply. The hearing now is slated to take place at the next COGCC meeting on March 11th or 12th, 2019. 

The moon rises over the Broomfield County Commons Sports fields.

The Broomfield County Commons, according to the CCOB website, is a “300-acre site that is home to the Paul Derda Recreation Center, County Commons cemetery, 237 acres of open space, and an 80-acre park/sports complex.” Browsing through the photos on the CCOB site, we see a picturesque community space where kids are playing and nature is thriving. Having run what is likely hundreds if not thousands of miles through this park myself, I can attest to the well-groomed trails and better-than-average play structures where kids can play and run. How many of us have spent season upon season watching our kids play soccer or other sports out on the fields? I was always particularly grateful for the well-kept bathrooms and the water fountain that quenched my thirst on many-a-hot Colorado day. There are countless prairie dogs, and the site is a well-known habitat for coyotes, as noted by the signs posted throughout the property. On one extra special run, I encountered a bald eagle sitting in the dead center of the space, looking regal and quite proud of him/herself. It truly is a haven for nature and community gathering.

In order to answer questions about the DOAA, the RedLeaf BOD hosted Tami Yellico, the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the CCOB, at their meeting on Monday, 1/28/2019 at the Broomfield Rec Center. Apparently, a bigger crowd showed up than expected as extra chairs had to be brought in to seat everyone. Director Yellico explained that no one has applied to drill in the Commons and that this is a preemptive move to prevent future drilling. She also explained that any area submitted for a DOAA must be under current use, not future use. Because Broomfield has invested so much money into this recreation area, she seemed to think it will be a sure thing to get approved by the COGCC. She also explained that DOAAs are not as popular as one might think– there is only ONE so far to be approved by the COGCC, and that one is in Longmont. She was unsure of whether or not others had been applied for.

What exactly is a DOAA? According to the COGCC, a DOAA is “an outdoor venue or recreation area, such as a playground, permanent sports field, amphitheater, or other similar place of public assembly owned or operated by a local government, which the local government seeks to have established as a Designated Outside Activity Area; or (ii) an outdoor venue or recreation area, such as a playground, permanent sports field, amphitheater, or other similar place of public assembly where ingress to, or egress from the venue could be impeded in the event of an emergency condition at an Oil and Gas Location less than three hundred and fifty (350) feet from the venue due to the configuration of the venue and the number of persons known or expected to simultaneously occupy the venue on a regular basis. The Commission shall determine whether to establish a Designated Outside Activity Area and, if so, the appropriate boundaries for the DOAA based on the totality of circumstances and consistent with the purposes of the Oil and Gas Conservation Act.”

The intention for the DOAA seems to be to protect this recreational area from what many see as an inevitable encroachment by the oil and gas industry into even our most precious community spaces. Getting the DOAA protection for the Commons guarantees that oil and gas development will not be allowed to happen on the surface of the Commons or on any property within 350 feet of the Commons, but it does not prevent operators from drilling under the park or under RedLeaf and surrounding neighborhoods. Some community members question the motives for the DOAA, citing the fact prominent local politicians live in this particular neighborhood (RedLeaf), but most community members I’ve spoken to overall see it as a positive move to protect an important community space that hosts an array of wildlife, sporting activities, gatherings, and community celebrations– most notably the annual Broomfield Great American Picnic 4th of July gathering and fireworks. Some residents on private social media threads and community email threads have emphasized how oil and gas developments and fireworks displays shouldn’t mix.

The COGCC explains the following protections for DOAAs from oil and gas development: “No Well or Production Facility shall be located three hundred fifty (350) feet or less from the boundary of a Designated Outside Activity Area. The Commission, in its discretion, may establish a setback of greater than three hundred fifty (350) feet based on the totality of circumstances. Designated Setback Location mitigation measures pursuant to Rule 604.c. shall be required for Oil and Gas Locations within one thousand (1,000) feet of a Designated Outside Activity Area, unless the Commission determines otherwise.”

A possible drawback for this DOAA designation is that oil and gas development proponents or those living nearby the Commons who wish to access their minerals and sell them may now have a more difficult time doing so because of the DOAA. It’s unclear whether or not homeowners in Redleaf own their mineral rights, and it’s an expensive process to do mineral title work for designated properties. If one ultimately believes that oil and gas development belongs and should thrive in densely populated neighborhoods, like much of the development currently taking place in Broomfield, then he/she might be an opponent of this kind of DOAA protection status. Because there is natural gas located under the Commons and neighboring areas, it could be argued that these minerals should be accessed at any cost in order to prop up the Colorado economy, even at the cost of our valued community lands and parks.

Another drawback is the time and money it’s costing the city to apply for this DOAA designation. At a recent CCOB meeting, Yellico pointed out how time consuming this process has been– the CCOB submitted their application to the COGCC on March 1, 2018, and only now, a year later, the hearing is scheduled. The process is also cost prohibitive for the city, costing at least $60,000 to research the mineral rights for the Commons, according to Yellico. It’s unclear if there are other application fees or additional associated costs of this process.

According to Yellico, though, there are not currently any opponents to this proposal from the Broomfield Community. The next step is the hearing at the COGCC on March 11th or 12th, where the CCOB will make their case for this designation.