Weld County commissioners on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for Bill Barrett Corp. to build an office building east of Windsor, despite neighborhood dissent.
Neighbors of the oil and gas exploration company’s proposed office building and equipment storage yard at the northwest corner of Weld County Road 33 and Colo. 392 had been fighting to keep the building out of their neighborhood, which they say is chiefly residential.
Resident Karen Lohmann, concerned she may end up with a junkyard and 24/7 industrial operations across the street from her home, was upset after the unanimous vote. Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer was absent.
“I’m just very angry,” said Lohmann, who presented commissioners with a petition of 45 signatures against the project. “We could have a million people there, and it wouldn’t have mattered one bit.”
The company, which is drilling in and around that area, has planned the new lot to contain a small shop for equipment maintenance, a pumper room, offices, a large conference room and locker rooms. The remaining part of the lot would be used for equipment storage and be shielded from residents’ view by a 6-foot fence.
In the application to the county, Bill Barrett reports a field office in this location would decrease the company’s travel distance to its well sites, reducing the impact on county roads.
The office would have roughly 10 employees on site, along with about 20 others who would report there from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the company stated.
Several neighbors spoke out against the project, citing mostly concerns about additional traffic. The company had planned 60 trips a day to the site, mostly by heavy-duty pickups. The company reduced the size of the storage yard to accommodate neighborhood concerns about semi traffic using the lot to turn around.
John Johnson, a dairy and feedlot owner about a mile and a half north of the lot, said additional traffic would be detrimental to the area. He said pickups, which the company officials said would be parked at the site, were just as dangerous, or more so, than semis.
Bill Barrett has an existing office building in west Greeley surrounded by residential development, complete with a church across the street. The company plans to move out of the leased office on 65th Avenue to the new location.
“It’s really important for us to have that headquarters here,” said Commissioner Sean Conway, adding that Synergy Resources has a county field office near Milliken, and it works well with the surrounding agricultural area.
“By and large, it’s the same facility that’s being proposed here,” he said of Bill Barrett’s plans.
Commissioners said they felt Bill Barrett’s plans would not harm the area, and expressed concern that the area residents weren’t being good neighbors to Bill Barrett, which planned a neighborhood meeting which no one attended.
Commissioner Bill Garcia said he was satisfied the use would be mostly that of a professional office, but he warned both sides to work with each other.
Commissioner Doug Rademacher said he would have liked residents to have attended that community meeting with the company, where they could have addressed their concerns.
“You want to complain, you want him to mitigate, but he is not going to know what your concerns are,” Rademacher said. “I find that disturbing.”
Rademacher said the land at present is basically vacant ground that is worthless except for dry land operation. He said compatibility is in the eye of the beholder.
Lohmann said she was offended by the notion that she and her neighbors were not being good neighbors. She said the company scheduled the meeting a day before it was held and it was during working hours.
“Basically, it was like we were the bad people for not going to their meeting planned at the very last minute, and yet we had all our lives to deal with?” Lohmann said. “Why didn’t they approach us prior to purchase of the property?”
John Ed Singleton, area supervisor for Bill Barrett’s Greeley office, said he was still willing to address neighbors’ concerns about the building and the company’s operations there.
“We do want to be neighborly,” Singleton said after the meeting. “I don’t want people to think that since this is approved, that we’re all of that and we’re going to forget everything that just went on. I want to do everything right per the USR we have approved now, and I’ve already talked to the construction company. Once construction does start we’ll have weekly onsite meetings to make sure we’re going by everything we said we would do.”
Singleton said some grading permits at present are holding up the start of construction, but he hopes to break ground in the first week of May and have the office building built, as well as fencing and landscaping up, by the end of summer.