Bill opens a door for Commerce City to redevelop part of the old Rocky Mountain Arsenal

Rocky Mountain Arsenal was used by the U.S. Army for decades to manufacture chemical weapons.

A prairie dog outside the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)nature; animals; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite;
A prairie dog outside the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) nature; animals; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite;
A prairie dog outside the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Rocky Mountain Arsenal was used by the U.S. Army for decades to manufacture chemical weapons. Like Rocky Flats, which was a former nuclear facility, large portions of the site are now a wildlife refuge.

Outside the boundaries of the refuge are roughly 1,000 acres that Commerce City would like to develop for housing, shops and offices. That project hasn’t moved forward because covenants on the land prohibit the construction of transportation infrastructure, housing and retail. However, a provision added into a defense spending bill that passed the U.S. Senate today would remove those covenants and allow for development if an environmental assessment shows it is safe.

Preliminary assessments have not found dangerous contamination after an extensive clean-up of the site, but a much more thorough study needs to done.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has an extensive description of the previous contamination and remediation efforts here.

The provision was added into the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 with the support of both of Colorado’s senators, Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet, as well as Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter.

Commerce City sees development of the Victory Crossing site as important for the overall economic development of the city, as well as to allow its residents to benefit from the development going on in nearby areas of northeast Denver.

“Allowing residential development on the Victory Crossing property aligns with the city’s vision to create a one-of-a-kind space for the community to gather as well as make a home,” Commerce City Mayor Sean Ford said in a press release announcing the passage of the bill. “The world-class soccer stadium, the new Central Park rail station and the new RTD bus line are just a few examples of how this area continues to grow and we want Commerce City residents to enjoy those amenities too.

“For the past few years, the city has been working with federal agencies and partners to remove these land restrictions and we look forward to our continued partnerships to develop this area. Multi-family housing with further strengthen Victory Crossing, providing a sense of place and contributing to a vibrant community.”

The defense spending bill now awaits President Barack Obama’s signature.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.