Protect Rural Gunbarrel

May 23, 2024
The property at 5701 N. 79th St is relisted for sale by a real estate agency. The application has not been withdrawn.

March 4, 2024
Developers officially request tabling the application for the Tennis Center of the Rockies.

February 23, 2024
The Protect Rural Gunbarrel petition is turned in to Boulder County officials.

NOTE: We want to make clear that (contrary to the developers opinion expressed in various newspaper articles) at no time did we try to influence county officials or referral agencies. Referral agencies and county officials conduct their own research before writing letters and do not take instructions from residents.

Additionally, we have not engaged in, nor conducted, a misinformation campaign. As a matter of fact we have gone to great lengths to present data and information as accurately as we possibly could. For the developers to suggest otherwise is an unjust attack on our integrity.

If the developers are disappointed about the referral letters they need to look into their own decision of buying rural property surrounded by fragile wildlife habitat with the need of a special use review. It is inappropriate to place blame, and lash out at residents who are supporting the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

Proposed Membership Club Tennis Facility on Area-III Rural Preservation Land

Special Use Review Docket Number: SU-23-0016
Location: 5701 N. 79th St in Gunbarrel

Developers submitted a Special Use Review for a land use change to build a Membership Club Tennis Facility at 5701 N. 79th St in Gunbarrel on January 16, 2024.

The proposed development consists of at least 26 tennis courts, 2 large bubble covers, a club house, 2 pools, septic fields and a detention pond. Each of the two 50 feet high inflatable bubble covers will be about the size of a football field, 4 stories tall and kept inflated 24/7 with 2 HVAC systems, air locks and pressurization units.

The proposed development is located within an Area III-Rural Preservation, the highest level of land protection in the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.

This development should not be mistaken for the Boulder Park and Recreation Department’s introduction of 22 public pickleball courts and 22 public tennis courts, which are set to be located in East Boulder Community Park, Valmont City Park, Foothills Community Park, Gerald Stazio Fields, or Tom Watson Park.

Boulder County Referral Responses

February 14, 2024
Staff does not support the proposal. From the numerous perspectives discussed above, it is not an appropriate use for the site. The proposal does not meet the following review criteria at Land Use Code 4-601-A — 2, 3, 4, or 9. These involve compatibility with the surrounding area, in accordance with the county Comprehensive Plan, over- intensive use of land, and undue visual impacts. It is questionable whether the proposal meets Criterion 11: establishes “an appropriate balance between current and future…environmental and societal needs by minimizing the consumption…of water, land, and other finite resources” such as biodiversity.”

Boulder County Parks and Open Space

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March 25, 2024
Staff have reviewed the information provided by the applicant regarding the proposed use and consider it over-intensive rural development.

The proposal conflicts with numerous elements of the Comprehensive Plan, would be developed on a parcel that is identified as containing Agricultural Lands of Local Importance, is intercepted by an Environmental Conservation Area (ECA), and is adjacent to Critical Wildlife Habitat.

“When balancing the goals and objectives of the BVCP and BCCP, staff conclude that this proposal is not in conformance with these adopted plans.”
Boulder County Long Range Planning Division

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February 23, 2024
The location of the proposed Tennis Center of the Rockies site is far removed from the urban area of the city and adding such uses outside of the city in an area defined to remain rural in use is inconsistent with the purpose, policies and goals of the BVCP. Furthermore, the BVCP strives to ensure that development will take place in an orderly fashion, and avoid, insofar as possible, patterns of leapfrog, noncontiguous, scattered development within the Boulder Valley. Although close to existing subdivisions and other urban development, the subject parcel and proposed use are not contiguous to these developments or intensive uses.”

“The nearest confirmed burrowing owl nest is approximately ~300 meters from the property, well within the 1⁄4 mile buffer that CPW recommends as a protective buffer from large disturbances such as what is being proposed in this application.”
City of Boulder PDS and OSMP

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February 14, 2024
The location selected for this site is not consistent with the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan which states that development of urban facilities of this type should be within urban service areas and not located in the countryside.”

“The proposed land use is not in line with the Conservation District’s mission to promote preservation uses of agricultural land. We suggest the applicant find a different, more suitable location.”
Longmont and Boulder Valley Conservation Districts

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February 12, 2024
“..there may be additional concerns regarding the proposed Tennis Center of the Rockies project (Project) due to the presence of nesting and foraging raptors in the area.” “..we understand that the presence of prairie dogs within the proposed parcel as well as the surrounding parcels (which are managed by City of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks Department) provides suitable foraging and nesting habitat for raptors and burrowing owls protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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February 21, 2024
Thank you for including Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the review process for this project. After review, we found that Burrowing owls could be present on the proposed site. CPW recommends that if construction is to occur during the nesting season (March 15 – August 31), that Burrowing owl nesting surveys be conducted. If Burrowing owls are present during this time, we recommend re-consulting with CPW for further recommendations.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife

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Impacted wildlife inhabiting the area

Burrowing Owl THREATENED

Threatened & Endangered Level – Threatened

Rough-legged Hawk THREATENED

Threatened & Endangered Level – Special Concern

Peregrine Falcon THREATENED

Threatened & Endangered Level – Special Concern


Threatened & Endangered Level – Special Concern


Ferruginous Hawk THREATENED

Threatened & Endangered Level – Special Concern

Red Fox

“Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) are a very special place. The open space lands teem with native plants and wildlife and are home to threatened and endangered species. They serve as a buffer between Boulder and nearby development. They sustain agriculture uses and add untold benefits to the natural environment – clean air, water, and earth.

The lands shape the urban mosaic of the Boulder Valley and provide residents with passive recreation opportunities. Trails are used by walkers, hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders, dog walkers and other passive recreational uses.”

Download flyer here

Proposed tennis bubbles are 50 ft above surface level.

Artist rendering of what a 50 ft single poly-coated vinyl bubble could potentially look like on the 5701 N. 79th St location. The current proposal has two bubbles.

What is a Special Use Review?

A Special Use Review is a request by property owners to change land use from one type to another. The property currently only permits the construction of a single house.

Special Use Reviews are so significant that after it has been reviewed by the Boulder County Planners, the Board of County Commissioners must approve it. Historically a Special Use Review of this scope happens very infrequently.

The Special Review Criteria upon which the decision of the land change will be based can be found here. Excerpts of some of the review criteria have been added to the Talking Points in Write A Letter.

Public review is necessary because ‘the effect of a special use on the surrounding environment cannot be determined adequately in advance of the use being proposed for a particular location’.

reasons to be against changing the land use


  • Critical Wildlife Habitat – The Threatened Burrowing Owl has a protected habitat just yards away. Prairie Dogs located on the property provide an active hunting ground for threatened Bald and Golden Eagles, as well as threatened Rough Legged and Ferruginous Hawks. The Grasshopper Sparrow has an extremely fragile habitat in close vicinity. According to BCPOS the biggest threats to native bird species on the plains of Boulder County is fragmentation of habitat by development. (Special Review Criteria: 4-601 A-4) 
  • Over-Intensive Use of Land – Over 55,000 cubic yards of soil is to be moved in order to create impermeable surfaces for 26 tennis courts, 2 pools, a clubhouse, 100+ parking spots and walkways. A standard dump truck carries around 15 CY, which means the moved soil is the equivalent of about 3600 dump trucks. About 10 acres of  land will be permanently altered by development, with extensive and deep grading and impermeable surfaces. (Special Review Criteria: 4-601 A-4) 
  • Preservation Disruption – The area is a designated by Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan as the highest level Area III-Rural Preservation site. (Special Review criteria: 4-601 A-3) 
  • Public Views (Special Review Criteria: 4-601 A-2) – Loss of a popular Level 2 Public View Protection Corridor created to preserve public viewing of the Front Range Mountains and Indian Peaks Wilderness.
  • Traffic Congestion – The project will add over 700 – 1000 (per our traffic expert, 500 per developers), cars per day to narrow rural roads without turn lanes, heavy bicycle traffic and limited sight-lines makes for dangerous road conditions. This number does not include special events such as multi day tournaments, clinics and camps offered throughout the year. Traffic would significantly increase during the construction period with large machinery making continuous trips back and forth on small roads that are already congested during rush hour. Safety for bicycles is a big concern. Boulder County Parks and Open Space estimates imported fill needed for construction would require about 2800 large one-way trips in large dump trucks.
  • Human Health and Ecological Concerns  – Construction of two large tennis bubbles requires a tensile (fabric) roof, which is usually coated with “forever chemicals,” (PFAS) to make the roof waterproof. Precipitation could lead to PFAS runoff from the roof, which could then soak into the soil and leach into groundwater below or continue downhill as surface water runoff. This runoff could reach surface water in creeks and ditches below the proposed tennis complex, including the Boulder/Left Hand Ditch, Boulder/Whiterock Ditch, and Dry Creek. (Special Review Criteria: 4-601 A-10)
  • Noise & Light Pollution – Light and noise pollution will not be contained within the area of the property, but will affect residents and wildlife beyond the borders of the development. (Special Review Criteria: 4-601 A-10)
  • Drainage – The area has significant drainage issues, and the Cottontail Trail at the base of the adjacent open space struggles with flooding. (Special Review Criteria: 4-601 A-12) 
  • Tax Payer Burden – Traffic and road improvements costing in the millions of dollars might be needed, and could potentially become a financial burden for taxpayers. Additionally a project this scale is likely to require many mitigations after its completion.
  • Precedent – Granting a land use change for this project would establish a precedent, potentially affecting the future of Boulder County Open Space management.

See Talking Points for more.

Read Traffic Study conducted by Bill Fox here.

Petition Data

Data derived from all 3356 petitioners who signed starting on December 5, 2023. The petition was submitted to Boulder County Planners on February 23, 2024.

What else can you do?

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Pro-RURAL Alliance (Citizens for the Preservation of Rural Boulder County) promotes community awareness of proposals and policies, fosters effective engagement and develops working relationships with land owners, stakeholders and County officials.

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Website last updated: June 6, 2024