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You may favor or oppose the proposed Independence high density housing development currently under consideration by the Planning Commission, scheduled to be presented to the Board of County Commissioners on September 5 at 6:00PM at the fairgrounds. A myriad of reasons have emerged about “why or why not” regarding this proposal.

Regardless of what anyone may think about the necessity for more housing in our county, EVERYONE should be concerned about the following issues:

Kurt Schlegel has been working closely with Tim Craft, Independence developer, to promote this project…..even contacting residents in nearby subdivisions on behalf of the Independence developer in anticipation of garnering support. To refresh your memory, as a county commissioner, Schlegel was strongly supporting the metro district in Wildpointe when a proposal to expand their service would have provided a pipeline out of the county….to export Elbert County water to other communities. This proposal also planned a pipeline in from the Lamar area to replace our Denver Basin water with water from the Arkansas River basin…..sending our pristine water only to replace it with lesser quality water.

Language in the Service Plan for the proposed Independence Water and Sanitation District is concerning. To access this information:

This is available on the Elbert County website and is part of the proposal, in Section “V Financial Information,” subsection D, pages 13-14. Be especially concerned about the following two statements taken directly from this document:

1) “The District shall not export any water outside of the boundaries of the County without the prior consent of the Board of County Commissioners, which consent, if provided, shall not be considered to be material modification of this Service Plan.”

This means that the county commissioners can approve the sale of water outside the county without a public hearing…..which appears to be an “end run” around current county zoning regulations. (Interestingly, when asked, Tim Craft has publicly stated that he has no intention of selling water outside the county…..the developer says one thing, the document says another.)

2) “The District may provide service to other properties within the County subject to mutual agreement as evidenced by an extraterritorial agreement with the other party or parties provided that such service in no way diminishes the District’s ability to serve the Development.”

This means that Independence Water and Sanitation District could sell water to any future high density developments without a public hearing….again, sell water outside the stated boundaries of Independence.

The same attorney, Diane Miller, who advised Nyquist in his attempted “water grab” of 2011, is currently Tim Craft’s attorney for this Special District. The main reason that Nyquist’s attempted “water grab” failed was that the wording “shall not be considered to be material modification of the Service Plan” was NOT in his original Service Plan, thus forcing a public hearing. If you were around for that public meeting with about 1000 citizens in attendance, you are probably very aware that it was public pressure and presence at the meeting which caused Nyquist to withdraw his application. Attorney Diane Miller has included the above language in Tim Craft’s proposal because she learned her lesson…..and is attempting to skirt a public hearing to address what is, in essence, a “material modification” of the Service Plan by expanding the service area of the Water and Sanitation District beyond Independence.

UPDATE: On July 18, 2017, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the Independence development to the BOCC. One change that the PC requested was that language be inserted so that water could not be sold “out of the county.” However, United Water and Sanitation District, which operates on a one acre piece of land in Elbert County, has statewide water distribution authority. This opens the door for Independence water to be sold to United Water (technically still in Elbert County); then United Water has the authority to sell this water anywhere in the state. Time will tell if there is a potential connection here. Additionally, Diane Miller works closely with the owner of the United Water District on a number of special districts.

This sleight-of-hand by Tim Craft and Diane Miller must be challenged. If you are concerned about how this may impact Elbert County water, mark your calendars for the Board of County Commissioners’ public hearing for this development on September 5 at 6PM at the fairgrounds.

We’ve done it before….we can do it again. Let’s get 1000 citizens to these meetings, let’s show the commissioners that we’re paying attention, and let’s protect our water!

-Jill Duvall