Purpose: informal public forum where Commissioners can provide information on ongoing issues; hear citizens concerns.
Attendance at Elbert - 100+
Attendance at Kiowa - 150+
Commissioners in attendance: Thayer, Richardson and Pettit
1) Facilities Study Update: Condition assessment $2.7 million deferred maintenance - old courthouse, justice center, health & human services bldg, road & bridge shops (phase 1); future needs $40 million - admin space, jail/courts, maintenance facilities (phase 2). County is allocating $500,000/yr towards deferred maintenance.
2) Economic Development Zone (EDZ): 2018 Planning Commission passed a new Comprehensive Plan encouraging more economic development to save time and money. Successes: Preferred Medical Devices between Simla and Matheson (100 employees); Double Beam Hay on Rd 13 (2 part-time employees)
3) Water Issues
- Regional impacts: EC withdraws 1.76 million gals/day from aquifers (2% of aquifer usage of 4 counties)
- Rural water study: recommendations for county actions - conserve, recycle, explore renewables. Commissioners claim that EC will use from 17-23 thousand acre feet of water a year (thru 2050), but that we have 53.6 million acre feet of water available (thru 2050). Per Thayer, “The water is there.”
- Subdivision regulation update: formalized county’s 300-year water rule; provides authority to require monitoring of water levels in new developments
- Special District Service Plan Regulations Update (pending): Service Plan requires approval prior to District Court formation of new district, updating to include restrictions on taking water from county and developments, including language to increase transparency and access to citizens served
4) Independence Update
- entitlement from Bandera approval for 920 homes, 50% open space, ‘three pipe” system (recycling and reuse of residential water for irrigation)
- Requested wide variety of uses outside of Service Plan; Service Plan prevails
- County can withhold building permits if Service Plan violated
- Wording “not unusual” for requested usage change, per commissioners
Questions/comments/concerns raised by citizens (summary of both Town Hall meetings):-
- Off-site usage change proposed by Independence - the current Service Plan prohibits off-site usages; therefore, it would be appropriate for the BOCC to file a Letter of Opposition with the Water Court to oppose off-site usages of previously adjudicated water. The BOCC needs to honor the existing Service Plan. Richardson’s response was that there is nothing “nefarious” going on, so the county doesn’t need to file such a letter.
- County possesses adjudicated water rights in Upper Dawson, so has the right/standing to file a Letter of Opposition.
- Change in usage is actually a “material modification” (as defined by statute) to the Service Plan which requires approval via a much more rigorous process involving both the Planning Commission and the BOCC.
- Independence can get the additional uses from aquifers other than the Upper Dawson (they ALREADY have these other uses and adequate water in the other aquifers).
- Craft’s water attorney stated that their application seeks “much broader uses than what they plan to use.” The only reason he kept repeating for seeking additional uses was that Craft “doesn’t want to go back to Water Court because it’s too expensive.”
- Independence is “jumping the gun” as they haven’t even built homes yet and are already asking for more uses.
- Lack of trust of county commissioners and developers: BOCC still hasn’t put Service Plan online for citizens to read; serious lack of transparency; commissioners haven’t answered emails. County also rebated $5 million in impact fees to Independence - agreement documenting this agreement also not available online for citizens.
- County commissioners possess the ability to “nip this in the bud.”
- Commissioner Richardson attempted to prohibit a citizen at the Kiowa meeting from speaking because said citizen had been at the Elbert meeting; citizen persisted and spoke anyway.
- Citizen with professional credentials stated that commissioners’ projections about available water projections are basically “errors.” Questioned the accuracy of the study that was part of the commissioners’ presentation; per his research, the majority of the studies project much lower levels of water available now and in the future.
- “Thayer oversimplified” his explanation of available water.
- Trucks traveling on Rd. 158 to Independence create a “living hell.”
- Attorney firm used by Independence sued a private citizen regarding a development adjacent to Independence; judge threw out the case.
- Commissioners do a “lot of talking” but need to “open their ears to citizens” instead of just talking.
- If county is metering these wells, how is it being done; it’s great to say developers only have specific amounts of water, but who is following up on this.
- Somewhere in the future, this change of usage (“off-site”) will be a loophole and used as justification for changing the Service Plan to allow Independence to provide water off-site. Commissioners stated that it “wouldn’t make sense” to have 2 water treatment plants adjacent to each other; therefore, this implies that the commissioners are already rationalizing grounds to change the Service Plan to allow off-site water services from Independence.
- Unless the commissioners actually listen to and act upon the concerns of the citizens who take the time to attend these Town Hall meetings, this rancor and frustration will repeat itself “again and again and again”..........
1) Information from a water attorney confirms that it is not unusual for a county to file a Letter of Opposition to a Water Court application. Despite being asked to do this by numerous citizens, the Elbert County BOCC has shown no inclination to file a Letter of Opposition in support of citizen concerns.
2) The developer’s water attorney was present at both Town Hall meetings. Are the county commissioners utilizing a water attorney’s expertise (like the developer does) to deal with the complexities of water issues in Colorado? Based on some of the information presented in the slide show, and the comments by some knowledgeable EC citizens, it doesn’t appear that they’ve utilized legal experts in water law.
3) Having attended almost all of the Town Hall meetings since they were instituted by the current commissioners, increased interaction with citizens and decreased commentary by the BOCC would be more beneficial.
4) Commissioner Richardson unfortunately minimized the attendance at the Elbert meeting. There were over 100 individuals in attendance on Wednesday night in Elbert (not the 60 as he stated). Combined attendance of both Town Halls was in excess of 250....thanks to all who are engaged in attempting to maintain the character of Elbert County.