Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jesse Murphy
Editorial@lhvc.com 

Roads -- Where to now?

 

December 30, 2016



Last week, the Colorado Supreme Court denied a request from subdivision residents in Boulder County to review the Court of Appeals’ decision in a suit against the county concerning the paving and upgrades of subdivision roads.

This decision marks the third time the courts have stated that BoCoFIRM — the organization representing residents — cannot sue the county commissioners over the condition of rural subdivision roads. In June 2016, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.

Following last week’s Supreme Court decision, the county commissioners released the following statement:

“Today, the Colorado Supreme Court denied the plaintiff’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari. This effectively finalizes all decisions from the lower courts, which found in favor of Boulder County.

‘We have been confident in our position from the start of this process, and now it is good to have a final decision,’ said County Commissioner Deb Gardner. ‘It has been a long process and we are ready to move forward with finding a solution to repairing subdivision roads.’

“A ballot measure brought forth by a separate group of homeowners was narrowly defeated this fall. The number of residents who voted in favor of the measure proves that there is a desire within the community to find some sort of countywide solution to repairing subdivision roads. As always, open dialogue with the community is encouraged to find potential routes forward.”

Commissioner Gardner added, “Over the years we’ve tried several approaches to resolving this issue that have not panned out. We don’t know exactly what comes next, but we will continue to work with willing partners in the community to find an approach that works.”

On the other side, BoCoFIRM President Chuck Wibby — the main plaintiff in the case — said that the group plans to continue to find a way to use existing funds to repave roads.

They also released a statement the day of the ruling:

“Today the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado denied the Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed by BoCoFIRM on behalf of over 300 county residents in the matter of the abandonment of county roads by the Boulder County Board of Commissioners.

“Although the Supreme Court chose not to intervene in this matter, lower courts did rule during the BoCoFIRM lawsuits that the subdivision roads belong to the county and that the county has failed to properly maintain the roads per their statutory obligations.

“It should be noted that the County’s legal position ruled on today was simply a matter of standing. BoCoFIRM was never permitted to have the merits of its case heard in court.

“Rather, the County simply argued that county residents do not have standing to sue the County on this or virtually any other matter. Surprisingly, the Supreme Court agreed with that position.

“The Supreme Court ruling does not change the basic premise of the BoCoFIRM lawsuit. Today the reality remains exactly the same as when the lawsuit was first filed. The subdivision roads that were built to county specifications by the residents of the subdivisions and then given to the County for free in exchange for a commitment by the County to maintain the roads are continuing to deteriorate every day. We again ask the Commissioners what is their plan is to properly maintain our roads?

“BoCoFIRM will continue to advocate for responsible County government and will work with the County to come up with a solution to this problem. BoCoFIRM has in the past submitted two plans to the County that would fix this problem in a cost-effective manner. In the coming months and years, BoCoFIRM will continue to advocate on behalf of the citizens of Boulder County.”

The case

The first lawsuit with the county and BoCoFIRM began in 2013 and was to invalidate the original Local Improvement District. The District Court ruled that the roads belong to the county, it is their duty to maintain them and that the county is not properly doing it.

The second lawsuit was filed in 2014 after BoCoFIRM felt the county was not abiding by the state statutes as ruled by the District Court. This case then went to the Court of Appeals, and after last week’s decision at the Supreme Court, is now over.

“We were simply asking the court to hear our argument and then make a ruling on whether or not the courts would order the county to do what they’re not doing,” Wibby said.

The county argued that citizens don’t have the right to sue the county on this matter, the opinion the court sided with.

Moving forward

The county did not comment further on the court’s decision other than pointing out the county’s willingness to match funds raised by subdivisions.

Wibby said that BoCoFIRM’s next move is to try and find a new line of discussion with the county, but they are still holding the line that the work can be done with no new taxes.

“Our goal from day one has always been to get the roads without new taxes,” Wibby said. “There were avenues to get that done, we’ve kind of come to the end of the road — so to speak, in that we tried the political avenue, we tried the courts and they deferred.

“The residents of Boulder County have told the commissioners twice now that we’re not willing to pay new taxes. We feel they have enough money to take care of this problem.”

The work

According to Wibby, Knollwood has been the only one of 103 subdivisions to take advantage of the county match. Wibby added that not all subdivision residents can afford that extra cost if they were to seek matching funds.

Each year, the county picks one project that will cost roughly $1million, which is earmarked for that purpose. The project for 2017 will be Lake Valley Estates.

“At the rate that they’re going now, they will have fixed about five miles of roads when they finish Lake Valley (Estates),” Wibby said. “It’s going to take 20 years to finish 30 miles of roads.”

The total cost of projects compared to the revenue from the two proposed tax bonds is also a point of contention. The latest proposal fell by roughly eight percent of votes last month.

Previous county estimates have been $75 million total, versus BoCoFIRM’s estimate based on the same data at $25 million.

Commissioners Deb Gardner and Elise Jones were both retained their positions in that same election, and both have stood on the side that a new tax would be necessary for the projects.

“We know exactly how they stand on this issue,” Wibby said. “Their stance, in our opinion, is unacceptable for the citizens. They won’t budge. We’re not talking about a lot of money. It’s a $420 million-plus budget, and we’re talking about $5 million a year for five years.”

He said that BoCoFIRM is going to continue to provide ideas for how the county can pay for subdivision roads with existing tax revenue, and that they are willing to come to a “reasonable” solution.

“The ball is in the commissioners’ court,” Wibby said. “Nothing has changed since the first day. The roads belong to the county, the county needs to fix them and they aren’t doing that.

“So the question becomes what are they going to do to rectify this problem. Voters have made it clear they don’t want new taxes.”

 

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