Citizens sue county over Gunbarrel PID
August 30, 2017
On August 15, a group of 10 plaintiffs filed a Complaint in Boulder County District Court against the Boulder County Board of Commissioners and the Boulder County Housing Authority (BCHA).
Plaintiffs David Rechberger, Nicolette Munson, Rolf Munson, Laurel Hyde Boni, Dinah McKay, Donald Sherwood, William B. Swafford, Jr., Marilyn Kepes, Donald Wrege and Douglas Johnson are or were owners of property within the Gunbarrel Public Improvement District (GID), according to the Complaint.
They claim that the county has failed to live up to its agreement to match funds raised from a Gunbarrel property tax for the purpose of purchasing open space in the area.
In 1993, voters in Gunbarrel approved a self-imposed property tax for the area that was to be dedicated to open space purchases and road improvements.
Rechberger, a resident who is among the plaintiffs, said that the county has not met its end of the agreement.
“As a sweetener for that deal, county commissioners committed to match up to $1.9 million,” Rechberger said. “When a governmental body says ‘match up to,’ that is a commitment to provide those funds. To date the GPID raised and spent $2.3 million — far in excess of the $1.9 million (match) — but the county has only paid $1.3 million. So they’re roughly $600,000 short of the total to the taxpayers.”
Those funds, Rechberger says, were allegedly diverted to the BCHA, bringing it into the lawsuit. He also added that the commissioners also act as the board of directors of both the BCHA and the GPID.
The Twin Lakes Action Group (TLAG) first discovered the discrepancies, but had no legal standing to address the matter and is not involved as a party.
He said that after many attempts to resolve the issue, the plaintiffs felt it necessary to take this step.
“Their first duty should have been to the citizens that pay taxes and to fulfill their obligation,” Rechberger said. “They claim now, after multiple letters from multiple parties, that the $1.3 million is all they need to pay and that it meets their obligation. We disagree. That is defrauding the taxpayer.”
Rechberger said that since 2007, only one property that would qualify as open space has been up for sale, which is the north parcel of 6655 Twin Lakes Road.
He added that the aim of the lawsuit “is basically compelling the commissioners to reverse the sale of the property and turn it over to the GPID to be used as open space, as they should have done under their judicial obligation.”
“Our ideal outcome would be that the commissioners complete their financial responsibility to the taxpayers by purchasing the Twin Lakes property and making it part of the Gunbarrel/Twin Lakes open space.”
He said that this particular parcel needs to be protected before any development occurs.
“The purchase of this property is a win-win for everybody,” Rechberger said. “It fulfills their obligation, it meets the needs of the citizens in the area, it’s a simple solution to a problem that shouldn’t have existed for 10 years.”
The county has 21 days after service of the Complaint to respond.
“I feel sorry that it’s come to this point — that we’ve not been able to have productive conversations with our elected officials related to this issue,” Rechberger said. “This seems to be our only recourse at this point.”
The property in question was recently the subject of a failed attempt by the City of Boulder and Boulder County to approve use of the site for affordable housing.
The changes in the designation of the property required approval by the Boulder County Planning Commission, which first approved the changes, but later reconsidered its decision and rejected the changes.
Attached to the Complaint are portions of the county’s explanation of the ballot issue, which states, in part;
“The Boulder County Commissioners have indicated that, subject to the passage of this issue and the County Open Space tax, the County will provide a matching contribution toward open space purchase within the Gunbarrel General Improvement District up to a maximum amount of $1,900,000.”
A November 4, 2016 letter from Janis Whisman of the County Parks and Open Space Department is also attached to the Complaint, and responds to the above statement, saying, in part, “The Election Notice states that the county agreed to match up to that amount; it does not state that the county’s match would equal that amount.”
Whisman went on to note that the BCHA property at 6655 Twin Lakes Road was never part of the properties considered for purchase as open space, and if the county were to invest additional funds to acquire open space properties within the GPID, it would likely invest in priority properties identified by the GPID steering committee back in 1993.