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Local government entities take official positions on ballot

All oppose 74, all support 7D, Mt. Crested Butte and the town of Crested Butte support 73; additional stances unique

By Crested Butte News editorial staff

The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council, Crested Butte Town Council and Gunnison County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) have passed resolutions taking positions on several 2018 local ballot measures. Not every governing body has taken a position on every issue, although each has weighed in on Amendment 74 and 7D. The News staff has compiled that information below.

—Amendment 73 would increase the state income tax for the top 8 percent of Colorado wage earners and so-called “C-Corp” corporations while decreasing property taxes for business property owners. The additional funds would go toward schools.

The Mt. Crested Butte council unanimously voted to support Amendment 73 (councilmember Lauren Daniel abstained).

The Crested Butte council also stood behind this amendment. Gunnison School District superintendent Leslie Nichols told the council that if the amendment is approved by voters, the local school district would see an additional $3.2 million annually. “The impact on the local school district would be significant and is much needed,” she said. She refuted some claims that the measure would negatively impact other taxing districts, saying that had been researched and was not the case. She said it also essentially would adjust property taxes for schools so that business property was not so negatively impacted as it is currently under the state’s Gallagher Amendment, which requires a very high valuation for business real estate.

The BOCC has not taken a position on the amendment.

—Amendment 74 would require compensation to be paid to any property owner when a government law or regulation reduces the fair market value of private property. It requires that property owners be compensated for any reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations.

The BOCC opposed the amendment. County commissioner John Messner said, “The passing of the takings amendment [Amendment 74] would essentially allow every piece of ranchland we see now to subdivide into as small of subdivisions as they want, so long as it’s not in a conservation easement.”

Gunnison County manager Matthew Birnie, a former county administrator for Jefferson County, Oregon, said during the Gunnison County meeting, “[In Oregon] almost every piece of farmland and forest land was proposed for development.” He also noted that this amendment would cause “interminable litigation, [over] ‘Whose property value is primary?’ It’s impossible to implement unless you just sort of walk away from almost every regulation.”

In 2004, Oregon ballot Measure 37 passed, which, according to BallotPedia, “allowed property owners whose property value had been reduced by environmental or other land use regulations to claim compensation from state or local government.” The site references one specific case in which a Hood River County fruit farmer filed a Measure 37 claim, demanding either $57 million or the right to build 800 houses on his 210-acre property.

The county resolution states Amendment 74 “would likely create a regulatory ‘free for all’ that could result in almost no zoning or land use regulation in Colorado, severely harming the public health, safety and welfare of Colorado citizens, such as allowing dangerous or toxic industrial operations to locate directly next to homes, schools and playgrounds.”

Mt. Crested Butte unanimously elected to oppose the amendment. Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick noted that the Colorado Association of Ski Towns motioned to oppose it (see below), and cited its finding of the measure to be dangerously open to litigation.

“Most telling is that Oregon passed this statute, and a few years later repealed it,” said Fitzpatrick, noting numerous and costly lawsuits as had the BOCC. Mayor Todd Barnes agreed that otherwise simple variances and ordinances would become cost-prohibitive, as any land use decision could be determined to affect someone negatively.

The town of Crested Butte also unanimously opposed the amendment, citing that the result would be a drastic limitation on the state and local government services, at a high cost to taxpayers. There are already protections for private property valuation at both the state and federal levels but if Amendment 74 is passed it is expected to cripple local government with its far-reaching consequences. “This is a lawyer’s full-time employment act, isn’t it, John?” mayor Jim Schmidt asked town attorney John Sullivan. “It would indeed increase business,” answered Sullivan.

Greg Clifton, president of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns (CAST), wrote by email that “Amendment 74, drafted by out-of-state interests, seeks to amend … the Colorado Constitution to require just compensation if private property is subject to ‘reduced fair market value by government law or regulation.’” Clifton noted that CAST does not typically advocate for political or election issues, but the board unanimously believes this is an issue important to ski towns, and is against the measure.

Clifton referred to a particularly difficult issue of affordable housing that many ski towns are facing currently, explaining that workforce housing often includes re-zoning and/or the subdivision of land. “If the development of workforce housing is claimed to have any reduction of value upon neighboring properties, Amendment 74 will now position those property owners to sue local governments,” he said.

—Ballot issue 7D for Gunnison Metropolitan Recreation District, which would “de-Bruce” the district and allow it to collect the entire one mill of revenue voters had initially approved for the district to provide funding to continue over-the-air television and assist with recreation projects throughout the county.

The Crested Butte Town Council, Mt. Crested Butte Town Council, and the Gunnison County BOCC support this measure.

—Ballot measure 6A proposes a property tax increase in the county to create a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing through the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority.

The town of Crested Butte agreed to support 6A while the other two boards did not weigh in on the measure. Darin Higgins of the Gunnison Valley Housing Foundation said feedback on the measure had been “relatively good so far. Everyone knows there is a housing problem and we hope 6A helps that.”

—Proposition 112 would mandate that new oil and gas development, including fracking, be a minimum distance of 2,500 feet from occupied buildings such as homes, schools, hospitals, and other areas designated as vulnerable, including water sources.

The BOCC opposed this proposition. Proposition 112 and Amendment 74, they believe, are “classic examples of the dangerous gamesmanship, lack of common sense and upside-down policy that special interests play in the State of Colorado, most often to the detriment of the citizen.”

The commissioners felt passage would impact responsible development of oil and gas projects in the county. The resolution states that Proposition 112 “could severely restrict responsible and sustainable oil and gas operations that provide revenue and job opportunities for the citizens of Gunnison County.”

The resolution states, “The bi-partisan Gunnison County Board of County Commissioners do not support this approach from the far left or the far right but believe that good governance comes from good common-sense decision making, listening to all sides of the party and finding ways to work together to arrive at common and collaborative solutions.” And with Messner’s input, the resolution states, “These ballot measures are certainly not that.”

Mail-in ballots will be sent out on October 15. Election Day is November 6; all ballots must be returned to the Gunnison County clerk by 7 p.m. on that Tuesday.

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