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When the Elbert County commissioners made their decision Sept. 7 to allow Craft Companies to move forward with the Independence housing development between Elizabeth and Parker, there was a 28-day window for legal recourse to be filed.
On Sept. 28, an attorney for area residents Shelly Rodie and Jackie Tugwell filed Complaint for Judicial Review CRCP 106(A4), hoping to ultimately have a judge reverse the county commissioners’ decision.
A prerequisite for filing a complaint was that the plaintiffs live within three-quarters of a mile of the development. Rodie and Tugwell, who are neighbors, live immediately adjacent to the location of the Independence site, located at Hilltop Road/County Road 158 and County Road 5.
“We’re not asking for damages, just judicial involvement saying the planning commission and county commissioners overstepped their level of authority,” Tugwell said.
The lawsuit states: “The Board of County Commissioners exceeded its jurisdiction and abused its discretion by, among other things, unreasonable or erroneously applying pertinent statutory provisions, the Elbert County land use regulations and/or the county’s relevant master plan.”
“This comes as no surprise” to the county’s three commissioners, according to Commissioner Grant Thayer.
Commissioner Chris Richardson echoed this sentiment.
“In the case of new development, where individuals understandably have such strong feelings regarding changes to their immediate community, the filing of a lawsuit isn’t surprising,” he said.
The county has 21 days to certify the transcripts and records of the Elbert County Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners and present them to Joe Kinlaw, the attorney for Rodie and Tugwell.
Kinlaw works with the Castle Rock firm Folkestad, Fazekas, Barrick, and Patoile.
The lawsuit names Board of County Commissioners, Bluegreen Investments, Craft Bandera Acquisition Company and The Johnson Group.
Once the plaintiffs have had the opportunity to review the certified documentation, they will submit a brief to the defendants and the court naming the specifics to support the complaint.
The defendants will then have the chance to respond, and then the plaintiffs will make their final case, at which time the district court will make a final ruling.
“I am confident that, if case does move forward, that we will be found as a board to have acted within our authority, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, and in the best interests of all citizens of the county,” Richardson said.
When asked about the complaint, developer Tim Craft refers to the “two and a half years of planning” and adherence to procedure behind the applications for Independence.
“We’ve diligently followed Elbert County code, which is part of the reason we received unanimous votes from both the planning commission and the BOCC,” Craft said
Despite the pending litigation by Rodie and Tugwell, Independence has made steps toward becoming a reality.
As part of the protocol for approving the development, the documentation associated with the six metro districts planned within Independence had to be reviewed by the district court to determine whether they were appropriately formed and complied with the Colorado state legal and procedural requirements.
On Oct. 5, the district court deemed the six metro districts compliant.
For Rodie and Tugwell, they will continue to fight to have their arguments heard, which now requires additional funding. So far, they have paid their own fees plus “several thousand dollars this past month,” Rodie said, which was raised through donations on their Facebook page.
“We are in a position of having to replenish our retainer at this point,” Rodie said.
They have set up the Stop Over-Development group as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and are holding a fundraiser on Oct. 14 at John and Belinda Seville’s ranch where, Rodie said, 100 percent of the proceeds will go toward legal fees.
The defendants are looking toward the long-range picture.
“We look forward to resolving this litigation expeditiously,” Craft said.
“I do believe that in years to come,” Richardson reflected, “Independence will be simply just another part of what makes Elbert County a great place to live, work and raise families.”
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