More than two dozen community members gathered at the Elizabeth Library the morning of Sept. 12 to speak with Elizabeth Mayor Megan Vasquez and community leaders to discuss the town’s comprehensive …
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More than two dozen community members gathered at the Elizabeth Library the morning of Sept. 12 to speak with Elizabeth Mayor Megan Vasquez and community leaders to discuss the town’s comprehensive plan, which has been a point of debate since more than 700 people attended a presentation at Elizabeth High School on Aug. 21.
Vasquez, board of trustees member Tammy Payne, Police Chief Stephen Hasler and Fire Chief T.J. Steck were peppered with questions about the process used to develop the comprehensive plan, and allegations that Vasquez and community leaders developed the plan based solely on their own visions for the future of the town.
“Is it your vision that feeds this?” asked one attendee.
“We don’t want Parker or Castle Rock. You guys need to listen to the people who live here,” stated another.
“I don’t feel like the town is very good at communicating their process and reasoning,” said one concerned citizen.
Vasquez admitted that the presentation given on Aug. 21 was frustrating to residents, as it was presented by the consulting firm Rick Engineering, and didn’t allow time for residents to speak.
“We failed in notifying citizens in the concept of getting citizen input,” said Vasquez, who will be holding weekly Coffee with the Mayor meetings until the issue is resolved. “What would be a better way to get the information out?”
Citizens responded with ideas of putting up fliers announcing meetings in public places, such as Walmart, Safeway and the post office, running notices in local newspapers, and placing signs at each end of town announcing upcoming public meetings. Currently residents of Elizabeth receive a copy of the town newsletter in their utility bills. Police Chief Hasler mentioned changing the sign board on Highway 86.
“We can make sure these ideas get implemented,” said Vasquez. “We can see that you feel your thoughts aren’t being heard.”
Payne said the upcoming meetings will be better structured to address specific questions and allow plenty of time for resident input.
“Our goal is to give a presentation and allow time for citizens to ask questions,” said Payne. “We are trying to organize it in a way that’s meaningful to you, and that you will feel you were heard.”
Attendees next turned to the process used by town officials when approving development within the town, with several accusing officials of unanimously approving every development. Vasquez pointed out that many of the recent developments were approved before they took office. She also shot down rumors of a 1,400-home development the board is accused of getting ready to approve.
“Gold Creek was approved in 2008,” said Vasquez. “That has nothing to do with this board. The Jim Marshall plan you are talking about has not presented to the board, there is no site plan, we’ve seen nothing.”
Elizabeth resident Wayne Seifried implored Vasquez and board members to stop growth in the town, even if it requires legal action.
“Stop growth right now. You’re planning for an increase in numbers, let’s just cut the numbers down now. We may have to go to court.” said Seifried. When asked by attendees and Vasquez how to do that, Seifried replied “We don’t know, we’re not officials.”
Vasquez talked about the zoning process, and the role town officials and the planning commission plays in approving new developments.
“We vote on whether or not it meets all guidelines and zoning. If a development does, we can’t legally tell them no. They would probably sue the town then, and most likely they would win,” said Vasquez.
After hearing more about the zoning process, several attendees asked how community members could be more involved in the direction of growth in the town and Elbert County. Fire Chief Steck fielded that question.
“Almost nobody shows up to town or county meetings,” said Steck. “The majority of information on Facebook and Nextdoor is completely inaccurate, and that’s not helping our community. If we can work together and sit and talk like this, we will be so much better off.”
Vasquez encouraged residents to attend town meetings, volunteer for committees and suggested the idea of a town blog, as well as how to address confusion with residents about Elizabeth town boundaries vs. Elbert County.
“The Town of Elizabeth is happy that county residents want to be engaged and involved with us. We encourage them to check our webpage regularly and attend our board meetings, follow us on Facebook, and to contact us if they would like to receive our monthly town newsletter. In addition, county residents can participate and give their input on items that come before the board. We are also exploring additional ways for county residents to be more directly engaged with the town as well,” said Vasquez.
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