More than 700 Elbert county residents attended a meeting at Elizabeth High School on Aug. 21 to hear a presentation from Rick Engineering and Stolfus and Associates about the proposed new …
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More than 700 Elbert county residents attended a meeting at Elizabeth High School on Aug. 21 to hear a presentation from Rick Engineering and Stolfus and Associates about the proposed new comprehensive plan for the town of Elizabeth. Some residents walked away upset about the new plan and angry they were not given time for a public comment period.
The next day, a newly organized group called the “We Are Not Parker Committee” filed a recall petition for Elizabeth Mayor Megan Vasquez and the six members of the board of trustees.
Dwayne Snader, who has an Elizabeth address but lives outside the town limits, said he felt the presentation was a “one-way conversation,” with consultants speaking “at” attendees, and no town officials or presenters listened to protests of the crowd.
If the recall drive actually results in an election, only registered voters in the town limits would have a say.
“That meeting was a one-way conversation,” Snader said. “We had no say-so, and there was no public comment period. They presented their ideas for growth, which included subdivisions and a rebuild of the downtown area, and we’re just supposed to watch our land disappear.”
Elizabeth, which currently includes about 1,500 residents, is predicted to be part of a growing area in coming years, with some expecting more than 20,000 residents to live in the western Elbert County region that includes the town two decades from now. Concerns raised by local citizens include fears that the town will annex their land against their will and restrict what private property owners can do with their land.
According to Elizabeth Town Administrator Matt Cohrs, that concern is one of several that are false, and is fueling anger within the community.
“We are not going to annex anyone’s home or property,” said Cohrs. “That’s one of the pieces of misinformation floating around out there that just isn’t true. Landowners can ask to be annexed into the town, but we are absolutely not looking to take people’s land.”
Cohrs said the number of angry citizens who attended the meeting was surprising, since the town has been working on a comprehensive plan since March, and officials have held several meetings since then, as well as asked for resident input through online surveys. The first meeting, held in March, was attended by about 70 people, followed by more than 200 responses to the online survey. A second meeting in May was attended by around 50 people, with more than 400 residents completing the survey asking what their concerns about growth are, and what they would like to see or not see in the growth of Elizabeth.
“Before the Aug. 21 meeting, we had interactions with more than 500 people in Elizabeth, who gave us feedback on a comprehensive plan,” said Cohrs. “I think the Franktown Coalition reached out to Elizabeth residents before the meeting, and there was some misinformation that got people upset.”
Vasquez, the mayor, said Elizabeth is required by Colorado law to create a comprehensive plan every 10 years, with each plan having a 20-year projection for growth. The last comprehensive plan was presented in 2008, and due to an economic recession, very little of that plan ever came to fruition.
“This is a plan, it’s not set in stone,” said Vasquez. “We have to have a plan for the future growth of the town, and that includes thinking about new homes, infrastructure and use of town resources. But people think these changes are going to happen overnight, and they’re not, it’s just a plan for what may come in the future.”
Residents expressed concerns about the Elizabeth Board of Trustees wanting to change the look and feel of downtown Elizabeth, to drive more tourism and raise money for the town.
“In my opinion, they want it to look like Castle Rock or Parker to attract tourists,” said Snader. “And I think this is an absolutely beautiful town already. I understand growth is going to happen, but we need to think about what the residents want first.”
Vasquez owns a business on Main Street, and said they plan to preserve the old town feeling.
“We want to build on the historic character of the town. We are not bulldozing any buildings, and potential businesses must adhere to the historic character,” said Vasquez. “I’m a business owner on Main Street, and I want all of my neighbors to thrive.”
Cohrs confirmed residents did not have a lot of time to speak at the previous meeting, and town officials have scheduled three more community meetings to give Elizabeth residents a chance to speak out about the plan.
“We never said we wanted to be Parker,” said Cohrs. “We want it to be a special community with its own character. We want to be Elizabeth.”
As for the recall petition, Vasquez said it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money to pursue.
“First of all, five of the six trustees’ terms will expire in April of next year. We also have an election that year,” said Vasquez. “It would be a bad use of taxpayer money to pursue a recall election. Also, although we are creating the comprehensive plan and presenting it to the community, ultimately the planning commission will be who votes for or against it.”
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