Chancy J. Gatlin-Anderson
Special to Colorado Community Media
An ordinance establishing Planned Unit Development zoning for the Elizabeth West development was decisively shot down by Elizabeth voters on Tuesday, with 487 “no” votes and just 181 “yes” votes in unofficial results.
The plan, approved 5-1 by the Elizabeth Town Board last November but rejected soundly by voters on May 16, would have affected 425 acres generally south of Highway 86 and east of Legacy Ridge Street, allowing development of up to 623 residential units and 39 commercial units, with requirements for 130 acres of open space and a 300-year water supply.
The May 16 balloting came after many years of contention regarding the development of the Town of Elizabeth and the surrounding areas.
In a statement after the unofficial vote tally was released, Elizabeth Mayor Nick Snively, who had supported the PUD zoning, said: “The residents have spoken and have chosen to stop the development of Elizabeth West. Clearly, that was the method chosen by the Colorado Legislature as a means of expressing the will of the citizens. It is important to note that the future of the development is now left to the developer, and likely the county, to determine how to proceed.”
Snively continued: “Contrary to the statements made by many, the developer has several means to withdraw his land from the town boundaries. The course of action will be decided by the developer; not by the Town Board of Trustees or the citizens they represent.”
Larry Gable, a resident of unincorporated Elbert County who opposed the town’s zoning plan, commented: “Today we are victorious. But if you think there is pushback with the town, you haven’t seen anything yet. If it goes to the county there will be a fight.”
Snively’s statement said the Elizabeth Town Board “will work hard to maintain the current level of service to the community. As the Elizabeth West project will likely proceed outside of the town limits, the town will need to prioritize needs within the community with a fixed tax base.”
Snively added: “I want to encourage members of the community to continue to be involved in the governmental process. Attend meetings, join the various methods that the town uses for communication (mailing list, social media, etc.), or even watch the live meetings from your own computer with our new live video feeds. We look forward to moving forward as a community together.”
In an earlier statement, Snively defended the actions of the Elizabeth Town Board, saying: “The process of development in and around the Town of Elizabeth has been a contentious item for years.
“It is important for the residents of the town to understand that the decisions are not taken lightly. Considerable thought and study go into each and every step of the process. In the case of Elizabeth West, the process has literally been ongoing for several years. This was not a project that was simply thrown together or forced upon the town by the developer.
“There are many who are of the opinion that the board could simply decide to stop development because others in and around the community did not like the idea of additional homes in the town. To those who advanced that belief, or relied on those who advanced that belief, that is erroneous. It was never an option.
“Like the developer, the board is required to follow the laws in place at the time of application.
“As all requirements were met, the only available option for the Planning Commission and the Board of Trustees was to proceed with development.
“The process is not subject to the whims of the loudest proponents or opponents – it is to follow the law. If the residents want a different outcome, then their role is to assist in changing the laws to reflect their desires, not to be swayed by those with the loudest voices.
“We invite the public, the voters, to become more involved in the workings of the Town of Elizabeth. Citizen involvement should not only occur when there are topics discussed on social media. At every single meeting of the Town Board of Trustees, decisions are made which affect the citizens and the community. Plan to attend meetings, learn about the community, and what happens within the community.
“As the mayor, I am concerned about the unkind, disingenuous, and malicious tone some of the debate on this topic has become. The Town of Elizabeth should set higher standards for itself in this regard. We are all neighbors who have found this town to be our special place. We have friendships, children, relatives, and relationships with others in the community. That needs to hold us together, even if we disagree about certain things for our community.”
The ballot text read as follows:
Shall Ordinance 22-10, adopted by the Elizabeth Board of Trustees on November 15, 2022, establishing Planned Unit Development (PUD) Zoning including standards for the design and development of a residential and commercial development called Elizabeth West, which is comprised of approximately 425 acres and located generally south of Highway 86 and east of Legacy Ridge Street, be given effect in order to:
— Allow residential development of up to 623 residential units on 235.6 acres;
— Allow mixed use commercial development of up to 39 units on 34.1 acres;
— Require over 130 acres of open space; and
— Require such development to provide a 300-year supply of water?