County reviews Open Lands bylaws
Contention emerged this week as county commissioners began reviewing governing bylaws for the newly established Open Lands Advisory Committee, which stemmed from a measure Grand County voters passed in November.
The ballot measure imposed an additional .3 percent sales tax and created the Open Lands Advisory Committee to develop recommendations on how to spend the additional tax revenue.
Advisory Committee Vice President Cindy Southway, who represents Grand Lake on the committee, and Hot Sulphur Springs representative Mike Crosby on Tuesday presented county commissioners with a draft of their proposed bylaws.
Before starting his presentation, Crosby noted the diversity of opinions on the committee.
“We cover everything from ranching to recreation,” Crosby said.
Commissioner Merrit Linke echoed his sentiments.
“We need diversity in that group,” Linke said. “That is very good.”
Southway noted early during the presentation she believed there would be greater flexibility in how additional tax revenue could be spent but after the committee convened they realized the rules were, “pretty strict in how we could recommend you spend the money,” Southway said.
“We have discussed the ability to get creative and look at the wording and the adaptive ability to make applications into different things that was set forth in the resolution,” Crosby said. “I think we do have some flexibility, but not as grand as we thought.”
One major area of contention regarded what percentage of overall funds could be applied to trail maintenance. Crosby said the committee has received comments from citizens concerned the funds will be used for trail building. But, according to Crosby, the measure’s language does not allow funds to be used for trail building and specifically allows only trail maintenance.
“This committee could not support trail development,” he said.
Commissioner Rich Cimino took issue with language in the county resolution that limits use of the funds for trail maintenance to 15 percent.
“Can someone show me the percentages?” Cimino asked. “The ballot language does not say that, maybe the resolution does. I want to question the 15 percent.”
Linke pushed back, however, positing the cap on trail maintenance was a major factor in voters approving the measure.
“That restriction was what helped get it passed,” he said. “People didn’t want another trail building fee… I support the 15 percent cap on trails.”
Cimino later responded that he believed Linke had heard from constituents in his district who supported a 15 percent trails cap but added that people within his district want it for trails.
“The ballot didn’t reflect it, the ballot did not reference the resolution,” Cimino said. “It didn’t reference a limit.”
Cimino asked if the county was legally obligated to adhere to the 15 percent cap and later made a motion to have language relating to a cap deleted from the county resolution pertaining to Open Lands Measure 1A.
“If we take it out, it gives us more flexibility as applications roll in,” he continued.
Alan Hassler, attorney for the Grand County board, asked the commissioners to table the debate to allow him time to research the matter.
The issue was then tabled for further discussion ahead of the Aug. 1 deadline to pass the bylaws.
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