Fraser Town discusses tax increases, appointing metro district board members in Grand Park |

Fraser Town discusses tax increases, appointing metro district board members in Grand Park

The corner of Grand Park development from Highway 40 in Fraser.
Patrick Brower/For Sky-Hi News

Raising property taxes is always contentious, but it becomes more contentious when residents of a development feel they are not adequately represented on the development’s board.

In July, the owners of Grand Park development in Fraser, Cornerstone Holdings, requested that the town board allow them to raise taxes and increase the time limit of taxation for Grand Park’s 255 residents.

Metro districts serve large developments like Grand Park to divide the costs of services and improvements between the residents; they act like a local government that can levy and collect taxes for those services. Service plan agreements set the tax rates and timelines.

During Fraser’s town board meeting on Oct. 5, residents voiced their concern over increasing taxes, as well as the fact that they are not represented on Grand Park’s West Meadow district board.

Grand Park is made up of three special metro districts: West Meadow, West Mountain and Byers View. There are currently three vacancies on the West Meadow district board; the two remaining seats are filled by Grand Park’s developer and the owner of Cornerstone, Clark Lipscomb, and his wife Meredith Lipscomb.

“Until we get some representation on the board … no decision should be made on a tax increase or extension of time,” said Grand Park resident Steven Watts during the meeting’s public comment.

Watts, who has been a homeowner in Grand Park for nearly 10 years, stated the developers have not given specific reasonings for the increase, other than continual development.

“I have no problem paying taxes as part of the metro district I signed up for,” said Watts. “However, to pay in perpetuity — i.e., for the rest of my life — for a tax so the rest of this development can be built out over the next 20 years is not what I signed up for.”

Town manager Ed Cannon said amending service plans to change tax rates requires public input. Currently, the trustees have not voted on whether they will permit Lipscomb to change tax agreements. Trustee Katie Soles received support at the meeting when she stated she wanted it on the record that she believes the town should not vote until metro district board seats have been filled.

During the meeting, trustees also discussed whether they hold the power to appoint board members. Cannon stated that five Grand Park residents have applied to fill those vacancies.

“The reply back from the metro district board attorney … said that they’re not accepting applications until next year,” said Cannon.

Some community members have requested that Fraser’s town board appoint three Grand Park residents to fill the board. Otherwise, residents have to wait to run for the seat when board elections are held in May 2023.

Kent Whitmer, the Fraser town attorney, counseled the trustees on the legality of them appointing members. Whitmer concluded that, based on a Colorado Revised Statute, the authority for appointments rested with the Grand County Commissioners, not the trustees.

“When there’s not express language that gives you folks the authority to do something, and we have to take a leap of faith and imply or infer …  it’s probably not wise to go down that path, because you’re probably opening yourselves up to a fight,” said Whitmer. “I would counsel you that the possibility of repercussions are probably high to take this move.”

Whitmer added there is a public misconception that the town is the governing authority of Grand Park, but it is actually the District Court for Grand County. Some trustees told Whitmer that they were aware of other towns that had appointed metro district board members; Whitmer responded that he couldn’t speak to those town’s specific circumstances, as they might be different than Fraser’s.

“It’s not like the path is being foreclosed for these folks who are interested in being on the board. They can approach the county commissioners and ask to be appointed,” said Whitmer. “If that didn’t work out, they still have to opportunity to run for office this spring.”  

Trustees ultimately decided they did not have the power to make appointments to the West Meadow board, but they could make recommendations to county commissioners to appoint residents.

After the trustees’ decision, Grand Park resident Joseph Landen spoke up. He agreed with the decision to delay voting on tax increases until after the May election, but felt that seats should be filled as soon as possible.

“In the thick of it, this is an issue of responsible governance … the homeowners deserve representation and transparency,” he said. “It’s disappointing that the governmental body we believe was provided by the town is providing excuses, not willing to appoint applicants to fill empty board seats.”  

Landen then expressed doubt that the county commissioners were the right group for the appointment, and commissioners might state they don’t have authority to appoint.

“Then we’d just go around in a circle here and we hang out in purgatory,” he said. “What that actually means is that everybody’s throwing their hands up in the air and there is nobody who has authority for the West Meadow Metropolitan District and that would be a shame.”

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