By Teresa L. Benns
SAGUACHE COUNTY — After waiting weeks for some indication from the county regarding how officials feel about the annexation of acreage intended for marijuana cultivation in the town of Moffat, a partial answer at least is now on the record.
“As far as I can tell everything with Saguache County is complete,” County Land Use Administrator Wendi Maez said last week, when asked if she felt the county and the town of Moffat had correctly conducted and completed the annexation. “I cannot address how the Town of Moffat handled their paperwork.”
While Maez herself may not be able to address the town of Moffat’s procedure, the state Constitution and state statutes do address the process. On the table from the beginning, and still not known, is how Moffat could satisfy state constitutional requirements when the town has entered into agreements with the developers of the annexed acreage to provide water and other services to the town as part of the annexation agreement.
According to Colorado’s Constitution, (ARTICLE XI, Sec. 1-2, Public Indebtedness):
“Section 1. Pledging credit of state, county, city, town or school district forbidden. Neither the state, nor any county, city, town, township or school district shall lend or pledge the credit or faith thereof, directly or indirectly, in any manner to, or in aid of, any person, company or corporation, public or private, for any amount, or for any purpose whatever; or become responsible for any debt, contract or liability of any person, company or corporation, public or private, in or out of the state.”
Typically, an impact statement will detail how the town is equipped to handle the addition of property by demonstrating the assets it already possesses that will enable the municipality to accommodate the acquired land and its residents. This is covered by the three-mile plan Moffat was required to satisfy prior to annexation. State statute CRS 31-12-105(I) (e) requires “As a precondition to final adoption of an annexation ordinance within the three-mile area outside present municipal boundaries, the municipality must have in place a plan for that area, in the nature of a comprehensive or master plan.”
A three-mile plan must be adopted before the annexation can be finalized. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, the town does not have a master plan, nor does it have a planning commission. Bridges, waterways, parks and squares, and “public utilities and terminals for water, light, sanitation, transportation and power [are] to be provided by the municipality [not such utilities provided by others].” These must be identified, described and located in the three-mile plan.
Moffat Mayor Patty Reigel has stated that the town does not own its own utilities so cannot provide such utilities, nor can other entities provide them according to the statutes above governing the three-mile plan. Citizens contesting the annexation have repeatedly requested proofs that eligible town board members actually approved the annexation and what they approved satisfied state requirements, but Moffat has not provided the requested public records.
The vote is said to have taken place in April or May. Open records requests have a limited three-day response time that can be extended to two weeks if necessary, but this time limit expired months ago. Citizens have legitimate questions regarding who voted on the annexations since some of Moffat’s board members at the time were involved in marijuana operations and were prohibited by state law from voting.
Two board members eventually resigned owing to their marijuana affiliations.
Also in question regarding the plan is the exact acreage of the annexation and the ownership of the property annexed, which appears to have changed over time. All property owners must be at least 21 years of age and are required to sign annexation documents if they are true owners for the documents to be legal, but it is not known if this has occurred or not.
While commissioners may believe their part in the annexation is complete and no further action is necessary, state statute provides that the commissioners themselves, as a body, can challenge the annexation if it appears to be incomplete or does not satisfy state law. The time limit for this challenge, however, is limited to 60 days following the actual annexation.
To date, Moffat has provided no documentation that shows there was ever a certainly valid annexation.
Citations for this article were taken from the Colorado Municipal League presentation on Annexation delivered at its annual conference in June 2015.