Moffat considering annexation, but is it legal?

© 2018-Center Post Dispatch

MOFFAT — In last week’s Center Post Dispatch, a letter to the editor from Moffat resident Virgil Tafoya advised Moffat residents of an ill-timed board meeting this past Tuesday that conflicted with the state caucus meetings. The town did not re-schedule the meeting.

The agenda for the board meeting shows several items of interest, most especially the discussion of a pending annexation of properties north of Moffat, reportedly the future site of additional marijuana grows. One marijuana grow was on the agenda for review Tuesday and another was on the agenda for a change of ownership and new construction.

According to one citizen, the following posting was placed in the window of the Mirage Coffee Shop in Moffat last week.

It stated: “The owners of 100 percent of the real property included in an area proposed to be annexed in Saguache County, Colora, excluding public streets and all alleys and any land owned by the town of Moffat, have filed a petition for annexation of said area with the Town Clerk of the Town of Moffat, Colorado, requesting the Town to commence proceedings for the annexation of said area…” 

In his first letter, Tafoya reminds Mayor Patricia Reigel that the town has not responded to the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests he sent months ago. His brother Robert Tafoya also reports that CORA requests sent to the town last summer have never been answered. Virgil Tafoya wrote to the town:

“The Town of Moffat still has not provided a 2018 Master Land Use Plan, the Capitol Construction Budget and the updated zoning district map confirmed by a legal survey.  I also request you send me the dates and times for the Town of Moffat meetings through July 1, 2018, including special meetings, land use/planning meetings, special district meetings or any electoral events.”

In his second letter, sent this week, Tafoya thanks Reigel for responding to him by email and expresses frustration in trying to comply with the town’s CORA request document. He tells the mayor that since the records are about a current ordinance or resolution, they should be readily available and not need be searched. He also asks for a waiver of all fees, since the information requested is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of the matter. He then writes:

“Before Kristin Ecklund left the Town of Moffat, she had advised me she was waiting for the trustees to complete a 2018 budget, including the Moffat Master Planning Board actions and consolidation (since they had to request the records from a former Planning Board manager). In addition, she was looking for all road construction from 2014 to present (based on the date found in the information).

“She was also waiting for a budget proposal but assured me that no construction was pending. We reminded her that the town recently ‘approved’ creation of a new street, could not provide the ordinance or resolution, but had moved “dirt” to the site. I want my previous requests to be reinstated and updated and a response provided in a timely manner, or an explanation given.

Moving on to the annexation issue, Tafoya then addresses it as follows:

“Once again, for the current “annexation process, I want a copy of all ordinances or resolutions that initiated the action, copies of all pertinent requests from the interested citizens, coordination with all county, state, and federal agencies, copies of the Town of Moffat Master Planning Land Use Board, including copies of the meeting minutes, also the board members in attendance, town trustees involved at the meetings, copies of the revised city map to include the legal surveys, copies of the coordination with the appropriate subdistricts (utilities, water, State electrical, sewer, and telecommunications, and copies of meeting with the Saguache County Land Use Office and County Commissioners.

“I am attaching a document from the web that outlines what must generally be considered when annexing is considered. This would allow the town trustees to tell the town residents, (the people involved), what (is the intent of the annexation and how it will affect the taxpayers), when (the reasons for a “rush” approval) why (there are so many outsider individuals pushing this action and how (the trustees are involved and how they will benefit from this action).”

The annexation information offers a detailed description of how the town is to proceed according to law. Town of Moffat officials claim they have 100 percent of landowners in the area to be annexed who agree to the annexation. In this case, the law says, the town may pass an ordinance to annex without putting the matter to a vote of the town residents provided the proper petitioning process by over 50 percent of the landowners has been fulfilled. That process is described below.

 

Annexation laws

“Petition for Annexation:Landowners of more than 50 percent of an area, excluding public streets and alleys, that meet eligibility and limitations, may petition governing body for annexation. File with clerk. Petition must contain:

  1. Allegation that it is desirable and necessary to annex.

  2. Allegation that eligibility and limitation requirements satisfied.

  3. Signers own more than fifty percent of area to be annexed, exclusive of streets and alleys.
  4. Request that town approve annexation.

  5. Signatures of land owners

  6. Mailing address of signers

  7. Legal description of land of each signer

  8. Date of signature

  9. Affidavit that each signature is of signer.

 

“Accompanying the petition must be four copies of an annexation map containing

  1. Written legal description of the boundaries of the area to be annexed
  2. Boundary of area to be annexed

  3. Location of each ownership in unplatted land
  4. If parcels platted, plat numbers and lots and blocks
  5. A drawing of the contiguous boundary of the town

 

“Qualified electors consisting of at least 40 electors or 10 percent of such electors, whichever is less, if such area is located in a county of twenty-five thousand inhabitants or less, may petition for an annexation election. The petition shall be filed with the Town Clerk and contain the information called for under Petition for Annexation except that, rather than an allegation of any percentage of land owned, it shall contain an allegation that the signers of the petition are qualified electors resident in and landowners of the area proposed to be annexed and a request that the Town commence proceedings for an annexation election. Signatures to be valid must meet the 180-day time constraint.

“As a part of the resolution initiating annexation by the Town OR of a resolution finding substantial compliance of an annexation petition OR of a petition for annexation election, the Board of Trustees shall establish a date, time, and place for a public hearing, to determine if eligibility requirements and limitation considerations are satisfied.” (End of law citations)

Public hearings

The town of Moffat has set a public meeting for April 3 on the annexation, but this is not the same in legal terms as a public hearing. If a public hearing is required by law, as it is for annexations, Moffat must hold one.

The Colorado Municipal League describes a public hearing as a “quasi-judicial action [which] generally involves a determination of the rights, duties or obligations of specific individuals on the basis of the application of presently existing legal standards or policy considerations to past or present facts. These facts are developed at a hearing conducted for the purpose of resolving the particular interests in question.”

Such hearings are held much as court hearings, either by the town board or an impartial hearing officer hired to take testimony, evaluate the evidence provided and determine the matter. These hearings have routinely been ignored in municipalities in the county as well as county proceedings. They are not meetings where everyone is allowed to speak.

In quasi-judicial hearings, only those property owners of the land to be annexed who are supporting or objecting to the annexation may speak. After the hearing is concluded, however, the public may speak if a public meeting is held.

By law, public hearings must be advertised for four weeks running in a newspaper of record before the hearing is held. To date, there is not time to do this by April 3 according to the law without postponing the hearing.

 


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