Marilyn Repsher Raymond: Vote ‘no’ on Silverthorne ballot issue
In conflict, there are three underlying dynamics: the what, the how and the why. For the residents and voters in the Town of Silverthorne, the proponents of the proposed charter amendment have thrown up the smoke screen of fear of government’s use of eminent domain to hide the underlying “why” issue – that a very few property owners are attempting to prevent the completion of Segment 5 of the Blue River Trail.
The facts are that the charter of the Town of Silverthorne is consistent with the Constitution of the State of Colorado and allows the use of “eminent domain” for public purposes such as parks, hospitals, roads and other uses for the benefit of citizens. Eminent domain requires the owner be reimbursed at an appraised market value. The Town of Silverthorne has never used eminent domain in the 17 years since the charter was written.
The “what” is the proposed extension of the Blue River Tail from Mesa Drive south to Town Hall, referred to as Segment 5 of the Blue River Trail. The Blue River Trail is a long-standing community-wide priority whose existing segments are enjoyed by all ages of residents and visitors, on foot and on bicycles. The Blue River Trail conceptual design has been in place since 2001 and a Blue River Trail Master Plan including proposed Segment 5 was published in 2004. In 2001, The Town’s Master Plan Guiding Principles for Open Space, Trails and Parks, rated a greenway with a continuous hike/bike path as the number one priority. Citizens surveyed in 2007 and 2011 consistently rated recreational amenities and scenic and visual quality extremely high. The town’s continued development of the trail along the river’s edge is consistent with long-standing plans, citizen support and environmental protection of the river corridor. Adjustment of an easement is necessary from a few property owners to build the segment in an environmentally sound manner.
The “how” has been offers by the town to negotiate adjustment of and remuneration for the easement that has existed from 1963, 49 years ago. After almost 50 years and changes in the river habitat, it is necessary to relocate some areas of the easement to save trees and protect wetlands. Of the eight property owners along of Segment 5 of the Blue River Trail, two reached an agreement with the town and received financial compensation for an adjusted easement. For three owners, an adjustment of the easement is necessary to include the location of the “existing social trail.” The remaining owners have refused to negotiate adjustment for the use of the easement.
The “why” is the underlying issue. The few owners do not want an improved trail surface that can safely accommodate all pedestrians, bicyclists, strollers and wheelchairs. The fences and signs they have erected make the underlying dynamic very, very clear – they do not want bicycles, even those ridden by young children. The current “social trail,” consisting of slippery dirt, tree roots and rocks, does not protect the river environment and is unusable for many. These few homeowners spearheaded the fear “smokescreen” of eminent domain to prevent the Blue River Trail from crossing their land at the river’s edge.
Vote “no” in the Silverthorne election. Do not allow a very few to change the town charter so as to deprive the “many” of all ages enjoyment of the Blue River Trail. The Blue River Trail is a town treasure and provides a place of beauty for all to enjoy.
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