Ruby Placer controversy overshadowing positive signs of growth (column)
Special to the Daily
From reading the Summit Daily recently it seems as if there is a lot of controversy in the town of Blue River. It is true that we finally have some interest at the monthly meetings. But controversy? Not as much as they’d like you to believe.
The truth is a few residents, former residents and some residents from other towns have recently shown up to meetings and are trying to start a referendum petition to protest the latest development in the town. They claim there has been no public process in the annexation.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rich Holcroft. I had the honor to serve on the town of Blue River’s board of trustees from April 2006 to April 2014. I was the mayor pro tem for half of those years. Here are the facts as I know them.
The board of trustees was talking about the Ruby Placer annexation all through 2013 and 2014. The trustees were talking about it at their open-to-the-public, monthly meetings. The current board has been talking about it since then. The Ruby Placer annexation was on the published agendas. I was there for the beginning of this annexation and I am proud that the current board has continued the annexation process.
Just because most people have not attended more than two board meetings in the past three years doesn’t mean that there was no opportunity to comment and no public process.
The root of this referendum petition seems to me to be a knee-jerk reaction to the growth in Blue River. Growth, development, improved services — things some people might call progress.
Let me tell you about this growth. Early in my tenure, we started road improvements and replacing failed culverts. In the past, spring floods washed out culverts and prevented several subdivisions from accessing the highway. The hard work of the town brought you two new bridges, two access roads to the highway and professional engineers consulting with the town on every project.
We had a problem with houses literally blowing up from propane leaks every year. The town welcomed Colorado Natural Gas as a partner and now natural gas is an option for almost all of the residences in the town. Thankfully, I can’t remember the last house explosion we’ve had.
We had problems in residences where failing neighboring septic systems contaminated well water. Now we have the Upper Blue Sanitation District as an option in many subdivisions. The district has plans to keep expanding its system throughout the town each coming year. Well water quality has improved.
The majority of the town is on well water and there were few fire hydrants. Working with Red, White and Blue Fire and our engineers, we have implemented the first cistern-based fire hydrant, off Blue River Road. If you had stuck around for the rest of the meeting last Tuesday, you would have learned the town is finalizing plans to install another six cisterns this summer.
We were able to pave several main roads and intersections in conjunction with many of these projects. We have been replacing failed and undersized culverts every summer. Where we had tons of road base washing into the Blue River every spring, our hope is that with the continuing pavement and drainage improvements, there will be slightly less each year.
The town has completed its first Comprehensive Master Plan. This was a huge step in planning for the next 50 years of the town. The plan had ample opportunity for public input and we had a committee of concerned citizens to help the board with the vision for the future. Future annexation of property into the town was a part of the plan.
The town is growing beyond the sleepy bedroom community of second-home owners it was originally. It is expanding. Population-wise, we have as many residents as the town of Dillon. One look at the school bus stops shows how many families and children now call Blue River their home.
Ruby Placer, a natural expansion for the town adjacent to our south border, promises to be a mix of cabins and residences that new residents and families can call home. It will not be the typical development of second-home owner McMansions. This development will expand our resident base and will increase annual tax revenue. It also brings in a first ever for the town, a 0.5 percent transfer fee. Projections have this additional income at almost $100,000 a year; that is almost 10 percent of the town’s annual budget.
Let’s talk about costs to the town, other than this potential referendum vote — there are none. This new development will have its own self-sustaining homeowners association. It will install, maintain and plow its own paved roads. It will install its own fire hydrant cisterns. Half the property will be open space. It will build hiking and bike trails. It has promised to build and dedicate a 3,200-square-foot community center for the town.
The Ruby Placer Annexation is a win-win for the residents of the town of Blue River. If someone wants you to sign the petition, please ask them about these items. If this gets to a referendum vote to overturn the annexation, please learn the facts, and vote no.
The heart of the issue is about development and progress. Some people driving this petition don’t want to see neighboring vacant land developed. Some just don’t like to see the town changing. The first group, I can’t help; it is buildable land, not wilderness. To the second group, here’s what I have to say: The town has been changing. This is what progress looks like. It is improved infrastructure and town services, it is a safer place where you can drink the water, let your kids play in the streets and not worry about your house blowing up.
Progress has been happening for the past nine years that I have been working with the board, and I for one like the progress that has been made, making the town of Blue River a better place in which to live.
Rich Holcroft lives in Blue River.
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