County Commissioner Kevin McCasky (Canyon Courier June 18) does an outstanding job summarizing commissioners’ responsibilities regarding land use decisions. But he doesn’t practice what he preaches. He writes of preserving “charm and beauty,” sustainability and improving property values. Many of his decisions do the opposite. He notes that, legally, his decisions cannot be subjective, yet his votes often ignore the bulk of citizen and expert testimony, community plans and county staff recommendations. If it comes down to new development versus rights of existing residents — the residents rarely win.
McCasky says he values citizen input but often overrules citizen-written community plans. Many citizens worked on these plans, and everyone had the opportunity, including developers. McCasky says government shouldn’t interfere with rights to own property and accumulate wealth. Fine, but government should also not take actions that harm existing residents.
McCasky says, “commissioners must be steadfast and properly consider legally protected property rights.” We fully agree, but his actions bear scant resemblance to his words. Developers come before the commissioners not to use existing property rights but seeking to change those rights to let them do something not currently allowed. Commissioners McCasky and Jim Congrove nearly always side with the developers, even when affected citizens overwhelmingly object.
McCasky and Congrove are destroying county planning. They don’t want to hear about problems, and they dismantled Jeffco’s Long Range Planning Group, which worked on issues affecting citizens in both the near and distant future. Planning coordination has mostly evaporated, so the big picture is ignored. The award-winning head of the group was sacked, ostensibly for budgetary reasons. Ridiculous — losing her knowledge, decades of experience and interagency contacts leaves a huge void. Commissioners claim they don’t get involved in personnel matters, but their political-appointed lackeys do, with their guidance and blessing.
McCasky and Congrove have delegated decision-making powers to appointed bureaucrats who answer to them and not the public. That takes land use decisions out of the public arena with its messy citizen hearings, and lets their administrator waive the rules behind closed doors. They have made a backroom deal to let a developer use Cub Creek Road as primary access contrary to what was agreed to in a public hearing; waived limits on subdivision size without emergency access; and ignored questions of sustainability of groundwater.
McCasky claims regard for communities and planning, but he appointed a planning commissioner who has publicly said mountain citizens should not expect Jeffco planning to look out for their rights, and if you live in the mountains, you take your chances. If McCasky believed in planning, he should have adopted the long-range group’s recommendations, not eliminated the group and its leader. The master plan McCasky advocates is being prepared by the planning commission and county staff, not by citizens, who can’t comment until completion. It would become county policy and could override citizen-prepared community plans.
Jefferson County has many unresolved long-range planning issues, including limited water supplies and obsolete high-density plats of thousands of tiny lots in the mountains. Difficult problems to resolve, but now they’re deliberately ignored.
Go back and read McCasky’s column. He states very well what a commissioner’s duties are and what the citizens want in a commissioner. He fails on both counts. His actions betray those duties and belie his words. Remember in November.
This Candid Curmudgeon column was provided by Jim Peterson, geologist and attorney. Columns reflect the views of most Curmudgeons, but not always everyone. The Evergreen Curmudgeons are a group of retired professional men who are citizen advocates.