by Rick Langenberg:
This Thursday could become the final local showdown for the expansion bid of Teller County Waste (TCW), which wants to increase its business operations in Woodland Park and open a new community-wide recycling center. But an apparent battle over this proposed project has officially landed in the Fourth Judicial District Court, with Teller County firing legal shots at the city of Woodland Park.
On Nov. 7, the Woodland Park City Council will decide the fate of TCW’s conditional and special use permit requests and its site plan review, the last regulatory hurdles the company must overcome before beginning work on the development and opening for business as a Woodland Park neighbor.
The project, proposed off West Street, near Hwy. 24 and close to a former transfer station occupied by Waste Management along with several residential subdivisions, has generated heated debate for months. It also has sparked an unprecedented fight between officials of Woodland Park and Teller County. Plus, many adjacent residents have cried foul and accused the operators and city of blatant lying. Moreover, they contend the development will become nothing more than a trash transfer station, disguised as a recycling hub, which will contaminate their water wells and cause many pollution and road problems. City officials, though, have strongly denied these accusations, and contend they can’t change past problems residents have had with the company and TCW owner Jay Baker.
The TCW neighbors have a close ally with the Teller County government. On Oct. 31, the county puts its earlier threats into action by filing a detailed complaint and request for judicial review with the District Court, regarding the annexation of the property. The lawsuit was filed by the firm of Sparks Wilson Borges and Johnson, P.C, which represents Teller County. According to sources, the filing occurred after a reported private meeting among officials of both Woodland Park and Teller County, when Teller outlined its intentions to take the matter to court unless the city retreated from its annexation bid of the TCW property.
In many ways, the county’s request for judicial review mirrors earlier motions for reconsideration, alleging that proper procedures weren’t followed when the property was annexed by the city, and that the property didn’t meet the annexation standards set by the state. The complaint is highlighted by 16 exhibits. Woodland Park, at the request of attorney Erin Smith, denied these earlier claims, saying the county missed the statutory deadline for taking this action, and that the concerns expressed by the county were addressed at previous Woodland Park hearings and failed to sway the opinions of the majority council members.
However, in a recent meeting in Cripple Creek, the county commissioners expressed much dismay regarding how the city has handled the TCW application and vowed it would assist the neighboring county residents the best way they could. In their class action suit, the county maintains that the city “exceeded its authority and abused its discretion” by annexing two plat areas of TCW. No amount of financial relief is requested, but the county wants the court to make the recent TCW annexations void.
The adjacent residents this Thursday evening plan to request that the city council delay any further action on the development until the outcome of this complaint, according to Diane Allen, one of the leaders of the group of residents. City officials, though, have indicated that the process will move forward.
Despite the controversy over the project, Woodland Park planners and elected leaders have welcomed the TCW bid with open arms. The planning commission recently approved the company’s recent requests by 7-1 vote. And in a previous hearing in August, the city council strongly endorsed plans to annex a nearly 2-acre site and to okay a new zoning change for the area.
City leaders have maintained that the TCW plans would vastly improve this part of town and will provide a much needed service. Woodland Park currently does not have a recycling center after a partial recycling drop-off hub at the Woodland Park Wal-Mart store was shut down. City officials also have vowed that Woodland Park will closely monitor the development and they cite the vast amount of money being invested into the project.
Even if TCW scales this final hurdle, it still must open its pocketbook big time. As part of its plans, TCW is eyeing $230,000 worth of site improvements regarding landscaping, buffering and engineering. In addition, the city has requested that it do about $40,000 worth of road enhancements to Teller 231, more than double the amount that it originally requested.
Another side issue involves a previous lawsuit that Teller County filed against TCW for land use violations alleging that it operated the site illegally after it was forced to shut down as a temporary trash transfer station. This case was originally scheduled for a jury trial this month. But if the property becomes legally part of Woodland Park, then this action would become void.
For more information regarding the background of this controversy and to view previous TMJ stories, visit www.mountainjackpot.com.