by Rick Langenberg:
A prompt decision unlikely
Teller County has won round one in the legal trash war with Woodland Park over plans for an expanded business operation by a local trash company, including the development of a major recycling center.
However, the fight over the future bids of Teller County Waste (TCW) is far from over and may involve lengthy court proceedings. In fact, the landing of a legal knockout punch by either side anytime soon doesn’t appear likely.
The crux of the issue hinges on the annexation bid of TCW for a nearly 2-acre area, near several residential neighborhoods and Hwy. 24 off West Street, west of the downtown area. The city council by a nearly unanimous vote agreed to annex the area and appeared ready to sign off on the final conditional and special use permits and associated site plans which would have set the wheels in motion for expanded business operations for TCW and a community-wide recycling center.
But late last year, the county commissioners fired a major legal shot by deciding to sue the city in District Court. In the county’s suit, it maintained that Woodland Park didn’t follow proper procedures in annexing the property and failed to address the county’s infrastructure and transportation standards. The suit mirrored an earlier complaint that asked the Woodland Park City Council to reconsider their pro-annexation decision made in mid-August. The city then fired back by asking for a prompt dismissal of the legal challenge. The city argued that the county didn’t meet proper deadlines in filing its original complaint
However, that technical objection wasn’t accepted by a district court judge, who refused to dismiss the county’s legal challenge, according to city officials. This could set the stage for a more involved legal fight than what some government observers anticipated.
As a result, the final hearings for TCW, originally scheduled to go before the city council this Thursday, have been delayed.
According to Woodland Park City Manager David Buttery, the city council is scheduled to discuss the issue this Thursday in a scheduled, closed-door executive session. Buttery wouldn’t elaborate on the impact of the initial court verdict, but indicated that the case is far from being resolved.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Mike Perini, a spokesman for TCW.
“The judge has requested that a more thorough evaluation of the case is required,” said Perini. “Teller County Waste remains committed to the annexation process.”
With the latest court action, the proposed timetable of Teller County Waste in starting a new recycling center and doing $230,000 in improvements is in limbo. Based on the comments by city leaders at previous hearings, TCW would have encountered little difficulty in obtaining the final approval for its remaining city required permits. This is the last regulatory hurdle TCW had to overcome, prior to the filing of the county’s lawsuit.
The Teller County Waste application has created quite a rift between the two governmental entities. Woodland Park officials believe the plans would greatly improve the proposed site and a part of town that has an industrial flavor, while providing a great community service. They also note that the city and TCW have made many concessions, such as agreeing to more than double the projected costs of road improvements to a small portion of West Street, where access would occur to the new recycling center, and offering to do substantial grading, buffering and landscaping.
County leaders, though, have strongly opposed the project and the annexation, citing many concerns from nearby residents, who say they have dealt with TCW abuses for more than 10 years. In addition, the commissioners have emphasized related infrastructure issues and contend that TCW has a lengthy history of not abiding by government regulations.
At the same time, many residents in Woodland Park support the idea of a recycling center, a major community goal of the city. And to add more fuel to the fire, the attorney of TCW has accused the county of having a vendetta against the company.