Green Mountain Falls Trustees Fire Planning Commission Leader

GMF Board Approves 2024 Budget; Gets Update on Key Grants

Rick Langenberg

Local politics can sometimes get brutal when it comes to volunteer committees in Green Mountain Falls.

For the second time in recent years, the town’s trustees have given a key leader of their planning commission their walking papers. Only this time, the action occurred with no explanations or comments.

The town trustees last week opted not to re-appoint Planning Commission Chairman Lamar Mathews to GMF’s key advisory board last week during a close 3-2 decision that triggered a few questions. The final verdict had to be done twice to assure the tally was correct. No comments were made regarding the decision, which is unusual for a high-profile volunteer position.

In the final votes, trustees Katharine Guthrie and Sunde King and Mayor Todd Dixon voted for the removal of Mathews from the commission, while trustees Nick Donzello and Sean Ives wanted Mathews to be appointed to a two-year term.

Mathews, who actually has served as the current commission chairman since 2022, has sometimes emerged as a critic of the town administration and is a frequent speaker at trustee meetings.  In a heated meeting last summer, Mathews and a few other volunteer committee members questioned the leaders on a spree of issues, including their lack of transparency and commitment to fire mitigation and road improvements. Some of these comments rubbed staff members and the mayor the wrong way.

The big question:  Did the trustees fire Mathews because of her commentary and aggressive stance on certain issues; or was her termination due to concerns over her application, specifically the residency requirements? To gain appointment to the commission, applicants had to supply definite proof that GMF was their primary residence. Most applicants supplied voting information, documented by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

Mathews supplied an insurance card and utilities payment voucher, according to the board packet. The municipal code states that planning commission members must be residents of the town but doesn’t say they must live in the town year-round.

According to sources, some leaders may have questioned whether the planning commission chief resided in GMF permanently.

In their final session of the year, the trustees approved a budget for 2024, finalized a fee schedule, heard updates on their road improvement situation and more routine stuff,

But the decision that captured the lion’s share of attention, and even stirred many questions, involved the appointment of members to their various volunteer committees, such as trails, parks and recreation, fire mitigation and the planning commission.

The trustees conducted appointments for a proposed list of nearly 20 candidates for volunteer positions on various committees. For most committee volunteer appointments, they were handled by voice votes.

But when the subject of the planning commission came up, the decision stage got more complex. Moreover, for these tallies, a board roll call vote took place, which is somewhat unusual for what really comes down to routine appointments.

The former planning commission leader definitely took a strong stand on certain issues.

Mathews in the past led the charge in efforts to revive the town’s former trustee liaison format, and not to rely so much on a more centralized form of leadership, with a town manager calling the shots. She actually wanted volunteers from the planning commission to take on larger working roles to help save money.

Mathews was involved in a process to rewrite the land use codes and tried to facilitate work in a problem infrastructure area around Hotel Street, which prompted many complaints by residents.

She definitely had the support of trustees Donzello and Ives, who have consistently praised the work of committee volunteers and their efforts to take a more active role on certain projects. But other members of the board panel often maintained that some of these ventures clashed with proper planning procedures and questioned the costs for the city. They were also reportedly irked by Mathews’ comments at local meetings, and especially one last summer, dealing with strategizing of the town’s recent master plan.

“It is unfortunate,” said Mayor Todd Dixon, following last week’s decision regarding planning commission appointees. But at the same time, he didn’t elaborate on the decision to remove Mathews. He conceded that a new commission chairman would have to be picked.

Mathews wasn’t the only appointee to get ‘nay’ votes. Planning Commission applicants Lisa Bonwell and Rocco Blasi also had a few ‘no’ tallies, but not enough to have them removed.

Oddly enough, Blasi was another key planning commission leader who got the boot previously. This occurred during a previous administration when Blasi was accused of openly feuding with the previous town manager, Angie Sprang. But unlike the situation with Mathews, this ouster action occurred in a public forum during which Blasi got the chance to respond to concerns regarding his role with the planning commission.  With a new administration, Blasi, who is president of Friends of Ute Pass Trails group, regained a spot on the commission.

Budget Approval and Grant Assistance

On the upside, the trustees approved its 2024 budget last week in a prompt fashion, and with no complaints or concerns. This fiscal portrait calls for a spending budget of a little more than $1 million. It is fairly similar to the 2023, with a slight 4 percent increase in spending.

And on the grant front, progress is definitely occurring, with the prospects of Green Mountain Falls obtaining $150,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This money, if it comes through, could be used in 2024 for road maintenance. It stems from problems the town faced last summer from a horrific rainstorm that caused massive flooding and devastated the town’s gravel roads.

In addition, the town was informed of a $65,0000 grant from the Kirkpatrick Family Fund for fire mitigation efforts.