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So You Want To Build A Water Park? De-Mystifying the Tri-Town Ballot Measure 6A

So You Want To Build A Water Park? De-Mystifying the Tri-Town Ballot Measure 6A


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“Welcome home to Carbon Valley” was likely a phrase a realtor has said to you, a resident of the Tri-Town area, at some point in the past 15-20 years. Some of us did not move here as purchasers of one of the many new homes built in this exurban corridor, but based on statistics and mapping: most of us did. Regardless of the reason for living here, we have to accept growth and change now and in the future. Colorado has a lengthy history of boomtown growth. Residents should be able to ease into this sort of explosive expansion here without issue. However, there seems to be an awful lot of confusion around a plan to include a water park and senior center into the community infrastructure. Questions such as what fees will be incurred by what residents, how traffic will be mitigated, how sustainability will be managed, and ultimately: is it worth the tax increase are all flying around.

For many, tax increases are virtually taboo. In the middle of the Tri-Town area sits Evanston, a tiny bit of Unincorporated Weld County.

A couple of years ago after a fatal residential fire in this small area, I asked the neighbor of that home if they would consider incorporation to be able to have access to our Police and Fire services without first needing to go through the County. Their answer was an instant and unequivocal no, because “taxes are high enough and I will never increase taxes voluntarily for any reason, even though I know a life was lost because of it.” This is an extreme example of the “no increased taxes” stance in our community, but it’s not uncommon for many residents in Weld County to choose residence here because of lax tax laws, and our county commissioners bank heavily on this (pun intended). It is increasingly common, however, for residents that identify as politically independent to demand a level of due diligence from themselves and their community before they make a decision whether to vote for a tax increase. In many progressive circles, it has been traditional to vote for a tax increase simply on the promised result of a community benefit without examining all of the impacts or long-term implications. Working to address the concerns of all residents in a balanced manner it is the goal to come to a knowledgeable and thoughtful decision on this choice before us.

I’ve asked several elected officials and experts across our state about this matter, with an eye towards the concern of Colorado’s lifeblood: water. With the looming death of the Colorado River and lawmakers choosing some very drastic measures to preserve this most precious of resources, it’s imperative that our first question be: Can we sustain a water park for the thirty years we are being asked to pay for it?

Ballot measure 6A proposes a mill levy tax increase of $2.5 million to be paid by property tax increases spread out over the next 30 years by property owners within the Carbon Valley Parks and Recreation District. This breaks down just under $7,000 a year. Split between the Tri-Town households and shared out as we grow based on the rubric of property value, it’s a very small sum. But the true wealth we are spending here is not our cash: it is our water.

It is a challenge to use or critical thinking to balance this proposal’s financial price tag with its resource one, not only immediately, but for the next thirty years and beyond. Congressman Ed Perlmutter gave what I think is the best response. He said that while we do indeed want to have this option for people to gather, have fun, and provide a source of jobs for many (and stimulus to the area), we have to carefully weigh what it will cost us, and use our resources wisely.

I am thankful that Dean, Executive Director of Carbon Valley Parks and Recreation, has taken the time to inform me about this proposal. His prompt response to my many questions has shown the extensive planning that has gone into this project.

There are some issues that perhaps have not been considered, and Mr. Rummel has stated that a “Yes” or passing vote on this proposal will ensure these questions will receive their due attention.

Among the questions I posed was the carbon footprint impact the water park will have on our community. Several residents have brought up the issue of the increased traffic this will instantly and inevitably bring; because the outdoor water park feature will be in operational use only during the temperate summer months (typically Memorial Day through Labor Day, weather permitting). While Longmont desperately needs some pressure relief on their outdoor water park at Sunset and the lengthy drive to Northglenn (and price tag) for Water World already puts a hefty price on our surrounding communities, it seems the cost of dumping more atmospheric pollutants into a corridor already seeing a horrific rise in ozone warnings (which pertain to the main age groups using the facility) has not been done prior to asking constituents to foot a thirty-year tax bill.

The town of Firestone has worked diligently in partnership with Carbon Valley Parks and Recreation to dissect the traffic issues for the areas encompassing the location of the water park and senior center to come up with a plan to address the current and future needs of the entire section of town which they own. This includes their plans to turn the current disc golf fields into soccer fields turfed with environmentally sustainable artificial turf. The entire plan for this area of the Carbon Valley Parks and Recreation District can be found at http://www.cvprd.com/2508/Proposed-Expansion-Plans and I encourage all voters to examine this site thoroughly. I anticipate that should voters approve this proposal, traffic plans and studies on carbon impact will appear on this page. The town of Firestone has consulted the DRCOG (Denver Regional Council of Governments) on the changes to the traffic flow necessary to the corridor and used their Transportation Master Plan in their plans. Mr. Rummel’s contact information is available on this site, and it also has a portal to the County tax page that will tell you if you are in the Carbon Valley Parks District and all your tax information.

The boards of Firestone and Frederick, as well as the board of the Carbon Valley Parks and Recreation District, are very mindful of sustainability in the Tri-Town area. The board of Dacono is more profit-motivated, yet all three towns support the building of this park because of the benefit it brings our citizens. Currently, the only amenity of the present senior center is a large hangar-type room with a bunch of tables. The population of this area has the demographic of the aging increasing almost as fast as the demographic of youths. We are in a big boom, and the sustainability issue of our water is a big question many have.

Some rumors have been flying that the town of Firestone will be adding a surcharge to the water bills of residents to support this facility: that is patently false. The District will purchase an estimated 3.5 acre/feet of water for this project, and work with the town of Firestone on conservation measures. With the conservation measures built into the plans and estimated use, the water park is projected to use approximately 6 (local) households of water annually. In Colorado, a typical household uses approximately 62,000 gallons/year. Annually, 6 households would use approximately 372,000 gallons. It’s up to each individual to determine if these statistics are worth their yes vote. It’s also effective in helping each household determine whether they feel they are doing enough in regards to necessary conservation measures themselves to ensure we have enough of this precious resource to continue to enjoy the park for the full thirty years of funding (and beyond). Will the children we raise today that stay to raise their own children here be able to go to this same facility while we watch reruns of today’s release of Dune at the senior center?

And most importantly: can we do it with a clear conscience knowing we are a unique Colorado exurban community bridging the sophisticated fast pace of our urban centers with our hardy and more relaxed rural ranchers and farmers?

This proposal can bring many people to our area to spend their time, talents, and treasures here among us: this supports our Fire and Police Districts with the measure we passed in 2018 that has already increased our Fire and Police Departments in supportive ways. It will encourage more visits to the High Plains Library District branch right next door. And perhaps ultimately give us something wonderful to do. Coming out of a two-year period where we all have to relearn how to socialize and engage our community again, having an outdoor place where we can gather and safely socialize will perhaps be the best gift we can give ourselves. It’s up to us to decide.


Sources:

https://grist.org/equity/colorado-river-drought-indigenous-water-rights/

https://coag.gov/blog-post/prepared-remarks-attorney-general-phil-weiser-at-the-colorado-water-congress-2021-annual-convention-feb-16-2021/

https://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/firestone-co-population

https://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/frederick-co-population

https://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/dacono-co-population

https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/family-home-consumer/water-conservation-in-and-around-the-home-9-952/

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