2009

15 July 2009: Commissioner Harry Dale crosses line

Commissioner crosses fine line

Being a card-carrying member of the ACLU, I am in the vanguard when it comes to defending the right of an individual, including those who hold elected or appointed public office, to speak about any issue.

Having the right, though, does not obligate one to speak, and, as we have been taught and often forget, there are times when it’s best to hold one’s tongue.

Public officials occasionally walk a fine line when taking action on cases in which they have a vested or personal stake. Then, it is imperative for the official to remain above the fray to show his/her actions and decisions are not personally driven.

Such is the case of Commissioner Harry Dale, who has sworn to do his best for Clear Creek County but also has a personal interest in his neighborhood: Floyd Hill.

Most of us, I assume, recall the history of the battle for annexation of Floyd Hill and how that attempt went down in flames at the hands of the Idaho Springs voters; so I won’t belabor it. Suffice to say, Dale was in the forefront of that rebellion, though he had no vote not being a citizen of the city.

Given Harry ties it to this latest skirmish, it’s critical to understand the vote was about annexation only; it had and has no meaning or bearing in terms of future development atop Floyd Hill.

The complexities of Floyd Hill area development—commercial or residential—are too extensive to cover in this column.

For now, the essential question is this: Has Commissioner Dale, who has been doing incredible things for CCC with regard to transit and the I-70 Corridor, overstepped his bounds by speaking out—“going on the offensive,” in his words—in such a forceful manner, thereby drawing upon the authority of his office to advance the agenda of Floyd Hill homeowners of which he is one?

In his column, Harry not only obfuscates the issue by correlating the 74-percent anti-annexation vote with his concerns about Floyd Hill development, he also makes unfair and unfounded accusations about stakeholders, calls them childish, and uses loaded language such as “urbanization” to drive his point home.

It is hard to fathom the public-funded process of the Floyd Hill Sub-Regional Master Plan as being “secret” or the participants, “the Clear Creek government and (emphasis mine) planning staff, Idaho Springs municipal government and staff, Clear Creek Economic Corp, and the major property owner (unnamed) in the area,” conspiratorial.

Ironically, given that he is a third of the county triumvirate, Harry must have forgotten he is a de facto member of that conspiracy.

It’s tough if not impossible to keep secrets in small towns and communities, so if one has been unaware of the debate, the reason is one of two: don’t care or not paying attention.

The fact is the discussion about Floyd Hill’s future has been ongoing throughout Harry’s tenure, and it is not about urbanization, but commercial development. The two concepts are not synonymous.

Harry asserts the entire process has been “flawed” and “wrongful public spending.” He also says he would “need to be confident that the individual decision was not only good for the affected area of the county, but good for the county as a whole.” (Click here for Dale’s complete statement.)

What would, though, satisfy Floyd Hill homeowners in a “compromised agreement” that did not guarantee permanent rural mountain residential? Are the two zoning positions, commercial development, even partial, and rural mountain residential mutually exclusive, thus, incompatible?

That raises this question: Is zoning Floyd Hill permanently as rural mountain residential in the best interests of the entire county?

Let’s suppose we were asked to vote on a referendum about allowing a major hotel chain such as Marriot to construct on Floyd Hill a several-hundred room complex replete with convention center. Given its proximity to Blackhawk, Central City, Loveland Ski Area, the foothills’ mountain parks and communities, and the continental divide, it would be an ideal locale.

Imagine the tax revenues flowing into the county and school district’s coffers!

My bet is that the vote would be more lopsided than the Idaho Springs vote on annexation with more than 74 percent voting yea. The few nays would come in large part from the residents of Floyd Hill and understandably so.

Harry Dale has the right to advocate for his neighborhood in what has been dubbed as the “Battle for Floyd Hill.” But he ought to do so as a private citizen, not as commissioner, or leave it on the shoulders of his Floyd Hill neighbors to advance their neighborhood’s arguments directly to the Planning Commission.

Harry is, after all, one of three Clear Creek County commissioners and not the one Floyd Hill commissioner; and those of us who have supported him, indeed every CC citizen, should expect no less.

Failing that, Commissioner Dale ought to step back and recuse himself from any official actions in the event this particular issue finds it way to the commissioners’ agenda.

Read Harry’s complete detailed response to me by clicking here.

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