April 6, 2007

Hundreds sign petition in first two days
By Pamela Lawson
Staff Writer, High Timber Times

A groundswell of citizens launched a formal petition Sunday to urge Park County commissioners to “do the right thing” when it comes to making a possible decision next week on a 1041 water application.

The Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan Water District in Pine Junction is the applicant, and if the permit is approved, it could pave the way for a 450-unit Ryland Homes development nearby.

More than 125 people crowded the small hearing room in the county courts building in Fairplay last Wednesday, with many of them arguing that impacts to Elk Creek, local wildlife and Jeffco residents have not been thoroughly researched by the applicant.

The hearing was continued to April 11 at 9 a.m. in Fairplay.

At last Wednesday’s hearing, citizens introduced new information that they believe is pertinent to the decision-making process, and some of those details are outlined in the petition, according to Dick Hodges, one of the many Park and Jefferson county citizens on the grassroots committee that launched the petition.

Within about 48 hours of its release, more than 200 people had signed the petition — at least one from as far away as Chicago —and others, including teachers, are taking the petition to fellow teachers and homeowners farther into Jefferson County who may not be aware of the situation, Hodges said.

The petition committee hopes to secure as many signatures as possible by Monday, April 9, to present to Park County commissioners, but residents can continue to sign the documents until the hearing Wednesday.

“We want commissioners to look at the facts objectively, look at the information the public presented and do the right thing,” Hodges said.

At least 10 businesses in both counties have petitions available for signature, and those interested can also go online at www.woodside.com to sign an electronic version.

“I have received calls from several elderly retirees along Elk Creek worried and frightened,” Hodges said. “I don’t understand with all the money these companies brought to this why they didn’t contact people in Jefferson County to let them know what was going on.”

Land Securities Investments (affiliated with Sunset Management Inc., which is building the Conifer Town Center) entered an agreement with Will-O-Wisp more than two years ago when it bought more than 300 acres to develop in Pine Junction, and it needed to procure water and sewer services. The project, called Tanglewood, is a joint venture between that company and Ryland Homes.

Hodges, who lives in the Woodside 5 subdivision in Park County, said he has attended about four hearings pertaining to the project over the last 18 months and, during testimony from the applicant, wildlife agencies and other agencies, he heard no mention of impacts to the wells of residents who live along Elk Creek in Jefferson County.

The WOW water rights stipulate that when the district removes water at the diversion point on Elk Creek, it must return it to Wisp Creek, bypassing a section of Elk Creek that runs through, or near, the properties of several hundred residents. Those include the Elk Falls subdivision and the communities of Glenelk, Sphinx Park and Pine Grove, the latter of which has a dry fire hydrant dedicated to Elk Creek that serves that town.

“Why couldn’t they have taken the time and money to investigate the environmental and social impacts to these communities?” Hodges said.


An electronic version of the citizen petition is at the “top” of the website: www.mywoodside.com

Local businesses that have the petition include Bailey Country Store; Cutthroat Café; Mount Bailey Coffee Shack; Pine Junction Liquor Store; Pine Junction Fitness Center; Pine Emporium; Hair Etc. in Aspen Park; Inglenook Stoves; Aspen Perk; and volunteers stationed at King Soopers.

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