April 12, 2007

Hearing on Tanglewood development postponed — again
By Pamela Lawson
Staff Writer, High Timber Times

Fortunately for John Wathen, April 5 was a warm day. That’s the day, last week, that the 77-year-old grabbed his dog, Buddy, and posted himself — sign and all — at U.S. 285 and Elk Creek Road, where he gathered petition signatures for a cause he believes in.

The citizen petition asks that Park County commissioners deny a 1041 water permit application as requested by a local water district that could make way for a 450-home subdivision called Tanglewood. The citizens are citing many issues that have yet to be resolved, they say, including impacts to Elk Creek, local wildlife and residential wells.

Wathen and his wife, Marlene, collected two pages of signatures, adding to the final count of 2,417 gathered by many other residents and presented to Park County officials Tuesday in Fairplay.

By Wednesday, that number had already risen to nearly 2,500 signers, according to Dick Hodges, who is coordinating the petition drive.

John Wathen and his wife, Marlene were among the many residents who blitzed the community last week, securing close to 2500 signatures on a petition asking Park County Commissioners to deny an applicant's 1041 water permit until more data could be obtained about residential impacts. (Photo provided)

"We just had five working days, during a snowstorm and (the Easter) holiday," Hodges said of the effort. "Some of these people are literally exhausted; it was miraculous."

His group has sent copies to Gov. Bill Ritter, Jefferson County commissioners, the state attorney general, the state water engineer, a state senator and others. The petition included details about rights with regard to public testimony; the responsibility of the commissioners to view the geographic areas in question; and the right of the public to cross-examine a 1041 applicant — a process that residents say was not followed by Park County commissioners for this 1041 application.

Wathen believes water is a contentious issue — "has been for centuries and is not going to go away now."

But he doesn’t think the citizens who live along Elk Creek, including himself, are overreacting.

"We are just trying to protect what we have. This won’t be the first time; there will be other people who want to come in, and they will want water too."

Adding one more twist to the water issues that have surfaced around the 1041 application applied for by the Will-O-Wisp Water District in Pine Junction was the latest cancellation of a public hearing — the sixth since last summer.

County staff needed more time to address information presented at the March 28 hearing, at which the public presented eight hours of testimony, including what some believe was new material about water rights.

Commissioners closed public comment that day and set a date of April 11 for the applicant to present its final response, but that meeting was postponed.

According to Sandy Berryman, chief administrative officer of Park County, the latest postponement involves a request by Jeff Kahn, a water attorney hired by the county.

Kahn is requesting "answers to specific questions from the water commissioner," said the notification sent by Berryman on Tuesday, one day before the scheduled hearing this week. "The state's response will not be prepared by today, so the applicant is asking for a continuance," her note further said.

Kahn has made contact with Water Commissioner Roger Mlodzik, Mlodzik confirmed Tuesday. At least one question involved the clarification of use of the Glassman head gate structure at its present location, he said.

Mlodzik said he forwarded Khan’s letter to Greeley and will get an official response from a division engineer who will "look at everything and see if the current structure can be used," he said.

"Some of this is from new documents that were presented to us. I have asked people for these documents before and have only just received them," Mlodzik said.

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