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“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
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  Volume No. 14 Issue No. 9 September 2017  

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  Commissioner and state representative hold town hall meeting
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On Aug. 12, Mark Waller, District 2 representative on the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners, and Paul Lundeen, Colorado State House District 19 representative, held a joint town hall meeting at Falcon Fire Protection District Station 3 in Falcon.
   
   The two engaged in discussions with attendees on topics, including water rights, development, improvements to Interstate 25, marijuana grow operations and impact fees for development.
   
   Attendees voiced concern about marijuana grow operations in eastern El Paso County. Waller said about 400 illegal operations exist currently in the eastern area of the county. “The vast majority of the product that is grown here is not being sold here,” Waller said. Drug dealers use Colorado as a distribution hub because two major interstates, I-25 and I-70, flow through the state, allowing for easier transportation from the grow operations, he said. It is difficult to prosecute these illegal operations, making it harder to shut them down, Waller added.
   
   Marijuana grow operations increase water usage; and, in eastern EPC, water is a source of anxiety, considering most of the growth in the county is in the northeastern portion, Waller said. Developments like Sterling Ranch, north of Woodmen Road and east of Vollmer Road, have already been approved for 1,700 homes, with a proposed total buildout of 5,300 homes, he said.
   
   “The developer does not have the water to provide to the other 3,600 homes so they do not have the final approval for those homes,” Waller said. “Growth is necessary to our community; we just have to figure out how to do it responsibly.”
   
   “Water in Colorado is probably the biggest developing concern,” Lundeen said. “Storage at the state level needs to be a larger concern and higher priority.”
   
   A Black Forest resident attending the meeting referenced an article in the August issue of “The New Falcon Herald” on impact fees imposed on developers by fire protection districts to support new growth. “There is concern that people in one part of the (fire protection) district are paying for the infrastructure that benefits people in another part of the district,” she said. “If those impact fees had been in place, that money would have paid for the new fire station (No. 4), and the money used on the new station could have been used for infrastructure to benefit other parts of the district.”
   
   Waller said he needed to see the paperwork to back the assertion that fire protection districts, like the Falcon Fire Protection District and the Black Forest Fire Rescue Protection District, need more money. Additionally, Waller said the intergovernmental agreement that would allow the districts to collect those fees needs to include a larger public process to determine the fees.
   
   “If we are going to put this additional fee on homeowners, there needs to be a great public process,” Waller said.
  
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