Volume No. 16 Issue No. 3 March 2019  

  4-Way Ranch litigation continues
  By Lindsey Harrison

     On April 11, 2018, Brian Matise, an attorney with Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C., filed two complaints on behalf of 30 residents of 4-Way Ranch Metropolitan District 1 against the district itself, the five board members and 4-Way Ranch Joint Venture LLC. The board members included Peter Martz, Robert Elliott, Deborah Elliott, E. Tracy Lee and Linda Johnson-Conne.
   According to the first complaint, District 1 was formed in September 2005 by the developer, 4-Way Ranch Joint Venture. The consolidated service plan the developer submitted to the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners — which was approved — called for the organization of District 1 and a neighboring district, 4-Way Ranch Metropolitan District 2. District 2 was intended to include and serve a different development than District 1, the complaint states.
   That complaint also asserts that actions taken by the board at the March 14, 2018, meeting were quasi-judicial in nature and could thus be reversed or overruled by the District Court of El Paso County. Those actions included the exclusion of portions of the undeveloped property within 4-Way Ranch from District 1, known as Waterbury; inclusion of the Waterbury property into 4-Way Ranch Metropolitan District 2; and conveyance of the services provided by District 1 to District 2.
   According to the May 2018 issue of “The New Falcon Herald,” when District 2 was created, it did not include the undeveloped 321-acre Waterbury property. Excluding the Waterbury property from District 1 and including it in District 2 would mean that associated revenue, such as tap fees or operation and maintenance taxes, would go to District 2 only; District 1 would not be able to financially survive the exclusion.
   The courts ruled the decision to exclude the Waterbury property was legislative in nature and it could not interfere with or change the board's decision to exclude the property, Matise said. Therefore, the exclusion decision made on March 14, 2018, remained in effect, excluding Waterbury from District 1 and including it in District 2.
   However, the second complaint stated the exclusion of the Waterbury property violated the service plan approved by the BOCC. Homeowners in District 1 wanted their arguments heard by the courts as to how that exclusion violated the service plan and the court ruled to set aside, or undo, the exclusion so that those arguments could be heard, Matise said.
   At the time the exclusion decision was made in March 2018, board members for District 1 were also board members for District 2. However, the three developer-director board members — Johnson-Conne, Robert Elliott and Deborah Elliott –- were recalled; and the two remaining homeowner/resident members were defeated in the general election May 8, 2018.
   The new board currently consists of Kevin Campbell, Kristen Andrews and Stewart Anderson as the developer-director members and David Learn and Andrew Westra as the homeowner/resident members.
   In December 2018, the new board held a hearing about the former board's decision to exclude the Waterbury property that the courts had set aside and took additional testimony and evidence into consideration, Matise said. Based on what was presented, the board ruled against the exclusion because it would leave District 1 without a tax base to support it, he said.
   Then, an appeal against that decision was filed.
   “We received an appeal of that ruling, which was sent to the (EPC) Board of County Commissioners,” Matise said. “A property owner who wants that exclusion to be approved wants the commissioners to consider allowing it.”
   Matise filed a response to the appeal in time for the Feb. 27 deadline.
   “It is in the county commissioners hands with how to proceed,” he said. “I suspect they will look at the appeal near the end of March.”
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