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El Paso County Colorado District 49

County Commissioner

The longest and possibly most controversial land use hearing of the year was for Thee Occasion Events Center in Black Forest. A woman proposed erecting a building for weddings, receptions, and other social events on a five-acre parcel in the commercial area. Many neighbors did not like it. Some reasons given included a loss of some of (her) trees; the arrival of up to 300 “outsiders,” with possible traffic, noise, and parking issues; availability of other wedding sites; premature advertisement of the business; alleged lack of profitability; and business incorporation by the owner, who was thus not a “real person.” Competing petitions showed more local opposition than support.Since development is such a hot topic, I should expound on my view of land use issues. I opposed the forced zoning of eastern El Paso County. Zoning in general is another form of government control of your property. I also do not support “master plans” (written by our masters!) that allow neighbors to veto your dreams for your property.A commissioner should not reject proposals simply because they a) are ugly or affect someone’s view, b) aren’t needed, profitable, or popular, or c) benefit “outsiders” or allegedly hurt property values. There is no such thing as “community property rights” on YOUR property. If you pay the taxes, you own it. You don’t own it “in trust” for the neighbors or for posterity. I told people plainly from the start of my campaign that I support private property rights, which means the right to legally use your own land with minimal regulation, in a way that doesn’t injure others. That is what freedom and free enterprise are about. You may disagree now, but when it’s your property on the line, you’ll appreciate my stand.A newspaper sarcastically ridiculed my public admission that I was an “unabashed capitalist.” I’m not ashamed to say so again. Thanks for the unintended compliment!The only legitimate role of the county in land use issues is to verify that a) existing rules are followed (or to approve a waiver when proper) and b) the proposed use will not injure LEGITIMATE interests of other citizens. Valid interests include overuse of available water, which might impact surrounding wells; drainage problems that flow onto other property; and traffic issues, such as dangerous intersections or streets inaccessible to emergency vehicles. They also include the right of taxpayers not to be forced to subsidize future financial costs caused by new subdivisions.I have met many developers on this issue, including the developer at Cathedral Pines, Dan Potter. He and I met for lunch (separate checks!) to discuss my standards for evaluating projects. We did not talk about the merits of his pending development, which was approved the next week, 4-to-1. I was the dissenter, solely because the county still lacks a gauge for the true external cost of new subdivisions.It is unfair that the county has dragged its feet on providing developers with a calculation for those costs, so they could pay the costs and I could then support the projects that are truly self-sufficient. I had raised this concern in March, when I publicly stated that after July 11 (exactly six months in office), I would not vote for projects that caused future costs to taxpayers that should instead be added to new building prices. Remember, I ran as the taxpayers’ champion.Today, home developers must provide cash or land only for new school land, but NOT for new buildings. (And commercial builders pay no school or park fees.) That building gap is the main reason we have overcrowding in Falcon School District 49. I am the only commissioner who has taken a stand to change course, so the situation does not get worse. Raising school taxes this fall in D-49 or D-11 employs the current failed “system,” but will never solve the problem.We just passed the largest tax increase in county history for roads – including a new layer of government, the Rural Transportation Authority. The cost is $70 million this year and over ONE BILLION DOLLARS in the first 10 years. What was the excuse? Another delayed reaction to past growth.In 2001, Colorado Springs passed the largest city tax increase in its history, authorizing $27 million yearly for police and fire services. Why? The costs of growth and sprawl were not covered by newcomers who arrived demanding services, including faster response times throughout ever-expanding city boundaries. In 1997, city voters approved a tax to buy “disappearing” open space, an appeal also tied to city growth and density.Last year, Falcon Fire District wanted money for new fire stations to serve new homes. The city and county now say we have a $400 million backlog of drainage projects. They are planning to demand a tax or “fee” increase for that, too. Do you see the pattern yet?In response to my March request, the Development Services department has finally agreed to outline in August potential new impact fees. Once determined to be fair and reasonable, I will ask the board to adopt them as guidelines for growth. (Fat chance!)I took no campaign donations from developers or anyone else. Developers dislike me because I vote against their projects and propose new fees. Homeowners are unhappy with me, as I do not block every project that may affect their view, traffic, or density.Still, I am proud of my stand in protecting private property rights, both of landowners who want to develop their parcel, and those who should not be injured by that growth. I oppose taxpayer subsidies to developers (ultimately, to new owners) as a violation of free market tenets. Agree or not, you can see that my position is thoughtful, not an arbitrary or ad hoc reaction. I am looking at the Big Picture for a long-term solution. I will not poll, nor count the voters on each side of issues facing me. Bill Clinton did that, and most of us despised his lack of integrity and courage.I believe you elected me to act on principle. I will continue to do so, no matter what.For liberty,DOUGLAS BRUCEYOUR county commissionerContact information for Douglas Bruce:Phone: 719-520-6412E-mail: douglasbruce@elpasoco.comWeb site: www.DouglasBruce.comMail address: 27 E. Vermijo Ave., Colorado Springs, Co. 80903

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