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Incorporation takes leadership

When Art Van Sant, a commercial landowner in Falcon, began assessing community interest in incorporating Falcon in early 2004, he knew the process would be challenging and spirited, driven by a diverse population. He also knew dialogue with the community would be vital.When Art took the process to a public forum, the New Falcon Herald was present at every meeting. Our first article, written by Alicia Littlejohn, presented the pros and cons and outlined the necessary steps for incorporating. We followed up with more than 20 articles on the incorporation effort.Art resigned from the committee shortly before his death last year and other local business people assumed control of the incorporation efforts. The last public forum was in September 2005. Since then, the NFH has tried to keep our readers informed of the process, but it hasn’t been easy.The latest article we published in August was, according to the rumor mill, ill received by incorporation members. We focused on the incorporation committee’s contention that Colorado Springs could annex Falcon at a moment’s notice. We pointed out that city officials have been adamant that Falcon is not on their radar screen and we reiterated the rules of annexation. We also questioned the content of the consent letters that were sent to 40-plus-acre property owners. The consent letters are mandated by state law.The article was based on recorded conversations with committee members – committee chair Tom Cline and members Sam Leffler and Carolyn Myers did not return our calls.Regardless of their perceptions about our article, there is no excuse for sending an e-mail, which we just happened to intercept, discounting the credibility of the New Falcon Herald, nor is it a reason to give the local newspaper the cold shoulder. We are simply trying to educate our readers.We’ve attempted – via e-mails and phone calls – to follow up with the committee. On Nov. 13, the Ranchland News and the Gazette published articles on the incorporation efforts, citing that the petition process was under way. Puzzled by the fact that we hadn’t received a news release, we called the Ranchland reporter, and she said an incorporation committee member called her to offer an “exclusive” on the latest information. Of course, we mentioned that the exclusive obviously included the Gazette.We called and e-mailed again, and we did not get a response. Jean Woolsey did call but said she had been absent from the committee for long periods.The NFH is not for or against incorporation. There are too many unanswered questions to make a thoughtful decision. The idea of Falcon as a city is appealing in many ways, but communication is paramount to the process.We need the leadership to answer questions.Elizabeth Dole defined leadership in this way: “What you always do before you make a decision is consult. The best public policy is made when you are listening to people who are going to be impacted.”We’ve tried to get the truth to you. If you would like to seek answers on your own, we are recommending a few questions that you might want to ask the committee. We’ve listed names and numbers as well.Here’s what we know through the articles and Web site and a couple of local sources:

  • The populace of the proposed city of Falcon boundaries would be 1,800 to 2,300, according to a statement by Tom Cline published in the Gazette. He also mentioned the boundaries as Dodge Road, Blaney Road East, Curtis Road and U.S. Highway 24. The Meridian Ranch subdivision is not included. The incorporation committee’s Web site states that 4,200 people will be included in the proposed boundaries.
  • Cline said the town budget would be funded by a suggested 1.6 percent sales tax, according to the Gazette, with Wal-Mart and other large retailers as major sources of tax revenue.
  • One-hundred fifty signatures are needed to submit the petition within six months (Gazette); one source says the committee has garnered 100 signatures.
  • An annual budget has been configured at $752,000, according to the incorporation Web site.
The necessary questions:
  1. The incorporation Web site states, “Annexation can be accomplished in a few months and does not need to involve you.” An explanation of this statement is necessary because the city annexation rules present a different picture.City annexation rules:
    1. All property owners in the particular area of interest can petition the city to annex their area.
    2. The area to be annexed must be surrounded by the city – contiguous to the city – on all sides.
    3. If the city wants to annex an area where the property owners have not requested it or in an area that is not contiguous to the city, it has to be accomplished through a vote.
  2. What is the exact number of the residents who would be included in the incorporation of Falcon – is it 1,800 to 2,300 or 4,200?
  3. How can using the sales tax revenues to benefit 2,300 be justified when major subdivisions and other area residents are not included in the boundaries?
  4. Was the town budget based on other like areas? How did the committee come up with the budget figure? What is included in the budget?
  5. How does the committee address the proposed city’s plan to manage growth in Falcon? In 2004, 1,655 residents of Watkins, Colo., another small eastern plains community voted for incorporation. In November 2006, the city charter was revoked, citing problems over “government services, developers’ influence … and projections of 500 new homes,” according to the Denver Post. What would be in place in the town of Falcon to deal with current and ongoing development?
  6. How would School District 49 benefit from incorporation?
  7. Rumor has it that Black Forest resident and committee member Carolyn Myers is a paid consultant. What are her credentials for consulting on incorporation efforts? What are the funds used to pay Carolyn?
  8. The incorporation Web site states that “70 percent are in favor of an incorporation and 20 percent oppose it;” 70 percent of whom? How did the committee come up with those numbers? There is no place to vote that we could find on the Web site.
  9. How will the incorporation committee fund the voting process if enough petition signatures are gathered? Who will actually vote on the incorporation?
  10. Has the incorporation committee filed its name and purpose with the state?
We started this newspaper almost four years ago with a goal to bring issues to the community and the community to the issues. We present these questions to the incorporation committee as well, in good faith that they will provide us with answers. In the end, it’s all about the people, and the voters will weigh the good and the bad before making their decision.Possible sources of information:Web site: www.falconco.orgPhone numbers and e-mail addresses listed on Web site:Tom Cline – 719-683-5755; thomascline@msn.comJean Woolsey – 719-749-2713; jeanwoolsey@msn.com

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