Call out: Obviously, Julie was nearly as confused as the State was about annexation. But the confusion she evidenced in her questions to us was unrelated to the values in the appraisal.
A few weeks before Julie’s hearing, we suddenly got a desperate email from her asking for help in answering some questions. As a reminder to you, the reading public, we had never spoken to Julie or corresponded with her in any way. This was the first time we had ever heard from her directly. Here’s what she wrote, with our responses in red:
Julie: “Hi Sharon ~ I hate to ask you, but this really is important and your tax credits as well as my life pretty much depends on your help. This is what my attorney wants to know.
Is there any evidence in the county/city records that shows the prior annexation was denied?
Us: Not to our knowledge. The City Council voted unanimously to annex the first 120 acres of our land (it was going to be a phased annexation due to the rules about the % of contiguity with the city) on Tuesday, June 19th, 2001 (Resolutions 1(A) and 2(B). At the public hearing on August 7, 2001, no one spoke against the annexation and the City Council unanimously passed the two resolutions. As far as we know, those resolutions are still on record. We have never been contacted with any information to the contrary and we have never read about these resolutions being rescinded.
Some time after that, the City put a moratorium on annexation until the drought was over due to concerns about water. We never understood this as being a “denial.”
Meanwhile, based on the City’s promises over many years, we had invested heavily in this project, and felt we needed to continue at a rapid rate to recover our investment. So, when they put the moratorium in place, we grew weary of working with the City, and began to doubt the benefits to us. So we began to pursue the idea of developing the land in the county instead of in the City, and we received approval on the first two filings (see faxed newspaper article[i]), which is a matter of public record. We continued to negotiate a water agreement with the City and we have an agreement with the City of Walsenburg for extraterritorial water for the subdivision, which was signed on approximately January 28, 2005.
Julie: I think this appears to be a red herring, i.e., that there never was an annexation therefore they assume it was denied. We need to make sure your contacts in Huerfano County will testify that they did support an annexation.
Us: The county officials had nothing to do with our negotiations with the City for annexation. The votes of the City Council are a matter of public record.
Julie: If the annexation you contemplated was mistakenly for Huerfano County instead of Walsenburg, would the subdivision still have been possible?
Us: There is no mistake: we were petitioning the City of Walsenburg to annex our property. The property is in the County. But, then we changed direction and decided to not pursue annexation to the City, and to work in the County instead. Working in the county merely required that we do some zoning changes and follow the county’s requirements for subdivision, which we did (see newspaper article).
Julie: the bulk of the expert report relates to the failed annexation several years back. if we can establish with witnesses that annexation was on the table then we defeat a huge part of their expert report.
Us: There is no “failed annexation.” The City passed the resolution to annex our land (mentioned above) and to our knowledge, the City has never rescinded its resolution. In addition, the newspaper (The Huerfano World) recently reported that the new city manager (Eric Pearson) is very “pro” annexation. (I’m so sorry, but I don’t remember which issue it was in – I will continue to hunt for that article.) In addition, the moratorium must have been lifted (I’m not sure when) because the City is proceeding with an annexation on the north side of the city called “Northlands.”
Julie: i want to have our investigator interview your contact in Huerfano County to "get them on record" that they supported annexation.
Us: Again, the County had nothing to do with annexation. They are on record as supporting our subdivision in the County because they approved the first two filings, and they had a master plan that showed a full build out of all 1000 acres.
Julie: can you set up a phone call so they are not surprised by our investigator's contact? In addition, this failed annexation that they discuss so much, where would that proof be located? would it be in county filings? do you have someone down there that could look at the filings to see if there even was a denial?
Us: Perhaps you can call the City Clerk? To our knowledge there is no such “denial.” I can’t emphasize this enough: the annexation did not proceed because we chose not to proceed.
Julie: I guess the whole case rests on the annexation problem. Would you mind if someone called to to discuss this with you? Please let me know.
Us: We are happy to talk to you, your investigator, or your attorney. Please feel free to contact us.
Obviously, Julie was nearly as confused as the State was about annexation. But the confusion she evidenced in her questions to us was unrelated to the values in the appraisal. We were still at a mental standoff with the State: We thought the appraisals were too low and the state thought they were artificially inflated. Even if we simply compromised on a middle value, it would have been enough to reach the threshold for a conservation easement. But this issue had not come up yet – as you can see, there’s more to the story! © Sharon Cairns Mann
[i] I must have had a hard copy of a newspaper article that I faxed to Julie. Since our house was later destroyed by fire, we’ve lost many artifacts, and I can’t find the article we mentioned at the time.