The common thread among petitioners looking to recall Mayor Paul Donahue and councilmembers Renee Valentine and Mark Heath is a concern with the manner and rate in which Castle Rock is growing.
“I favor a better quality of life that is slipping away because of the accelerated growth being pushed by the developers and city administrators,” Castle Rock resident Sid Brooks, a lawyer petitioning for Valentine’s recall, told the council at the March 8 meeting.
Petitions calling for the recall of Donahue, Valentine and Heath were signed into circulation by the Castle Rock town clerk March 10, 11 and 14.
From 2010-15, the population of Castle Rock has increased 27 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The town’s population, presently 58,608, is expected to surpass 60,000 this year and to exceed 100,000 residents by 2030.
“I understand growth, but we should do it in a responsible way,” said Jeff VanderWal, a Castle Rock resident and business consultant who is petitioning for the recall of District 2 Town Councilmember Mark Heath.
VanderWal, a member of Castle Rock Citizens for Responsible Development, a group that seeks more restraints on growth, said the recall process was a last resort, but he and fellow petitioners believe the council is not willing to listen to what residents want.
Among what they are asking for is the right for residents to vote on annexations of 15 acres or more. VanderWal and his citizens group are seeking this right through Citizens Petition 2016B, which needs 4,100 signatures to move forward.
Fve active annexation petitions are presently under review with town staff. Three are considered major annexations totaling 2,512 acres, 2,667 single-family homes and 1,284 multi-family units. The proposed annexation of Canyons South, which is south of Crowfoot Valley Road, east of Timber Canyon and north of Founders Parkway, is the largest of the lot. The annexation would be 1,584 acres of land with 1,508 single-family detached homes.
This worries some residents who are concerned about the lack of infrastructure to support the increased traffic and overcrowding and the destruction of wildlife on the undeveloped land.
Donahue said the infrastructure is coming and has reiterated multiple times at town council meetings that “growth pays for growth.”
“The impact fees that developers pay us for each home that they build and each commercial building — those all come to the town in forms of revenue,” he said, adding that the money is used to pay for water, roads and public safety. “We are living in an extraordinary time in Colorado where we have many people that want to live here in our state and in our community.”
Castle Rock saw big growth in 2000 but about 2007, when the recession hit, development died. Homes stopped being built and businesses closed.
“What we’re going through right now is we’re making up for that horrible economic time,” Donahue said. “This is not going to last forever — the economy will eventually turn around and the development will slow.”
But that turn in the economy worries residents like Amy Fienen. Fienen, one of the residents pushing for the recall of Valentine, moved to Castle Rock from California and said she has seen firsthand what happens to a town when real estate bubbles burst.
“When you are building homes faster than you have people to fill them, it concerns me,” she said. “We’re in an election year and we don’t know where the economy is going.”
Regarding residents’ concerns that Castle Rock is not growing at a responsible rate, Valentine replied, “The secret is out — Castle Rock is the (No. 4) best place to live in America and the free market is responding.”
The ranking she referenced was a 2014 ranking by Money Magazine.
Brooks is frustrated with what he sees as seemingly thoughtless development with little restraint being pushed through the town.
“Renee Valentine should be asking questions,” he said. “She never asks anything. She is supposed to be a leader. Leaders ask questions.”
That perceived lack of leadership is something Suzi Hackett, who is petitioning for the recall of Donahue, is looking to change.
“I think there has been a lot of concern by citizens about this path to very fast development — rubber stamping all development projects,” Hackett said. “I am not against development, but citizen concerns need to be addressed and listened to.”