An umbrella group for area homeowner associations peppered Jeffco Commissioner Kathy Hartman with questions for an hour on Feb. 4 about everything from property assessments to the county's ability to respond to zoning violations.
Hartman, who spoke at the Council of Homeowner Organizations for a Planned Environment, took most questions in stride, and she deferred on some issues to Tim Carl, Jeffco's director of development and transportation, who also attended the meeting.
In response to a question about property assessments in the county and why they would stay stable or increase amid the declining economy, Hartman dashed the hopes of some for lower real estate taxes.
"Property values in Jefferson County over the last two years are stable to up slightly," Hartman said. "Believe it or not, compared to some other places, we are in relatively positive shape."
She said that County Assessor Jim Everson will have final assessed values for the county in August, but it's looking like values, and therefore property taxes, will stay roughly the same as the last two years.
"I don't believe it," said Wayne Hawkins, a CoHOPE delegate representing the Columbine West Civic Association. Hawkins, a retired retail manager and IRS tax investigator, said that declines in property values across the state and the country are real, and "you can't tell me South Jeffco is any different."
Hartman said she's confident that the assessor and his staff are making accurate assessments.
"But it's not believable," Hawkins said.
Federal economic help
Hartman said the economic stimulus bill in Congress likely will have some benefits for the county, adding that the Colorado Department of Transportation has identified projects that would qualify for federal funding and could start right away. The list includes a bike path along C-470 that needs to be redone.
"I'm reasonably certain that we will get funded," Hartman said. "As reasonably certain as one can be about anything that happens in Washington."
She added that improvements to U.S. 285 at Shaffers Crossing likely will be funded as well.
Another item on Jeffco's wish list is a passing track for the west corridor light-rail project. The track would enable RTD to increase train frequency between downtown Denver and the Jefferson County Courts and Administration Facility to once every 10 minutes, as opposed to once every 15 minutes.
Hartman also responded to a question on cell phone towers and the county's ability to regulate them.
"This is just Kathy winging it," Hartman said, noting that she doesn't have much expertise on the issue. She said the county is allowed to regulate the electronic output of the towers only if they exceed a certain threshold, and in terms of safety, the county can regulate only the structural integrity of the towers.
"We have a huge issue with right of way," Hartman said. She said the county is trying to find a way to "tighten regulations" on where towers can be placed, but current state law allows them in public right of ways.
Hartman said most people want cell coverage everywhere they go but don't want the towers in their area.
"Your children and grandchildren want this service," Hartman said. "Everybody wants (cell coverage), but nobody wants it next to them."
The county's hands are tied by federal and state regulations, Hartman said.
"We have state and federal laws severely limiting what we can do," Hartman said.
Hartman said a proposed assisted-living facility on the northeast corner of South Kipling Street and West Coal Mine Avenue is not on the horizon.
"It's not coming," Hartman said.
Carl added that the land is still zoned for the facility, and the company that was planning to build it is legally entitled to do so. But he said no construction is scheduled in the near future.
"Nothing is going to happen on that any time soon," Carl said.
And finally …
Hawkins also groused at Hartman over a lack of enforcement of local ordinances.
"Why do you make it so difficult to enforce the ordinances?" Wayne Hawkins asked Hartman, referring specifically to RVs parked in residential areas against code.
"It's a sheriff's issue," Hartman said.
"They say it’s a commissioners’ issue," Hawkins said.