Taxes and tribulations: For south Jeffco, 2008 saw stories that mattered in the community

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By Matt Gunn

Taxes, or the rejection thereof, liquor stores that look like cathedrals, new contracts, retirements and memorials.

That was 2007, in the most concise list possible.

But those who experienced the many stories might remember each in somewhat less simple terms. It might be saying too much — or maybe coming off too grandiose — to say that the stories and events define the community. However, it comes across as an elegant fact that the reason some stories stand above others is because of how much they matter to each community stakeholder.

A recent example of this came in the November elections. A proposed property tax increase — ballot measure 5A — in the Ken-Caryl Metropolitan District divided many within Ken-Caryl. On one hand, the district said it needed to the funding to maintain and restore its aging facilities. But the vocal opposition, led by resident Kathy Tourney, said the district needed to be held accountable.

A mere 230 votes made the difference, with a 53.55-to-46.22 percent margin opposing the increase. A total of 3,137 Ken-Caryl residents submitted mail-in ballots to Jefferson County.

“Tax referendums are tough,” said Jan Rousselot, a metropolitan district board member and Ken-Caryl resident. “No matter how valid they are, they are very, very tough.”

The district discussed what it must do in 2008 in light of the mill levy failure. User fees will now be imposed on residents, and one of the district’s three pools will close. Among other things, the district will not have funds for tree replacement, holiday decorations or landscaping standards that Ken-Caryl residents have come to expect.

“The ones who voted no thinking they’re going to get out of this thing free, they’re not,” said Dave Banning, metropolitan district president. “Because our community is going to start looking diminished.”

While the district’s mill levy brought conflict among voters, other events united the area.

Perhaps the most significant example of community healing was the dedication of the Columbine Memorial in Clement Park.

“The Columbine Memorial will provide a place where we can continually draw strength and inspiration,” said Frank DeAngelis, principal of Columbine High School. “It will provide a place, a time to remember and a time to hope.”

The $1.5 million memorial is the culmination of a community effort that began shortly after the April 20, 1999, tragedy. On Sept. 21, it became a permanent part of a community that still feels the effects of the slayings of 12 students and one teacher.

“This memorial is indeed a big chapter in the book that is Columbine,” said Kirsten Kreiling, a member of the committee that oversaw funding and construction of the memorial. “It is not the last chapter, but it is a big chapter.”

That dedication also marked the final goal for Foothills Park and Recreation district executive director Bob Easton.

Easton announced his retirement in November, ending his 14-year tenure as executive director and capping 31 years of service to Foothills. In his time with Foothills, he has seen it grow to the point where it is among the largest park and recreation districts in the state.

Easton, who among other things plans to spend more time with his six grandchildren, says he believes Foothills will find the right replacement.

“I’m certainly comfortable that the staff and the resources are in place to continue operations of the district,” Easton said.

Just as the park district in South Jeffco has grown, so too has the community.

In some instances, change is a welcome boon to business. In others, there are concerns as to whether growth is the right thing.

Perhaps the largest new addition to the community next year will be Tipsy’s Liquor World. Throughout 2007, construction has continued on the cathedral-like retailer, which stands to be the largest liquor store in Colorado.

Impossible to miss near West Bowles Avenue and South Alkire Street, Tipsy’s could be the start of economic growth along C-470.

“For me it’s really the bellwether of the kind of project that we’re going to see along the C-470 corridor,” said Preston Gibson, president of the Jefferson Economic Council.

Just miles away from the site of Tipsy’s, growth, apparently, is not so welcome.

The Rock of Southwest Baptist Church, located in the Westridge neighborhood, has been in the rezoning process since late 2006. The church believes it needs to expand on its location at 10393 W. Alamo Place to include more space for youth ministries. The neighborhood thinks the church is large enough and is on the brink of becoming a mega-church.

Community meetings have shown that both sides are passionate about their stance on The Rock’s proposal.

“To me, we’re trying so hard not to add any fuel to it,” said the Rev. Bruce Fosdick, the church’s spiritual leader. “The reality is, in a David-and-Goliath scenario, we could easily become the Goliath and the homeowners association is the David.”

The Rock’s story is one that will continue into 2008. The public process is set to begin with a hearing before the Jefferson County Planning Commission.

Some stories simply can’t be contained within the boundaries of a single year.

Contact Matt Gunn at matt@evergreenco.com.