Time for Clifton to vote
Property owners, not renters, can sign petition for annexation
By LE ROY STANDISH
For years the county said that one day Clifton and Fruitvale residents would be able to vote to either annex into Grand Junction or incorporate into their own city.
That day is here, but it’s not what people expected.
The vote will not be by ballot box. Rather, it will be by a signature petition that only property owners — not renters — may sign. Those property owners in favor of annexing will sign, those opposed will not sign the petition.
“They do get a vote and that vote is a signature versus a check on a ballot box,” said Kimberly Bullen, senior management analyst for the county. “We told people they get a vote and we are going to stick with that. It is just a different way of voting.”
The petitions are planned to be circulated in three phases, beginning with Fruitvale, a community northwest of the Interstate 70 Business Loop. The second and third phases will be two areas of Clifton, east of and south of I-70 B.
The county estimates it will need at least 824 signatures of property owners to annex Fruitvale into Grand Junction. The county estimates there is a population of 4,163 in the Fruitvale area of study and 1,649 property owners. Those property owners agreeable to annexation also must represent at least half the property in the proposed annexation area.
The county decided late last week to start petitioning in Fruitvale for a reason, said County Commissioner Janet Rowland, whose district includes the Fruitvale and Clifton areas.
“The folks that live there have been loud and clear: They do not want to be part of a city of Clifton,” Rowland said.
She said the ballot box option had been dismissed after three years of study because petitions are “the typical way to do it.” The city of Grand Junction also allows residents to vote on the issue.
The last time residents of Clifton voted on the question, in 1995, it was overwhelmingly rejected: 3,478 against to 1,794 for annexation.
There could be a general election on the question today, said Sam Rainguet, spokeswoman for the city. The only caveat is that the ballot language would first have to be approved by the Grand Junction City Council.
During this recent process, county officials met numerous times with residents. But the change from asking all residents to vote to asking only property owners to vote is confusing and upsetting to some.
“We participated in community-based meetings with the outcome intended to be a community-based input (a vote),” said Dale Tooker, manager of the Clifton Water District. “Now
it seems it is being turned into a petition process, which is different than what the community-based meetings were about.”
Ron Rowley, a Clifton resident and a member of the Clifton Governance Committee who favors incorporation over annexation, said circulating petitions does not reflect the true will of the majority.
“You are not getting a vote if a small percentage of people affected have to sign a petition,” he said.
Rowley said he had no idea the ballot box had been nixed in favor of signature petitions until he was contacted by The Daily Sentinel.
The parent committee decided earlier this year that annexation into Grand Junction was far more economically feasible than creating a new city. Volunteers then were taken from the committee to form a smaller sub-committee consisting of Carroll Aamold, Patrick Martinez, Bud Thompson and Dianne Wheeler.
Wheeler said the sub-committee plans to inform the governance committee and the public in the coming weeks of its work and she plans to file petitions with the city before year’s end.
If phase one of this three-phase annexation is successful it would create a 1,000-acre enclave of the city.
“We have had good luck with the city,” said Stanley Scott, who lives in an enclave of the city in the 3000 block of Milburn Court.
He added that he and his neighbors have had no trouble summoning the Grand Junction Police Department when needed and said the taxes he pays to the city are worth the services he receives in return.
Representatives of the county repeatedly have said this is a grass-roots effort coming from the residents. Others disagree.
“It sounds to me like it is a county-driven effort,” Rowley said.
As recently as Monday, Mesa County Administrator Jon Peacock said the county spends $460 a year, per person, to provide law enforcement to the area. The average Clifton resident pays the county about $230 in taxes, he said.
“This area is consuming 40 percent of our law enforcement resources,” Peacock said.
To offset those costs, the Mesa County Commission on Monday unanimously voted in favor of creating the Bookcliff Public Improvement District on a 2 1/2-acre property southeast of 32 1/2 and E roads. The taxing district will not include current residents of the area, but it could expand, hop-scotching from new development to new development.
The district will charge residents 2 mills (one mill is one-tenth of one cent).
Once the district grows to include 100 homes, the mill levy will jump to 14. The levy can be raised again, to a maximum of 22 mills, once the district includes 250 homes.