While owners of qualifying parcels of land have a right under Colorado statute to petition for annexation into municipal boundaries, owners of qualifying property within town limits also have a right to petition for de-annexation, also known as "disconnection."
At the Dec. 11 board meeting, Paonia trustees unanimously adopted a four-page ordinance amending town code by establishing policies and procedures for disconnecting lands from town boundaries. The planning commission reviewed the ordinance at its Dec. 4 meeting and recommended approval to the board.
Title 31 of Colorado statute provides policies and procedures for filing a petition to de-annex eligible property from town boundaries, but until passage of the ordinance, town code provides no such provisions. "We simply do not have the where-with-all to control that," said trustee Bill Bear.
The ordinance requires review of the petition by the town planning commission and the board of trustees. If the petitioner received a water or sewer tap at the lower in-town rate, the town may require them to make up the difference between the in-town and out-of-town rates upon disconnection.
When asked about reasons for wanting to disconnect, property owners often want "the benefits of being in town without having the burdens of being in town," said Mayor Charles Stewart. In keeping with state statute, and in considering all possible negative impacts, the ordinance gives the board of trustees the final say. It also allows for Delta County and any affected special taxing district to request a meeting with the applicant and the town to discuss possible negative consequences.
Trustees also approved a resolution amending the town fee schedule to include a disconnect application fee of "$500 plus cost." The amount matches the existing fee for petitioning to annex into the town.
The resolution also approves increases in "research and retrieval charges" for public records requests. Under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA), municipalities can charge fees related to public records requests. The resolution approves an increase from 25 cents to 35 cents per page; an increase in the hourly cost of staff time to process the request from $15 to $20 per hour beyond the first hour per hour; and adds an attorney review fee of $30. For documents received electronically, no per-page fee is assessed, but other fees apply. Making a request does not automatically result in a fee, and fees are all below what the town can charge under CORA, said town clerk Corinne Ferguson.
In response to public comment, Stewart said the town is in the process of drafting an official policy on public records requests. Some recent requests, said Stewart, "literally involve thousands of documents, that literally take hours for town staff to respond to." That can be problematic, said Stewart. When staff is responding to the requests, it takes them away from their regular duties, he said. In one recent week Ferguson received seven requests, one requiring 12,000 pages of documents.
The public will have the opportunity to comment and ask questions about open records requests at one of the January board meetings. Those meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Jan. 8 and 22. Agendas are posted at Town Hall and on the town website the Friday prior to the meeting.
"The intent is to have a very specific policy and clear understanding between town and the public," said Stewart.