We moved out of Longmont to the end of a dirt road for peace and quiet, gladly forgoing paved roads, snow removal, shopping, etc. We expected normal inconveniences like utility outages, mud-covered cars, and tractor noise at 2 a.m., but we didn't realize we were moving into a war zone with Boulder County as our adversary. This is clearly evident by the anger and resentment demonstrated by fellow rural residents at the recent "Comprehensive Plan" meetings, and stems from the contemptuous treatment we receive at the hands the county government. So why are we ill-treated? Why do we have no advocates in county government?
Rural residents represent 20 percent of the county population. The other
80 percent live in cities and are subject to city rules and city regulations, not county regulations. Cities have their own building codes, their own open space and parks departments, their own land use rules, etc. And yet, these 80 percent control the voting of county commissioners even though they are -- in effect -- outside county jurisdiction.
The result is city-minded commissioners, indebted to city voters, having no regard for their only true constituents -- rural residents. This explains their cavalier attitude toward imposing rules, regulations and levying fines on us with no regard for reason, science or cost. Here are some examples.
The new "Build-Smart" rules impose heavy fines and restrictions on rural residents looking to make property improvements or expansions. At the Niwot planning meeting, one resident complained the rules prohibit heaters for his new hot tub, requiring solar panels instead -- a $10,000 penalty and an unreliable heat source.
Ironically, the county Land-Use homepage pictures a hot-air balloon wafting over Boulder -- burning propane into greenhouse gasses. So I called local balloon and spa companies to compare energy use. Balloons use 30 to 50 gallons of propane per one-hour flight. Spas can be used every day for six months for that same energy. So which fossil fuel use is prohibited? Rural spas. Balloons are promoted in Boulder advertising.
Example 2: "Septic Smart" rules require residents with septic systems that are not "county approved" to replace them -- regardless of condition -- at a cost of $10,000 to $30,000. A rural home sale requires a $500-$1,000 septic test. We're talking huge financial penalties. And for what? I called Boulder county health department and asked, "Was there documented groundwater contamination?" "No." Were there illnesses traced to bad septic systems? "No, this was something other counties were doing and we thought was a good idea."
In their environmental zeal, they carelessly dictate extreme, unnecessary and expensive regulations upon rural residents. We have no recourse or representation in county government.
With apparent defiance, they apply no similar restrictions to their own property. The 350 acres of Open-Space adjacent mine is a dumping ground for millions of pounds of city (human) sewage "biosolids" every year. We watch (and smell) in horror as 50,000-pound tanker after tanker dump their toxic sludge. So who is restricted and fined? Again -- rural residents.
Here's a partial solution. On federal and state levels, we depend on district representation for Senators and Representatives. It's the time-tested method to achieve fair representation for all. Therefore, I propose changing from "at-large" to "by-district" voting for commissioners. The current commissioner-residency districts will work for initial voting districts. This allows Longmont area voters to support their own commissioner candidates without being influenced by Boulder voters. Likewise for Lafayette and Louisville. District voting is fair for everyone, and gives rural residents a small chance for some representation.
Donald R. Cage lives in rural Boulder County north of Longmont.