Beware electing a developer as County Commissioner. Here’s why:

Republican Mesa County Commissioner candidate is shown trespassing on the Grand Valley Canal banks in his latest ad.

Cody Davis is running for Mesa County Commissioner in District 1. His website doesn’t say it, but Cody is a partner with his brother in Chronos Builders, a company that develops land and builds houses and subdivisions, and as such there couldn’t be a worse choice to hold this particular office.

The fact that he is a land developer and home builder is precisely what makes him not just an inappropriate person, but potentially a dangerous person to sit on the Mesa County Board of Commissioners.

Why?

Mesa County is a statutory county (pdf), which means the county commissioners can only exercise those powers specifically granted to it by the state. (This is in contrast to a home rule county, which can make its own rules. Commissioners have to let people vote on whether to become a home rule county or not, and that’s why we have never had such a vote.) Among the powers the state grants to county commissioners are things like approving budgets, operating a jail, regulating weeds, approving county land use plans and serving in a quasi-judicial capacity over land use decisions.

This last part is REALLY important:

Acting in a quasi-judicial capacity over land use decisions literally means County Commissioners are given the power by the state to serve as judge and jury over all land use decisions made in the unincorporated parts of the county. (Those are the areas of the county that are not inside the borders of towns like Grand Junction, Fruita or Palisade). The commissioners alone decide which developers will get their subdivision applications approved, where subdivisions can be built and where they can’t, how big lots can be, whether builders have to provide curb, gutter, sidewalks and adequate drainage or not, how big development fees are, and even whether developers must pay development fees at all, since commissioners have the power to waive them. Development fees help fund things like additional public roads and schools, for which new development creates a need.

The county commissioners alone have total discretion over all these decisions. Their power over land use decisions is virtually without limit, and their decisions are final, like decisions made by a judge in a court of law. No mechanism exists to appeal their decisions, there is no meaningful way to protest or reverse them, and there is no oversight or enforcement over how the commissioners use their powers that can prevent them from misusing their land use powers or punish them if they do. The only really viable tool that exists to rein in self-interested behavior by commissioners is elections.

There is no real recourse against someone who abuses these powers, except elections.

BAD DECISIONS – Mesa County Commissioners approved this Redlands housing development in which setbacks were inadequate to keep houses from eventually sliding down the bluff towards the Colorado River

Once elected, there is no way to rein in a commissioner who is abusing their power over land use decisions short of implementing a recall, which in a statutory county is a VERY steep climb. To recall a county commissioner in a statutory county, citizens have to get signatures from at least 25% of ALL of the registered voters in the county. This is not 25 percent of all the people who voted for that office in the last election, as is the case in some other recalls. That would be a lower number. It is 25 percent of the TOTAL number of ALL of the registered voters in the county. That’s a VERY tall order, and a very costly one.

You can’t overestimate the pitfalls of this system when it comes to the short and long-term well being of a community.

Under this system, commissioners are free to make land use decisions to benefit themselves, their relatives and friends, or to disadvantage their competitors, and there is really no way to check such behavior. They have free reign.

This is a highly flawed situation ripe for abuse, and misuse of this system has already cost our area dearly.

Bad land use decisions negatively impact homeowners and leave County taxpayers holding the bag.

One example of the county commissioners’ terrible decision-making and its toll on taxpayers was their approval of the Valle Vista subdivision near 32 Rd. and Highway 50 many years ago.

Valle Vista subdivision open sewage lagoons

At the time it was built in the late 1970s, the Valle Vista subdivision was in a rural area far outside the area served by the Persigo Wastewater Treatment plant, but the county commissioners approved construction of the subdivision there anyway, over the objections of their own planning department. Since it was so far outside the existing sewer service area, it was built utilizing unlined, open sewage lagoons. In the early 1990s, the sewage lagoons failed and were leaking human sewage into ponds and irrigation ditches of the surrounding properties. The health department said if something wasn’t done soon, the houses in the subdivision would have to be condemned. After years of bickering among the City, County, Department of Local Affairs, and the adjacent landowners about how to solve the problem, in the mid-1990s taxpayers were left to pick up the cost to run miles of sewage lines out to Valle Vista to provide sewer service to the 130 homes in the subdivision.

Commissioners have approved gravel pits in residential areas, residential zoning adjacent to the airport, and construction of homes inches from the crumbling edges of bluffs over the Colorado River

For whatever reasons — perhaps because the people who wanted to develop the land were their friends, perhaps because they didn’t have the backbone to say “no,”  — the Mesa County Commissioners have approved construction of gravel pit operations in residential areas over the loud protests of surrounding homeowners in these areas, leaving homeowners plagued with noise, daily clouds of dust and hundreds of dump trucks rumbling by their homes every day.

Another remarkably bad decision was the commission’s approval to rezone land for a large residential subdivision to be built right up against the Grand Junction Regional Airport. At the public hearing for the rezone, airport representatives pleaded with the commissioners to deny the rezone because allowing residential areas to be built so close to the airport would make the airport ineligible for future grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA, airport officials explained, won’t fund airports that are being encroached upon by residential development, because eventually those airport will have to be abandoned due to noise complaints and other problems posed by aircraft flying near houses. In a breathtaking decision, and once again contradicting the recommendations of their own las use planning department, the commissioners went ahead and unanimously approved the rezone anyway. The only reason houses weren’t ultimately built on the land was that after the hearing, the landowner owner took all these facts into consideration and asked that the property be rezoned again to light industrial use instead. That land is where the Lewis Engineering building is today.

It is beyond important NOT to elect someone as county commissioner who has ANY kind of financial interests in land use decisions.

Putting a land developer/home builder on the Mesa County Board of Commissioners is literally putting a fox in charge of the henhouse. It creates a situation ripe for exploitation. We’ve been there before in Mesa County, many times, and always to taxpayer detriment.

Past County Commissioners have made a whole lot of really bad land use decisions. Over time they have added significantly to the financial burden Mesa County taxpayers have had to bear over time to try and repair the massive messes these decisions caused. Bad decisions by past commissioners have put us in the bad spot we’re in today with our faulty and inadequate area drainage system, and it’s why the Drainage District has been trying so desperately to raise funds to fix a multitude of problems. They are the problems caused by years of bad and self-interested decisions by past county commissioners, who willfully ignored the professional advice of their own planners.

Seize our chance this November to make a good decision for the County.

Kathryn Bedell, DVM, large animal veterinarian, business owner and Fruita rancher (and non-developer) running for county commissioner in District 1 (Fruita/Loma/Mack and west end of the valley)

We have a chance to avoid putting another person with overt conflicts of interest in land use matters on the Mesa County Board of Commissioners. We have a chance to avoid any potential for abuse of this position right up front, right now, with our votes. 

Don’t blow it. The information is all out there.

Play it safe and choose the person best suited to do a fair and impartial job. Vote for Kathryn Bedell, DVM, for County Commissioner in District 1.

  5 comments for “Beware electing a developer as County Commissioner. Here’s why:

  1. Please send this to the Sentinel if you haven’t already! Maybe even try the Business Times! The Beacon? This message needs to get out!

    • Thanks, Marianna. This comes from my 30 or so years of experience in dealing with the county on land use issues, seeing how things played out, asking why they played out the way they do and researching the answers to my questions. The County also takes the position that the initiative process does not exist at the County level, so people cannot petition things onto a county ballot they way they can a state or municipal ballot.

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