The Crestone Eagle • November, 2020

District court affirms Moffat approval of annexation Area 420 plans expansion

by Lisa Cyriacks

Saguache County District Court issued an order affirming the most recent annexation of property by the Town of Moffat.

The 325 acres annexed lies west and north of the town.  At issue was the manner of the annexation and whether or not the inclusion of County Road 59 fulfills the requirements for a flagpole annexation.

Saguache County Commissioners had asked the District Court for judicial review of the annexation procedure, asserting that the Town of Moffat failed to meet the statutory requirements for annexation. In their filing they further asserted that proceeding with the annexation was not in the best interest of Saguache County and its citizens.

The Court’s ruling cited legal

precedent that a judicial review is a special statutory proceeding to determine whether the governing body that approved the annexation exceeded its jurisdiction or abused its discretion. In addition, the court cited statutes that the review was to be based solely on the record that was before the Town trustees at the time, and that “courts may not pass on the wisdom of the annexation itself.”

The court addressed jurisdiction in its ruling: “the governing body of the annexing municipality shall establish a date, time, and place that the governing body will hold a hearing,” and accordingly ruled based on the record that was before the Town Board at the time of its public hearing.

Information presented by the County Commissioners in their motion requesting judicial review was not considered, largely because the BOCC chose not to participate in the Town’s proceedings on annexation, instead holding their own meetings on the matter.

Finally, the Court awarded the Town of Moffat attorney fees and costs totally $13,747.50.

At this time, there has been no appeal to the decision or objection to the fees filed by Saguache County.

Looking forward

In the last 30 days, a new town attorney, Mallika Magner of Crested Butte, and a town clerk were also hired. A shift in roles from the Mayor and trustees to administrative staff when it comes to day-to-day operations and Town finances is the result of these changes.

Changes in the Town’s administration are partially due to the misconduct charges filed earlier this year against current Mayor Patricia Riegel. Former Town Clerk Sarah Van Horn resigned shortly after the events that led to the charges being filed.

Amy Hardin, the recently hired Town Clerk, has been working closely with the new attorney and Town trustees to develop new codes and zoning for the Town—specifically in response to the expansion of Area 420, designated as a Commercial Cannabis Park.

Hearings soliciting input from the public on the new zoning regulations are scheduled to begin with a special meeting on November 10.

Potch LLC Manager, Whitney Justice, sees Moffat as experiencing a lot of positive change, “Parcels in Annexation #1, consisting of 100 acres, are completely sold out. It will be exciting to measure the economic bounty Area 420 businesses bring to the Town of Moffat this year, as growers are harvesting their outdoor crop this month.”

According to the County records, valuation of property located in Area 420 has increased 69%. Property tax revenue will increase accordingly. The increase in valuation is primarily due to increased fair market value based on recent sales of the properties. The County anticipates ongoing increased valuation as improvements are completed and added to the tax rolls.

The Town currently reports excise tax revenue from about 20% of marijuana cultivations at $21,136.35 year-to-date.  Marijuana harvest is currently underway and more excise tax based on sales revenues will be collected before yearend.

Potch LLC plans to complete subdivision plans for the 320 acres in Annexation #3 once the Town has completed codification of the new zoning rules and regulations. Justice agrees that the rule and regulations need to be better defined and tightened up to accommodate the immense growth Moffat has experienced over the past few years.

The once-small town is positioned to be a hub of legal marijuana industry. In addition to people relocating from other parts of the state, Area420 is attracting diverse clientele, including international and out-of-state investors.