Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year Welcome

I’d like to thank the people of Castle Pines for the opportunity to serve as your Mayor over the past year. As a candidate in 2009, I told you that: “I will promote open communication to residents, encourage business and residential development, and ensure adequate water supplies for our growing community.” As we embark on a new year in 2011, I want to share a few thoughts and observations about what we have and have not accomplished over the past year.

First of all, I am optimistic about our prospects for the coming year. I believe that there will be a huge inflection point as citizens realize that we can create a community-focused strategy that will increase property values, promote business development and enhance our quality of life. It is up to all of us to make this happen.

We are investing in our infrastructure of roads and streets. However, the needed investment in infrastructure and amenities to keep our community attractive to upscale homeowners and businesses will require additional investment. Council should determine just what these long term obligations are and how best to fund them.

The integration of City and Metro District services continues to be of critical importance. Now that this process has been initiated, it is one of my primary goals to see that this process unfolds in a way that benefits the taxpayers. Nevertheless, community leaders need to stay focused on what is best for the citizens of Castle Pines and create a climate of teamwork between the city, our metro districts and the business community.

In the area of community outreach, we’ve established several citizen advisory committees that have tapped the local talent and expertise of our citizens and provided an opportunity for individuals to get re-engaged in our community. However, these committees lack the requisite broad-based citizen participation to be effective, so please consider getting involved.

With all we’ve accomplished, we face the reality of lower than normal levels of economic activity as many businesses and families work to recover lost capital from the financial conditions of the recession. I want to work to restore economic growth and create conditions that are favorable to business. As an example, I have proposed a reduction in business licensing fees and a rebate of building permit fees for certain retail establishments which council will take under consideration in January.

So, thank you for all of your hard work and for upholding the values that continue to distinguish Castle Pines. If you have ideas or suggestions that could make our community a better place to live, I welcome your comments. Please write to me at or call 303-705-0215. My best wishes to you for a happy and prosperous new year.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Now or Never

The following was origanally posted on the blog, City of Castle Pines North - Treasurer

Now or Never - 5/25 Meeting Recap

The work session began at 6 p.m. with an overview of a badly needed communications plan for the City. That being said, it will not be easy to communicate the City out of the bad feeling that was generated later in the evening. Perhaps if there had been communication with the community prior to actions taken there would not have been such anger displayed. Now, it is what it is.

Next up was a review of the Metro District's water plan by recently retired District Manager Jim McGrady. Jim has been hired by the City to write a report on the now fading notion of integration between the City and the District. One audience member asked if it was true that potable water would be stored in Rueter Hess Reservoir. McGrady replied that every drop of water stored in Rueter Hess will be treated or pre-treated before being stored in the reservoir. He explained water the District owns that will come from the interconnect pipeline from Highlands Ranch is high quality water that goes through conventional treatment. Water the District owns that will come from agriculture north of Barr Lake is low quality water that must be at least pre-treated, and may have to pass through more rigorous and more expensive reverse osmosis treatment. McGrady said efforts will be made to use as much of the high quality potable water as possible for use by the community before storing it in Reuter Hess. McGrady also mentioned water from the Wise Partnership between Denver Water, Aurora, and S. Metro Water Supply Authority may also come into play, once those discussions are completed and agreements can be inked. (I'd like to add that Rueter Hess is the first reservoir on the Front Range to pass muster with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Due to its considerable size, it took twenty-three years to permit this facility. The regulations for use of the facility are exacting, and there will be further discussion as the facility comes on line in 2012.)

The actual council meeting began at 7, and consisted of a long review of components of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) juggernaut, with a very long and detailed response by the URA consultant to letters from Douglas County government and Dan Danser, attornery for the Happy Canyon HOA. This included fantasies about what the economy may bring to the area twenty-five and forty-fve years from now. The discussion did make the case that the effort does comply with current state law (which will be changed on Tuesday, at which time this practice is illegal). The City attorney said Courts will not review this legislative decision of the Council unless there is bad faith or fraud. The consultant pointed out there are 79 parcels that may be impacted by the action, and opined that at least four of eleven items of blight are in evidence somewhere within the boundaries of the proposal.

Public comment was not just negative. It was angry.

a) The URA was not adequately explained to the people of the community. This was mentioned by many speakers. I believe that is gospel truth, no doubt about it.

b) Speakers said there was not adequate notice of the meeting. It is true the council schedules meetings I know nothing about, and I've known when they were meeting, but not where. However, I think it has been easy to understand Council was going to pass this URA measure on May 25th for a at least a month.

c) Citizens said there was a rush to judgement to pass the measure before a law just passed by the legislature outlawed the practice. Oh sure, I believe that is withoug doubt also true.

d) About the URA, a real estate broker said said, "We don't want box stores. We want something nice." (Sadly, box stores are likely the only thing that will make sense for the large commercial area west of I-25 at Castle Pines Parkway.)

e) The fire departments in the area sent their attorney to ask for a written agreement to lessen the impact of the URA on their revenues and operations. These agreements will be addressed at the next council meeting.

f) A resident spoke to how zoning efforts are inconsistent and the URA blights areas due to the desire for private development.

g) The County government sent its representative to state its opposition to the greenfield development contemplated by the URA, stating there were inadequate and inaccurate estimates of impacts to the County and other stakeholders.

h) The President of the Happy Canyon HOA read a letter from their attorney. It sounded to me like they are setting a foundation for possible litigation.

i) Another resident opined that Wal*Mart is not a community benefit. She said, "We don't want to be Highlands Ranch."

j) It a fit of honestly, one resident said simply, "I don't feel I know enough to talk about the plan." He went on to point out that a twenty-five year plan will impact a lot of citizens, and so the process of consideration should be more deliberative. He said, "Let's not start a Civil War".

k) The Library district opined that the URA will deprive the library district of needed resources to operate a library in Castle Pines North.

l) Resident Scott Landley was the most steamed about the entire matter. He pointed out that neither the URA consultant nor the City's attorney know the answers to questions being raised. He pointed out that nowhere in the literature does it say how this move will help homeowners. (Later in the evening, Mayor Huff, who courageously and quite rightly voted no on the matter, gave the only cogent explanation of how the URA could in fact help homeowners. Of course that help is years and years and years away. Our grandkids will know if this is a good move.)

m) One citizen asked if the taxes that were going to be called fees would be like the taxes that are called fees at Park Meadows Mall.

n) Another citizen opined the rush to judgement was about including the ag lands. She pointed out the first meeting on this matter was held after a bill was introduced in the legislature to outlaw the practice. She pointed out notice was posted to approve the matter five days before the Urban Renewal Authority was even created.

o) A resident read a letter into the record from the former City Councilmembers in support of the matter. It said that even if you don't trust elected officials, they should still govern.

p) A Metro District board member opined that development will occur without special considerations. He said the discussion did not speak to the importance of open space and parks. He said the area was rural in nature, and asked that they please not put high rise buildings on the land. He asked why weren't impacts to the Metro District listed in the analysis of the URA. (Mayor Huff later mentioned that the Metro District attorney was included in discussions, and felt impacts to the District were minimal.) He said, "We don't want high growth/high density development".

q) The Metro District President asked Council to vote no on this measure. He pointed out that if you vote yes without the trust of citizens, you'll live to regret it.

r) A resident read language from Resolution 1046 Part 4, section (B) indicating that with a yes vote the Council was declaring Castle Pines North to have a shortage of safe and adequate housing now existing in the City, and worse. (This finding is of course less than laughable. One Councilmember opined not to take the word "blight" too seriously. It's just a word they have to use.)

s) The former President of the Master Association pointed out the deadlines imposed by the legislature were only about the ag areas, as the rest of CPN could develop a URA at any time, even in the wake of the state law that goes into effect next Tuesday. She said the only property with "defective title" is The Canyons. She said there have not been adequate stakeholder meetings with citizens.

t) The attorney for The Canyons then said they were for it. HOA negotiations will continue, regardless of the URA vote.

(This last comment by the attorney is important. If the contract between The Canyons and the Happy Canyon and Pinery HOAs can be renegotiated to accommodate the commerical zoning for The Canyons recently approved by the City of Castle Pines North, the annexation agreement includes a provision whereby the city receives an additional payment from The Canyons of around $750,000. The matter regarding renegotiation of the contract is now in arbitration, but talks are reported to not be making much progress. I see this as an opportunity for the HOA to negotiate renewable water and wastewater from The Canyons, while the HOA does not want urban sprawl. Regardless of what I believe, it's none of my business. Those two parties should be allowed to work out their relationship amongst themeselves. With last night's approval of the URA, there is the perception that the City could condemn the property covered by the URA, thereby setting aside the contract that was negotiated by The Canyons and the HOAs. In that event the zoning would happen and the City would get the money from the developer. This was not greatly discussed as part of the URA conversation, as best I know. In 2004, state representative Mike May got a bill passed that greatly reduces the power of eminent domain (condemnation) by URAs. That's all I know. I guess we'll find out the rest soon enough.)

The Council then voted 5 to 1 to declare the City of Castle Pines north blighted and approve the URA. In casting the dissenting vote, Mayor Jeff Huff pointed out that while there were some merits to the notion, the State legislature was quite clear on intent in this matter. He also expressed reservation about applying the URA to the ag lands. He knew why he was voting no. I'll offer the following specualtion on the yes votes, based upon what I saw. It appeared to me that one of the yes votes knew why they were voting yes. They could be right. I don't understand the matter, and I don't know what the future is. Maybe they are exactly correct. I don't know. It appeared to me one vote thought they understood the matter, but their questions revealed they did not truly get it. One vote was almost a no, because this matter just dusted up since they came to sit on council, and it was likely too much to absorb in too short a time - for anyone. It was like they wanted to abstain. But when you sit on Council you have two choices - Yes or No. They went with Yes. It appeared to me there were two yes votes because of ideology as opposed to specific knowledge of the issue. The matter should have been deferred until there was more discussion and more understanding. Because the state law goes into effect on Tuesday, last night was now or never.

The agreements with the fire departments and others came up next on the agenda, but due to the lateness of the hour that matter was deferred to the next meeting.

They were getting ready to consider the contract to hire the HOA management firm to do our financial accounting when 10:30 struck. I had to depart to pick up my daughter from a last day of high school party. It was a fascinating four and one-half hour lesson in micro government.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

CPN Outlook: A Message From the Mayor

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, Castle Pines North has many challenges and opportunities ahead.

This year, citizens will see the initial results of the cost-saving efforts of various community organizations. Homeowner association fees have declined along with property taxes. City Council and the CPN Metro District are diligently working to create efficiencies in operations.

However, we need to take a long-term view on the costs of operating the City. We need well-planned water initiatives that will insure the viability of our community for decades to come. We will be working to create a capital investment plan to improve our roads and streets. And we will continue efforts to reduce water consumption and improve the landscaping in our common areas and public right-of-ways.

As the economy recovers in 2010, Castle Pines should be on the leading edge of the economic recovery. Recent annexations will bring additional residents and new businesses to our community. As Mayor, it is my intent to make our city a business friendly location. City Council will soon address a proposal to reduce business licensing fees. It is also our desire to maintain close ties with our Chamber of Commerce and our Economic Development Committee.

We live and work in an area that provides easy access to big city amenities while living in a small town atmosphere. Our city should create an environment in which personal and business investment can flourish. I look forward to serving as your Mayor for the next four years and together we can make Castle Pines North a great place to live.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Update on City's Delinquent Audit

I have obtained through an open records request, a letter from the Office of the State Auditor, to Douglas County Treasurer, Sharon Jones, authorizing her to "hold all funds generated pursuant to the taxing authority" of Castle Pines North. City sources say that with the completion on of the audit field work performed by the CH2M HILL city finance staff, the city's auditor will be able to complete a final audit report by the end of October.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CPN Mayor Dodges Questions About Audit

The city is in default on its 2008 audit with the state auditor. The city missed the deadline for filing on July 31. The city missed the extended deadline on September 30th. The state auditor may now order the state treasurer to withhold tax revenues to the city. A question concerning the status of the audit was brought up by a resident at the October 8th city council meeting. The resident received no response from anyone on council or the mayor.

When asked by the Castle Pines Connection today why the 2008 financial audit has not been filed, the mayor responded, "I regret that there has been misinformation and more confusing information on this matter disseminated, and hope we can answer all your questions in the article we are in the midst of preparing." Madam Mayor, there is no misinformation nor confusing information being disseminated. There is only the fact that the 2008 audit is 3 months overdue and your office continues to stonewall citizens who seek important financial information about the state of our city.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Huff Supports School Choice

Recently, my opposition has misrepresented my position on charter schools. To set the record straight, I refer readers to my August 2008 post defending the American Academy charter school prior to the zoning hearing before city council.

At the time, I stated, "For me, the (Douglas County School) District's attempt to link the approval of the Lagae rezoning and the American Academy School to overcrowding in the District's existing facilities is unpersuasive...Successful passage of this bond issue will help alleviate overcrowding in the public schools, not lobbying our representatives to deny private development."

I support school choice because parents are uniquely qualified to determine the best educational alternative for their children. My own children attend 3rd and 5th grade at Timber Trail Elementary and 8th grade at Cherry Hills Christian.

Read the entire post here:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Huff Negotiates Tax Reduction for CPN Residents

Castle Pines North candidate for Mayor, Jeff Huff, secured a commitment from the board of directors of the Castle Pines North Metro District to implement a property tax reduction for 2010. Huff presented his argument for lower taxes at the board meeting September 21. “The board agreed to reduce the property tax for debt service by 8.3%,” announced Huff after the meeting. “This is the right thing to do for taxpayers who are struggling under a heavy tax load combined with a weak economy, depressed housing prices and high unemployment.”

The property tax decrease to 22 mills from 24 mills will save taxpayers in CPN $313,526.00 in 2010. “The tax reduction will decrease revenues to the District but the board should be able to make up for those lost revenues due to lower interest rate expenditures in 2010,” Huff explained.

“This is only the first step I will take in lowering costs for residents. I will ask the board of the Master Association for a significant reduction in dues at the budget meeting next month. If elected, I will also review city expenditures and make prudent cuts where necessary. We need to make sure taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mayor Shul Proposes Eleven New Metro Districts

In a few weeks city council will hear public comment and vote on the annexation of The Canyons development. The annexation documents provide for the creation of eleven new metro districts with property tax debt ceilings set nearly three times higher than CPN's existing 24 mills.

Shul has often argued for "integration" of services in Castle Pines North. Claiming that integration will lead to substantial cost savings for CPN residents, city officials have sought the dissolution of the CPN Metro District and a corresponding transfer of budgets, money and operational oversight to the city's corporate service provider, CH2M Hill.

It seems ironic to me that the mayor and city council can advocate with a straight face the elimination of one district while passing legislation to create eleven more.

As Mayor, I would work to see that residents of CPN are provided accurate information on which to assess the viability of future projects.

Vote Jeff Huff for Mayor. Ballots will be mailed October 13.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Jeff Huff Announces Candidacy for Mayor

I recently filed paperwork to run for Mayor of Castle Pines North. I wanted explain my reasons for seeking election and ask for your support in this important endeavor for our community. First of all, I would like to thank the many individuals that have encouraged me to run and offered their assistance and advice.

I firmly believe that the government works FOR the people, that government should be limited and unobtrusive, that government should ask permission before it raises taxes and elected officials should be held accountable to the people who elected them.

A fiscally responsible government would run the city within its means. Until recently, the city spent $160,000 per month on a single city services contract, an amount well in excess of actual revenues. In 2007-08, I served as vice chairman of the CPN Election Commission which oversaw the drafting of CPN’s first ballot questions. When city council members changed the language of the ballot initiatives, I fought to keep taxes low and opposed last year’s ballot initiatives that would have raised property taxes to some residents by 17%.

Our community has tremendous opportunities for growth. It is important to manage that growth in a responsible manner. We should coordinate our efforts with those of our neighbors to bring about a sustainable solution to our water needs and promote development that preserves the nature and character of our Colorado lifestyle.

The Canyons development to the east provides room for expansion and additional opportunities for recreational facilities, a city center and additional commercial development. To this end we need to work together to achieve the dual objectives of a strong and viable city government and a well-managed and financially stable water district.

As Mayor, I would end the infighting among special interests, promote open communication to residents, encourage business and residential development, and ensure adequate water supplies for our growing community.

Since moving to Castle Pines North in June of 2000, I have led many community initiatives. I was instrumental in negotiating the settlement of a legal dispute between CPN Master Association and a member HOA. I serve as a director on the Castle Pines North Master Association, as president of the Hidden Pointe Metro District and as chairman of Colorado House District 45 for the Republican Party.

I am a graduate of the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. My wife Crista and I have been married for 16 years. We have three daughters that attend Cherry Hills Christian and Timber Trail Elementary. I am a strong supporter of initiatives which promote charter schools and protect the rights of parents who choose to home school. I am a Vice President and Estate Planning Consultant with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney where I’ve been employed since 1988.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Power Politics in Castle Pines North

After the demotion of the CPN City Treasurer, which was extensively reported on in the last edition of the Castle Pines Connection, recent inquiries have revealed that the City owes over $1,500,000 to various entities, most of it in contractual obligations to consulting firms and lawyers.

In an effort to obtain desperately needed funds, the City recently requested jurisdiction over the local water provider, the CPN Metro District. The District is funded by your tax dollars. The City’s plan would divert tax revenues needed for water to other municipal uses and transfer management of our local parks to a multinational corporation.

A July 14 letter from the mayor to the District requested the “incremental integration of services and functions of the District within the City.” Much like a python eats a pig, the City plans to swallow the District whole and digest it bit by bit.

In evaluating the City’s ability to wisely manage the operations and revenues of the District, consider the following:

  • Until June, the City was paying $160,629 per month for city management services from CH2M Hill. This amount was recently reduced to $79,124 per month. Taxpayers can applaud the cost reductions, but city expenditures were irrationally high from the outset and spending continues to exceed revenue.
  • As reported in June issue of The Castle Pines Connection, City Council "stripped the city treasurer of virtually all power" and appointed a deputy treasurer citing “a lack of confidence in financial disclosure and transparency.”
  • The City has enacted 12 ordinances which require the payment of a fee or tax. This occurred after campaign promises of “no new property taxes for any CPN resident.”

I have confidence that the CPN Metro District can responsibly manage water resources, provide renewable water for the future, and manage our parks and open space. Until the City lives up to its promise of transparency in government and demonstrates some measure of fiscal responsibility, I cannot advocate the transfer of millions of dollars of tax revenues from the District to the City.