Growth has always been a contentious issue in Berthoud and once again voters will have the final say. Two petitions focused on annexation were submitted and notarized by the town clerk and the Board of Trustees made the decision on Jan. 14 to put both petition questions on the April 1 ballot.
The 80-acre Haworth annexation was the catalyst for the controversy. An activist group, Citizens for a Better Berthoud (CBB), was unhappy with the Board’s decision to annex the property. Their petition required the Board to ask the voters to determine if the annexation should be approved or rejected even though the Board of Trustees approved the annexation last year. CBB has a website (www.westberthoud.org) and a FaceBook page (https://www.facebook.com/westberthoud).
The second petition, also pushed by CBB, will make any annexations outside the Town’s current GMA as of December 2012 subject to approval by the voters. It exempts property owned by the Town that is used for recreational, open space or utilities. It applies to annexations of property intended for residential or commercial uses.
As Mayor David Gregg said, in essence the real issue is whether or not the voters trust the Board of Trustees – who were elected to make annexations decisions – or not. Berthoud has always struggled with an antigrowth and development reputation. If the electorate votes yes on these two questions, observers say it would have a negative effect on future growth. While one trustee characterized CBB as anti-growth, Jeff Hindman, a driving force behind the group, says they favor “smart growth.” However, it’s hard to imagine any property owner would support regulations that put the fate of their land in the hands of the voters.
The Loveland-Berthoud Association of REALTORS opposes both questions. Requiring a public vote on land use issues is an assault on private property rights. If the second question requiring voter approval of all annexations should pass, it would be detrimental to the quality of life in Berthoud and deter future growth and economic vitality. Berthoud needs growth and development to fund services. Residents already pay a municipal fee, because the Town’s revenues cannot fund basic municipal services, unlike citizens in other towns in Northern Colorado. According to the Smart Growth Network, one important principle of Smart Growth is “make development decisions predictable, fair and cost effective.” Voter approval of annexations contradicts this tenet.