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The Grandote dilemma

by Darrell Arnold

LA VETA- There have been several articles in the newspapers in the last couple years relating to the ongoing battle between the town of La Veta and Grandote Golf Course. La Veta Mayor Mickey Schmidt feels that the details of the conflict have not been fully explained to the public.

"Back in 1985, I believe it was, La Veta annexed all 275 acres of Grandote Golf Course as raw land. The principal reason the town felt it needed to annex that property was to have control over it and avoid having a sewage treatment plant at our south border, discharging into the Cucharas. At certain times that would have been the majority of the water in the creek. That property was annexed under Ordinance 131."

   At the time of the annexation, there was no subdivision plan for the golf course, so the town began negotiations about how the property should be developed. The town and the developer couldn¹t agree, so, after a series of proposals and counter-proposals, the golf course proposed that they be disconnected from the town.

   "At first, the town said no," says Schmidt, "because of the sewage treatment issue. We said no, and so they sued us, individually and corporately, alleging a long list of defects that Ordinance 131 had. The main one, the defect that was undeniable and indisputable, was that we had only recorded one copy of the annexation ordinance and the map at the courthouse. The statute clearly says that we had to record two copies.

   Schmidt continues, "They had us. At the time, we were very glad for them to come up with this solid legal objection to our annexation of that land. We agreed, then, to disconnect them from the town, as they wanted us to do."

So the town passed Ordinance 144, which repealed, for the Town’s benefit, Ordinance 131 and confirmed its intention to disconnect Grandote rather than rely on an invalid recording at the County Clerk¹s office.

   "We didn¹t record Ordinance 144," says Schmidt, "because the golf course proved to us that Ordinance 131 was invalid, anyway."

    Well, years have passed and times and owners have changed. The new owners of Grandote Golf Course are doggedly determined to be annexed into the Town of La Veta, and they have been scrambling, digging, rooting, and scratching to find whatever means necessary to make that happen.

   Schmidt says, "What the golf course is claiming now, is that Ordinance 144, which is the ordinance that repealed Ordinance 131, wasn¹t properly done. It wasn¹t recorded and read the way it should have been. They have a list of defects they think Ordinance 144 has. What they are choosing to ignore, however, is that Ordinance 131 had its defects as well.

    "They are claiming that 144 was not passed correctly so, therefore, Ordinance 131 was never repealed and is still in force. The Town’s position is that 131 was never in force to begin with because of that defect in its recording."

   Now, back after the time Ordinance 144 was passed, after the golf course and the Town both believed they were disconnected, the golf course went to the county and proposed their subdivision. It was approved under the county’s regulations. The golf course then came back to the town and asked to be annexed as a finished subdivision.

   Schmidt recalls, "We negotiated a little bit and annexed 89 acres back into the town. That is what we still agree is part of La Veta today. Those acres take in the area just north of the clubhouse that runs from the Cucharas east to County Road 360 and south to Highway 12 and County Road 360. It doesn¹t include the clubhouse or anything west of the creek or south of the clubhouse."

   Recently, after Grandote’s roads began to seriously deteriorate, they decided that the responsibility of maintaining the roads in the 89-acre annexed portion belonged to the Town of La Veta. When La Veta disagreed, Grandote filed suit. That lawsuit has recently been settled in Grandote′s favor.

   "Their attitude seems to be," says Schmidt, "since you won¹t do things our way, we¹ll just sue you and see how long you can take one lawsuit after another. That is what they are doing. Whatever we don’t agree on, they¹ll just sue the town.

   "They make these outrageous claims," continues Schmidt, "but they never give us any documentation to help us understand how they arrived at their assumptions. We have asked them to give us their rationale and their documents. If we¹ve made a mistake, we¹ll admit it and take our medicine. But we won¹t acquiesce just because they think things should be different."

   The most unfortunate part of this entire issue is that lawsuits are expensive to fight, and La Veta doesn’t have a bottomless well of money with which to fight these issues. Regardless of whether it is legally correct or not, the town might eventually have to decide that it can¹t afford to fight anymore. It would then have to reach some kind of settlement that placates all their concerns.

   "That is a dangerous thing to do," declares Schmidt, "because you are just inviting more of the same. There may be no end to the issues they’d bring using that method."   

   The most unfortunate aspect of the entire situation is that Grandote does not seem to care what happens to the town. If they get annexed, their property value could quadruple, so they¹ll be in great shape. But they are crippling La Veta in the process.

   Says Schmidt, "These lawsuits really have a serious economic impact on our budget. I just wish we could resolve our differences some other way than litigation. The town can’t afford very much litigation. It nullifies the benefit of the golf course to the town, at least to the town government. We’ve already spent more money this year on lawyers than we¹ll recover in the next several years from tax revenues off of golfers who spend money here on gas and meals and whatever else they buy."