Eagle considering home rule, a local constitution for the town
Home Rule made simple
A home rule charter is, in essence, a local constitution.
Home rule communities can do anything not specifically forbidden by state or federal law.
Home rule is the power of a local city or county to set up its own system of self-government, according to US Legal. Home rule shifts much of the responsibility for local government away from the state legislature to the local community. A community that adopts a home rule charter has the ability to amend it.
A home rule community is still subject to restrictions found in the United States Constitution, state constitutions, and in state laws applicable to all counties.
EAGLE — Eagle is one of two Eagle County communities that do not operate under their own rules, but the state’s.
Eagle will probably ask voters to change that and adopt what’s called home rule, but voters have a couple years to consider the question. Eagle’s home rule election would not roll around until April 2021.
Advantages of home rule
Home rule has some advantages and disadvantages, Eagle Town Manager Brandy Reitter told the town board.
Among the biggest advantages are autonomy and local control. For now, Eagle has to operate under state law.
That could be a problem for a community facing the kind of growth Eagle might see, Reitter said. The town has almost 2,000 housing units either already approved, or in the approval pipeline.
Home rule, or self government, would give Eagle the flexibility it needs to deal with that kind of growth.
Reitter said home rule is “modernizing local government,” and provides “flexibility.”
Right now, the town’s government is hindered by the laws and policies of the state government, and has been since the town was founded more than a century ago.
State legislators come and go, but their policies remain, which can be problematic for towns, Reitter said.
Disadvantages of home rule
Home rule is not without its disadvantages, Reitter said.
“If it’s poorly written, it could saddle a town with ambiguity or restrictions it had not anticipated.” Reitter said.
Also, if citizens aren’t on board at the time, they could reject the idea when the election rolls around.
A town writing its own rules, instead of following the state’s, tends to be popular. In Eagle County, Vail, Avon, Gypsum and Basalt are all home rule towns. Only Eagle and Red Cliff are not.
Of Colorado’s 271 municipalities, 101 are home rule. Those 101 home rule communities are home to more than 90 percent Colorado’s town residents, Reitter said.
The town would still operate under Colorado’s TABOR and Gallagher amendments, which means it would have to ask voter approval for tax increases.
Between education and time, it’ll cost an estimated $117,000 between now and April 2021 to bring the issue to the town ballot, Reitter said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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