Minturn budget, strategic plan reflect a new priority: advance town’s legal positions
The town of Minturn, in 2022, found itself involved in more than one legal disagreement regarding development efforts in town. This turn of events is reflected in the town’s new budget, as well as the 2023-25 strategic plan.
On Wednesday, the town passed a strategic plan, which will work in coordination with the town budget and will be reviewed by the council every year to make adjustments. Those adjustments are expected to include legal matters, which at the time the budget passed in December, were expected to comprise nearly a quarter of the town’s general fund expenses.
“Traditionally, the annual budget would reflect the Strategic Plan and corresponding Capital Improvement Plans however, as it has been noted in council meetings, this year is an exceptional situation where Minturn has a major financial focus in advancing its legal positions,” Town Manager Michelle Metteer noted in a recent memo. “With this in mind, staff has prepared the 2023 budget to allocate 24% of the general fund to legal expenses with the understanding that the legal situation is fluid and may require adjustments, up or down, in order to maintain a balanced budget.”
The town passed a $2,620,570 spending plan in December, making note of the increases for legal expenses.
In 2021, the town hired outside legal services to examine an agreement regarding the annexation of unincorporated land surrounding town that was approved by voters in 2008. The town went through with the annexation, but the development never materialized. The town has been engaged in litigation with the group, known locally as the Battle Mountain developers, ever since.
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In 2021, Minturn’s general fund legal expense was $265,753, and when the final tally comes in from 2022, that number is expected to double.
Minturn’s official court action against the Battle entities began in March when the town filed a complaint in Eagle County District Court alleging that a group of five limited-liability corporations known as the Battle entities had defaulted on numerous obligations to the town. But also that month, the town was sued by a different group of developers over a moratorium on new taps in town. That group of builders is seeking to build 42 units on the 1200 block of Main Street, a development known as Belden Place.
In 2020, Minturn enacted a moratorium on the allocation of water taps for new build construction projects requiring more than three single-family equivalents. The town says the moratorium, which was renewed in February, remains necessary given continuing limitations on Minturn’s ability to reliably provide water service.
But when it did in 2020, however, another development, known as Minturn North, had already submitted an application. The moratorium said the town has enough water to serve the first phase of Minturn North, which could be as many as 70 single-family homes.
The complaint filed against the town by the Belden Place developers in 2022 alleges the town and Minturn North “promulgated the water moratorium together to the exclusion of other, similarly situated parties” and the moratorium prioritizes Minturn North’s needs over those of Belden Place.
In 2023, the town has $432,223 budgeted for lawsuits and $125,000 budgeted for legal and professional services.
“The Minturn Town Council is committed to the litigation of the Annexation documents for the Battle Mountain property,” according to the town’s 2023-25 strategic plan. “With this commitment in mind, staff, via feedback from the Council retreat in the spring of 2022, has created a 2023-25 Strategic Plan which emphasizes budget allocations toward the enforcement of the Annexation Agreement.”
The 2023-25 strategic plan passed the council with little discussion on Wednesday and is expected to pass on second reading at the council’s next meeting Jan. 18. The document defines a mission statement and a vision statement for the town.
“In collaboration with our community, foster the authentic small-town character that is Minturn,” the mission statement reads.
“Preserve Minturn’s long-term viability, its unique character and genuine mountain town community,” the vision statement reads.
With character being referenced in both statements, the document also explains how Minturn attained the character it is aiming to preserve. From Minturn’s 2023-25 strategic plan:
“Since its inception in 1904, Minturn has been a resilient and proud mountain town that full-time, working-class residents call home. With the closing of the Gilman mine and the decommissioning of the rail-lines, Minturn has new opportunity within the mountain resort economy. Today, having an ideal location as a valley-wide intersection, Minturn embraces the ‘basecamp position’ geographically within the Eagle County region.
“Core to Minturn’s values is its strong identity as a small mountain-town community. In the Colorado Rockies, sandwiched between two world-class resorts, this value requires maintaining principles and a desire to lead by example. Through a willingness to confront growth and other issues while maintaining high standards in following the public process, Minturn will work to stay true to these core values.
“The town is committed to providing a respectful and responsive government that follows a solutions-based approach rooted in the municipal code. To sustain community trust, we strive to follow a consistent public process in all areas of the municipal government.
“Town of Minturn staff and elected officials will support activities outlined in this strategic plan and work toward sustaining a great mountain town by taking a proactive approach to municipal government. With an engaged community and a safe, family-friendly environment, Minturn endeavors to remain one of the last great mountain towns.”
Mayor Earle Bidez, on Wednesday, said the strategic plan is formed by the council to determine the council’s basic approach to government.
“For instance, when we go through certain procedures such as ordinances and so forth, we always have a reference to the strategic plan on how that ordinance is consistent with those strategic plans,” he said. “And it also is a document that the staff looks at. So any time we make some decisions and send it over to staff to execute, they go to the strategic plan to make sure they can find something there.”