Monday, June 24

The Crestone Eagle is a nonprofit monthly newspaper serving Crestone and the San Luis Valley

Commentary “Community with Unity”

Although residents of Crestone and the POA function as one connected community, technically, we are not one community. The Town of Crestone and the Baca Grande POA are two distinct entities that operate within their own self-interest. This creates problems with taxation, representation, and community cooperation. We would be stronger and more unified as one. The vision and the end goal would be for us all to live in a “community with unity.”

How could this be achieved?

Presently, the Town of Crestone is limited in that it prevents POA residents from running for public office in town and excludes them from decision-making. POA residents make up the bulk of our community, and the current arrangement prevents people who love this community from getting involved and serving in local government.

Those who live in the POA have no ability to participate in their own town, given that the POA is not technically a government. Residents of the POA are also paying hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in sales tax revenue that’s sent to the Town of Crestone, and property taxes that have no way of coming back to the POA.

The Colorado Department of Revenue has now acknowledged that Baca Grande residents are overpaying in sales tax, and the Town of Crestone is at risk of losing a large portion of its budget, which is used to pay for town staff and services. We are in a negative spiral, and no one wins in this scenario. Truth be told, we need each other.

Many residents feel that they are locked into an arrangement that was formed long ago and is no longer relevant to how the community has developed. If we were to unify, we would all be given equal voice and representation. Unification would provide a far greater pool of talented people willing to participate in the political process, people who consider this to be their community and who have its best interest at heart. In unity, the taxes that are already going to the Town of Crestone for online purchases will now rightfully serve the entire community, and property taxes going to Saguache County could be redistributed within the Baca Grande.

What is the process for creating this “community with unity”?

In the past, the town of Crestone has entertained the possibility of annexing the Baca Grade, but the problem with this strategy is that the town is not large enough to annex the Baca Grande all at once. The process would take a decade, and provoke a lot of confusion and friction. 

The most streamlined way to unify would be to form a new town — “The Town of Baca Grande.” If the Town of Baca Grande were formed, then it would be able to annex the Town of Crestone, as Crestone is small enough to be annexed all at once. If we could work together, with all sides participating willingly and harmoniously towards shared goals, then we would be well on our way to creating a “community with unity.”

With the new town formed, and the annexation complete, our community would constitute 60% of the entire county’s population. As it stands, Saguache County sees two entities: a tiny town and a POA that it has no involvement in. With the formation of one unified town, that could all change. The larger, unified population would open up more availability for grants and resources that could serve our entire community.

Given that the Baca Grande is not an official municipality, the POA has been placed in a position of governance that it wasn’t designed for. With the formation of the Town of Baca Grande and the annexation of Crestone, the POA would no longer be forced to function as a government, and could step back into its intended role, maintaining roads the county can’t access, overseeing building regulations, and ensuring upkeep of the greenbelts.

With the formation of a new town and the annexation of Crestone, the two maintenance departments and fire departments could be merged, helping to provide better, more affordable services to the community. 

Is this really possible? 

To achieve this goal, there would need to be discussions, agreements, and concessions from all parties involved. We would need representatives from all sides — residents and leaders within Crestone and the POA. These representatives would need to be in good standing within their entity and the community at large, and would need to be willing to cooperate. Open dialogue and flexibility would be imperative. If we are able to see a clear path forward, the next step would be to ask the State to create a ballot initiative for the formation of the Town of Baca Grande and the annexation of Crestone. A majority vote by an informed community would be the final voice.

In my 16 years living in this community, there have been several attempts to change the current, outdated situation. It’s clear that there is a desire for change. I believe that forming a new town that could annex the town of Crestone would achieve lasting, meaningful change for all involved.

Lars Skogen

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