By Terri Wiebold; photo courtesy of the City of Castle Pines
When the inaugural issue of The Connection was published 10 years ago, the City of Castle Pines was marking its first birthday. Last year was the 10th anniversary of the City, and along with a celebration of the uniqueness of the community and the people who live here, we commemorated the journey with a literary recap of the incorporation effort and some of the initial challenges the new City faced.
One of the first stories we covered in 2009 about the new City was the contemplation of becoming a home rule city. For reasons having very little to do with the pros versus cons of becoming a home rule city, a charter commission was not established at that time and no question was placed on the 2009 ballot regarding home rule.
Fast forward to July 2018: Castle Pines City Council unanimously approved an ordinance which set into motion the first steps needed to transition to home rule.
In the November 2018 coordinated Douglas County election, the citizens of the City of Castle Pines voted 61 percent to create a Home Rule Charter Commission (Commission) with the purpose of proposing a governance structure that would dissolve the current dependence on the state legislature and improve Castle Pines’ ability to address local issues at a local level.
A Charter is a community’s “constitution” and most important guiding document, according Castle Pines City Manager Michael Penny. It outlines the structure and organization of its government and the powers and limitations of municipal officials and agencies.
In drafting the Home Rule Charter (Charter), the commissioners utilized data compiled from the Colorado Municipal League on charters from across the state, consulted city staff, solicited the opinions and views of citizens, and employed legal counsel experienced in municipal law.
Upon establishment of the Charter, the commissioners committed to the following:
• Governance processes will be open, accountable, and responsive to the citizens.
• Elected officials will have the ability to develop processes that allow them to make decisions and act quickly and responsibly and can change over time.
• Checks and balances will be put in place to protect citizens’ right to be heard.
• Citizens will have recourse if they disagree with decisions made by their elected representatives through recall and initiative processes.
• City staff will function efficiently, effectively and professionally under the governance model.
• The Charter will support and acknowledge the flexibility needed for Castle Pines to grow, evolve and respond to future circumstances.
According to Commission Chair Geoff Blue, “our vision as a Charter Commission has been to create an enabling document that provides Castle Pines with a responsive and efficient government that is able to legislate as appropriate for our citizens while remaining accountable to them.”
Key provisions of the proposed Charter include:
• Recognition of the council-manager form of government, with flexibility in organizational structure to allow Castle Pines to adjust to new demands and changing circumstances as the City grows and prospers
• Requirement of voter approval to implement or increase any city-collected tax, consistent with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), regardless of whether TABOR may be repealed or amended at some future date
• Implementation of effective checks and balances by, among other actions, providing broad powers of recall, initiative and referendum
• Accountability for responsible use of public funds and for the conduct of the City’s business on a balanced budget basis
• Establishment of a structure for the efficient and orderly conduct of the City government, while also providing for and encouraging citizen participation in the affairs of the City.
Blue asserts that this foundational Charter “puts the citizens and community of Castle Pines first and gives them the ability to control their government so they can ensure their interests remain paramount.”
Last month, the Commission gave a public presentation of the proposed Charter and incorporated feedback from citizens before later presenting the Charter at the final public hearing (as of press time) set for January 30, where the Commission would formally adopt the Charter.
On February 12, the Commission will present the Charter to City Council at a 5:30 p.m. study session prior to the regular City Council meeting at at the Douglas County Libraries – Castle Pines. The public is welcome to attend. On February 26, City Council will refer the Charter to the citizens of Castle Pines for a special election to be held on May 14, where residents will vote to either support or reject the Charter.