Legal advertisement snafu delays Hunt Ranch decision
August 19, 2008
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Garfield County commissioners were set Monday to consider a preliminary plan for a controversial 93-lot subdivision in Missouri Heights.
But an oversight by the Glenwood Springs Post Independent involving the placing of a legal advertisement has delayed commissioners’ consideration of the proposal for at least a month.
Garfield County Commissioner John Martin told the developers of the Hunt Ranch subdivision that since notification of the public hearing did not appear in The Citizen Telegram, which is considered the paper of record to print notices in Garfield County, the commissioners could not go forward with the hearing.
“You will have to re-notice,” Martin told the developers. “We have a defect in notice.”
The Post Independent legal advertising department is responsible for inserting legal notices into both the Post Independent and The Citizen Telegram, as well as the third Garfield County newspaper, The Valley Journal in Carbondale. All three newspapers, as well as The Aspen Times, are owned by Swift Communications out of Reno, Nev., and operated by Colorado Mountain News Media out of Gypsum.
The notice error arose because the Post Independent is no longer considered Garfield County’s paper of record, as it does not have a second-class mailing permit with the U.S. Postal Service.
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Most government public notices, such as those for hearings set to be heard before county commissioners, must be printed in local papers of record so residents can know what their local governments are considering.
“Under Colorado law, a paper of record is one that has a second-class mailing permit,” said Steve Pope, general manager for Colorado Mountain News Media. “The only one of those in Garfield County is The Citizen Telegram.”
A publication cannot get a second-class mailing permit unless it is a paid newspaper, Pope said.
The Post Independent is free except for paid, home-delivered subscriptions and mailed subscriptions. These subscriptions ” coupled with those requested by area businesses ” are not at the level necessary to maintain the second-class permit, according to a letter to area governments by Andrea Porter, publisher of the Post Independent and The Citizen Telegram.
The Post Independent hasn’t had its second-class mailing permit since June 2, Porter’s letter said. Since then, the paper has been publishing legal notices in both The Citizen Telegram and the Post Independent.
The failure of the notice to appear in The Citizen Telegram immediately caused the hearing over a preliminary plan for the proposed subdivision to come to an abrupt halt. Martin ordered a 15-minute recess so the developers could call the Post Independent to see whether a notice appeared in The Citizen Telegram.
“We contacted the Glenwood Post Independent,” Greg Amsden, one of the developers of Hunt Ranch, told commissioners. “They said they made an error and did not publish in the Rifle paper.”
The abrupt delay caused consternation for the dozens of people who showed at Monday’s meeting. Many of them planned to speak out against the proposed subdivision, citing concerns about its density, its potential to increase area traffic and its possible impact on area water supplies.
Developers submitted their plan for the Hunt Ranch subdivision to the county in December. The plan for the subdivision calls for 93 lots on 204 acres of the 561-acre parcel ” or one unit per six acres in the planned development north of Highway 82 above Carbondale and Basalt.
Davis Farrar, who lives in Missouri Heights and who has several concerns about the project, wondered how many dollars had “been flushed down the toilet” by the notification snafu. He said many people took time off of work to attend the public hearing.
Farrar was appalled by state laws that require residents living near Carbondale to read legal notices in The Citizen Telegram that may affect them.
“There is definitely a problem [there],” he said.
Commissioner Larry McCown said there would have to be another 30-day notice before commissioners could consider the preliminary plan for the Hunt Ranch subdivision again. That could occur in late September, but that is an optimistic outlook that doesn’t take into consideration possible scheduling conflicts, McCown said.