Commissioner Dorothea Farris has got to go
The ladies behind the counter at the Roaring Fork Co-op were giving me a good-natured hard time one August afternoon. I replied, “I really don’t need a hard time right now. I just had to deal with the Pitkin County commissioners.” Inquisitive, they asked what the problem was. In a heroic attempt to remain restrained, I replied, “Dorothea Farris is …” and paused, trying not to say something derogatory about the commission chair, when a man behind me finished my sentence for me: “… the biggest (expletive) on the planet.” From my recent research, that seems to be a general sentiment.Recently I made a proposal to the Colorado Wildlife Commission to limit the number of bull elk hunting licenses issued in Game Management Units 43 and 471. This is a complicated issue that has a lot of pros and cons in either direction, but part of the process is that I had to notify local governments of my proposal and ask for their input.Consequently I came into contact with Pitkin County commissioners, which was a new experience for me. Now I know what you people in Pitkin County are going through. Wow!I e-mailed copies of my proposal to all five Pitco commissioners and to their biologist, Jonathan Lowsky. I then spoke to the commissioners’ assistant and asked to be advised when the issue would be discussed so I could testify. I then left two voice messages for Mr. Lowsky, which were never returned. Then, without warning, the commissioners discussed the issue in a “work session” without putting the item on their agenda. Mr. Lowsky and one Division of Wildlife game warden testified against my proposal. The commission voted against it, and Dorothea Farris wrote a letter to the Wildlife Commission that not only was negative regarding my proposal, but was personally insulting to me.The commissioners took official action on an issue that was not on their agenda, a blatant violation of the Colorado Open Meetings Act. By doing so, Mrs. Farris exposed the county to a lawsuit very similar to one filed against the Marble Town Council, which is now headed to court. Once I got word of what had happened and protested to the commissioners, they revisited the issue in the next week’s meeting. When I testified at that hearing, Mrs. Farris was hostile and confrontational to me, which I found disturbing. During a break, I questioned Mrs. Farris about the county’s decision to take action at a work session without asking me, the author of the proposal, to testify, or to even note the issue on their agenda. During that conversation, she visibly reddened and raised her voice to a level so that I had to ask her to please not shout at me. I was shocked at her conduct.More importantly, all three outfitters from the Redstone area, Mrs. Farris’ district, were solidly in favor of the proposal, which she denounced for negatively affecting “the local economy.” Since we own three of the biggest businesses in her district, her argument was a complete fallacy. No one else from Redstone testified against the proposal. So it seemed to me that Mrs. Farris isn’t interested in representing the citizens of her district; either she represents Aspen or she represents her own uninformed harebrained opinions. And she acts like a jerk while she’s at it.So I did a little research to see if I was the only one who felt that way. I’m not.Redstone residents are very proud of the bighorn sheep and elk herds that winter on the Filoha Meadows property, which was recently purchased by the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board. Bighorn sheep are not thriving in Colorado, and stress from bicycles and dogs could be the death of that herd. Colorado Division of Wildlife personnel testified at a Redstone public meeting to widespread applause that “There should never be a trail in Filoha Meadows.” So why is Dorothea Farris bulling ahead to build a bike trail through critical winter wildlife habitat while disregarding the professional opinions of the DOW?Redstone residents are furious about her callous attitude about the herds. Further, the county is suing Redstone residents for trail access through a long-abandoned railroad grade that is now their private driveways, once again exposing the county to costly legal action.And then there’s Sustainable Settings. This deal stinks to high heaven. Dorothea Farris signed the documents to sell part of the historic 430-acre Mautz Ranch south of Carbondale, which was purchased with Pitkin County Open Space money. According to Tom McBrayer, Mrs. Farris’ opponent in this November’s election, the resolution to create the Open Space and Trails board says that once land has been acquired by Pitkin County Open Space, it cannot be sold without a countywide vote on the issue. Not only did Dorothea Farris sign off on selling the ranch, alleges McBrayer, Pitkin County subsidized the sale with work paid for by Open Space & Trails and a per-acre purchase price of $3,000 an acre less than the county paid for it! Even more outrageous is the fact that the commissioners are allowing extensive development on the property, including 500 feet of retail space along Highway 133. Goodbye to pristine views, hello strip mall mixed with yaks and goats.Says Tom McBrayer, “In essence, they used taxpayers’ money to become a real estate broker and real estate developer,” in complete violation of the original open space resolution. Once again, a process guided by Mrs. Farris has exposed the county to messy litigation. In the next few days, a class-action lawsuit will be filed against Pitkin County regarding the Sustainable Settings purchase, and I don’t see that the county’s actions are defensible. Dorothea Farris is causing Pitkin County a world of grief with her temper, her arrogance, her rudeness and her disregard for legal process.She has got to go.Gary Hubbell lives in Marble, where he and his wife, Doris, operate OutWest Guides. They offer summer horseback rides, fly-fishing trips and autumn big-game hunts.
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