The Weld County Board of Commissioners has come under much scrutiny from city leaders over growth issues. So it comes as no surprise that clashing growth agendas, in one of America’s fastest-growing counties, have found their place in the platforms of two Weld County commissioner at-large candidates.
Democrat Duane Leise of unincorporated Weld County near Longmont said the board’s stubborn approval of seas of unincorporated rooftops has left county residents disenfranchised and city leaders ticked off.
The small-business owner once tried to start a new town called Freedom east of Longmont. And Leise, who lost a lawsuit against current commissioners over zoning approval for the Project LifeBridge neighborhood, said he’d push all urban development to cities if elected.
“If the cities make a bad development, there is a financial firewall to keep the effects of that development to the city. In unincorporated Weld County, there is no financial firewall,” he said. “We need to make governmental decisions on the level that’s closest to the problem and by the people who will be most affected by it.”
Though facing long odds as a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Republican county, Leise argues that the current all-Republican board is leading the county toward a financial mess that taxpayers will one day have to shoulder. Leise touts himself as a Democrat who believes in fiscal responsibility.
Republican candidate Bill Garcia, an Evans lawyer with a disability practice and a long history of volunteerism, said he would support future urban-scale development in unincorporated southwest county as long as it was well-planned.
Garcia promotes public safety and treating tax dollars frugally. If elected, he said, he’d ensure more benefit money makes it directly to the recipients of social and human services.
Garcia said he’s knocked on 5,000 doors in every Weld County community since April. The local connections he’s established in the process promise to help him make future decisions, he said.
“I’m not going to say I’m the best or worst candidate, but that I’m a good candidate,” Garcia said, adding he would bring to the job “my wealth of experience on boards and commissions, my educational background, and my hands-on knowledge of the work force and social service issues.”
On his candidacy tour, Garcia heard many residents say they didn’t see eye to eye with commissioners on growth and water issues. But those differences may be more perceived than real, he said.
Unincorporated urban-scale developments in southwest Weld should be considered on a case-by-case basis, he said.
“I don’t know that (current commissioners) are not doing this, but I’d engage in open dialogues with municipalities and property owners about growth,” Garcia said. He added that people need to see their elected officials working together.
Commissioner Mike Geile currently holds one of two at-large seats but must vacate it in November because of term limits.
Ben Ready can be reached at 303-684-5326, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.