Salida faces a special election about a shooting range

Brief by Central Staff

Salida politics – October 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

It’s a good thing that “Salida” means “exit” in Spanish, and not “simple,” or the city would need a new name.

The issues concerning a proposed land trade between the city and the Colorado Division of Wildlife are hideously complex (see the long article on page 33 for some of the issues), and a new complication emerged recently.

Of the 48 acres the city offers in trade for a 51-acre meadow, some has been used for gravel mining under lease to Kaess Construction. The city land between the gravel pit and state-owned Franz Lake — about 16 acres — has been used as a shooting range by a local gun club.

The gun club land is presumably suitable for gravel mining, either under continued city ownership or under the state if any land trades go through.

That wouldn’t sit well with some Salidans, who organized as Friends of Franz Lake. They argue the land should remain open space, and that the noise and dust of gravel mining right next to Franz Lake would detract from its park-like attributes.

So the Friends circulated a petition to put an issue on the November city ballot — an initiative that would have required a public referendum before the gun club land could be developed, mined, or otherwise converted from open space.

Not long after the petitions began circulating, three city officials (Administrator Scott Hahn and Councilors John Bayuk and Jaime Lewis) urged Salidans not to sign them because such an ordinance would limit the city’s options, such as mining the gravel, then constructing a reservoir in the resulting hole.

Despite the opposition, there were enough signatures to put it on the ballot — but not this November. Even though City Clerk Laura Cummins told the petitioners that they had acted in time for the regular city election, City Attorney Al Sulzenfuss said otherwise on account of a required 30-day protest period and 20 days for council review.

So a special election, at a cost of $5,000, might be required, even though the petitioners thought they were acting on a schedule to save city taxpayers that cost.

For our part, we can’t figure out why city officials are so opposed to the initiative. If they can make a good public case for gravel mining or reservoir construction, voters should go along, and if not, isn’t that what city government is there for, to represent the will of the voters?

And why all the talk of a reservoir on the gun club site? It sits lower than most of Salida, so the water would have to be pumped uphill to be treated and distributed. It’s also downstream from fields that may be treated with pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.

The only possible use we can imagine is to store replenishment water to be released on behalf of the Mt. Shavano Fish Hatchery — but if the city makes that deal, the state would own the proposed reservoir site, and would presumably control it.

Or if the city retains the shooting range land in a trade with the DOW, won’t that change the acreage amounts originally agreed upon several years ago? If so, would the city be compelled to come up with something more in this land-water trade?

Or would the state, after mining the gravel, convey the land back to Salida for a reservoir site? Or lease it to the city for that purpose? Why would the Colorado Division of Wildlife do that when it has its own Franz Lake right next door?

We admit it. We’re more than confused.

Jaime Lewis, one of the city officials who told us not to sign the petitions, is running for mayor. We hope this becomes a campaign issue, because that might produce some clarification and explanations. For all we know, we might be better off if Salida had its own “twin lakes” along County Road 160.