As part of what is being called the “7-point plan,” Castle Pines City Council candidates David McEntire and Chuck Lowen have come out in favor of the city joining the South Suburban Parks and Recreation District if they are elected.
McEntire, who is running for mayor, said joining South Suburban is a no-brainer and he would have the plan on track by next year if he is successful in his election bid.
McEntire said Castle Pines already relies on regional jurisdictions for services such as water, fire, police, wastewater and libraries. Becoming part of the South Suburban district would be no different, he said.
“South Suburban offers vastly superior facilities, recreational opportunities and programs far more efficiently and at less cost than the Castle Pines North Metro District or City of Castle Pines can. Any suggestion that the city or (metro district) could come close to replicating the facilities and recreational programs or opportunities South Suburban offers is preposterous.”
Lowen, who is challenging incumbent Councilmember Ben Price in District 2, agrees with McEntire on the plan. Lowen and McEntire have committed to running as a team with the same stance on the issues in the 2021 campaign.
However, other candidates running in the Castle Pines election are saying not so fast on a plan that may sound good but is not as easy to accomplish as it sounds.
Joining South Suburban requires citizens to pass it in a special election. To get to a special election, the South Suburban board would have to agree to accept Castle Pines into the district, and the local, elected boards such as the metro district or Castle Pines City Council would have to approve moving forward with an election in a majority vote.
The Castle Pines City Council has held only an executive session to discuss the option. The council has not held public discussions. The Castle Pines North Metro District, where McEntire serves as board president, has not taken an official stance on the issue.
Becky Grubb, communications manager for South Suburban, said the district has fielded inquiries from both the City of Castle Pines and the North Metro District but there has been no further discussion beyond that.
Mayor Tera Radloff, who is running to keep her job, said she is “skeptical” of the McEntire/Lowen proposal.
“This idea of annexing into (South Suburban) needs to go through a detailed months-long negotiation and due diligence process to see if it is even viable,” she said. “The number one hesitation for me with respect to joining (South Suburban) is doing so would substantially raise property taxes for many residents in the City of Castle Pines (Hidden Pointe and all of east side). I believe we need a holistic approach to serving our community with our parks, trails, open spaces, and future recreation amenities, and doesn’t automatically raise our property taxes.”
Councilmember Tracy Engerman, who is also running for mayor this year, said the prospect at this point is “premature” given the amount of open space and park dedications the city will get from ongoing housing developments.
“It is my understanding that South Suburban is not in the business of inclusion with just a district, they would only consider Castle Pines inclusion as a whole city,” Engerman said. “Currently, Mr. McEntire’s plan, to me, is not clear how the entire city would pay for inclusion.”
Engerman said with not just the city, but also the North Metro District and three other major metro districts making up Castle Pines, the situation is more complicated than just joining the South Suburban district after the election.
Engerman said local residents can already use South Suburban amenities for a district fee, without having their taxes raised.
Founded in 1959, South Suburban is a special district, which means it is a political subdivision of the state. South Suburban provides indoor and outdoor recreation to six communities and three counties in the Denver metro area, encompassing 46 square miles.
According to the website, South Suburban funding comes through property taxes, user fees, grants and debt proceeds. According to the website, citizens voting to become part of the district pay monthly fees. On average, a resident with a home valued at $300,000 pays $14.95 per month.
Councilmember Ben Price, who is running for reelection and is being challenged by Lowen, said the McEntire/Lowen team seem “a little too keen” on giving away chunks of the city and taxpayer dollars on a “scheme with dubious return to homeowners.”
“I’ve seen no evidence that anyone has had any serious discussion with (South Suburban) about their interest in this scheme,” Price said. “While it’s feasible South Suburban might be interested in having us give them our land and our money, it’s harder to believe that would translate into real services or building facilities in Castle Pines. The plan proposed by these two candidates relies on too many things just falling into place, things that they can’t possibly control.”
District 3 Councilmember Roger Hudson said going through South Suburban would mean the city would have to give up local control.
“My constituents have made it abundantly clear that Castle Pines should remain a healthy unique city, with its own character and continued emphasis on outdoor actives and nature,” Hudson said. “For them, the idea of giving up additional control of our open spaces to an outside entity, to manage our city’s most prized assets, never came up in any conversation. Frankly, it has been just the opposite.”
Hudson is being challenged by Merri Sheh in the upcoming election. Sheh did not return the Colorado Community Media request for comment on the issue.
In running unopposed in District 1, Councilmember Chris Eubanks said he did not want to weigh in on the election topic.
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