On July 26, residents of Castle Rock’s District 1 will send in their ballots and decide if Mayor and Council Member, Paul Donahue, will be recalled. Substantiated by only 147 signatures, a minimum of $10,000 will be paid by the community for the recall election, just three months before his term ends this November.
Donahue is still trying to piece together how things have escalated to this point. “I think it’s something that has been building,” he stated. “I don’t think it’s just about growth in Castle Rock. I think there have been several factors that have lead to this moment.”
He knows that some of the puzzle includes people who are in disagreement with various decisions that have been made by Town Council. Donahue realizes that a bad taste still exists for the group that was trying to stop the building of the Promenade at Castle Rock.
For Donahue, he believes the other part of the recall is that the same group has found an opportunity to now leverage past feelings beneath the current anti-growth sentiment. “You kind of have this perfect storm of people that are motivated to get me, hiding behind this growth conversation,” he said. “They don’t understand the specific reasons we need to grow and why they are beneficial for us as a community.”
One of the big concerns for Castle Rock’s need to grow relates to the current water supply. It is a project that Donahue, along with council and the Town, have concentrated their efforts to come up with a plan to fund the infrastructure that needs to be in place. The complex future for maintaining our water must be carried out by a stream of continuous funds.
“The way we do that is through impact fees that we charge to developers in our community,” noted Donahue. “New homes average about $30,000 dollars each in impact fees- if we didn’t have that we would have to somehow come up with millions of dollars for our renewable water projects.” While the Town sufficiently maintains its current water system, a future water system must be planned and funded to: secure water rights, build infrastructure, provide storage and dispense the water to residents.
Over his years of service, Donahue has likewise seen the fees help chip away at the 124 million dollars worth of construction and improvements that are queued. “The impact fees from the new homes and businesses help pay for the improvements and the infrastructure we need,” he remarked. “You can’t do the improvements and then hope developers come in and build.”
He also wants residents to see the importance of growing and how those fees similarly benefit Castle Rock’s need for goods and services. “When we don’t have to drive to Park Meadows or Highlands Ranch to buy something, it helps put Castle Rock on the map as a stand-alone community.” Local fire and police are similarly sustained by the pool of impact monies.
And construction projects like the Promenade, besides providing goods and services, will help generate sales tax to make up for the rest of the pie. “To maintain the level of service our residents are accustomed to, we need to generate revenue through retail sales tax,” he said. “Along with the outlets, the businesses at the Promenade are going to be able to generate significant revenue to pay for future projects.”
Donahue stands by the decisions and votes he has made as a representative of District 1, with the majority consensus of his fellow council members. Trying not to focus on the event of the recall, he is getting strength from his supporters and his faith. “Before the hearing, I wasn’t doing well…but after I saw the outpouring of support, I got this renewal to preserve,” smiled Donahue. “I’m not going to attack these people because I believe that’s not me and that’s not what God wants.”
Instead, Donahue will continue to focus his energy in the community he loves being a part of. Because regardless of the recall’s outcome, he appreciates that when people disagree with council, there are legal systems in place to give citizens a voice. “I haven’t done anything wrong or illegal but I still have to go through the process and let my district know what’s going on so they can make an informed decision,” he added, “The circumstances surrounding the outcome of the election is not what’s important to me, what’s important is that the community is becoming more aware and caring more about what is going on in Castle Rock.”
We asked Mayor Donahue to also speak about the accusations made in the statement that will appear on the recall ballot:
Do you believe that you have lead an agenda to suppress voices of those who disagree, dramatically reducing the time for public comment and in some instances, denying citizens to speak at all?
No. That is misleading. Council used to have unlimited public comment at the beginning of each council meeting with each person getting four minutes to speak. At times, mainly during the Promenade discussions, this comment would last for an hour or two and prevent us from getting to the business of the town in a timely matter. Since then, council limited the total time to half an hour at the beginning of the meeting and unlimited time at the end of the meeting, for those who weren’t able to speak at the beginning. Then council said each person could have three minutes in order to maximize the number of people that could speak at the beginning of the meeting. Since it was implemented, it has worked out nicely. Many residents are there for scheduled agenda items and it’s important to stay on task at these meetings, but also to make sure everyone has an opportunity to be heard. The interesting part is that since we implemented the new process, I recall very few times that we ran out of time at the beginning of the meetings.
Do you believe that you have shown deference to out-of-town developers and citizens who support your personal and political interests?
Not at all. This is blatantly untrue. If you look at my voting record and view past council meetings, it’s clear I treat everyone that comes and follows the rules, even if they are nasty, the same way. The only time you may see me treat someone differently is when they are disrupting the meeting or speaking out of turn and I have to ask them to not interrupt or they are removed. I don’t know where that statement came from regarding deference (showing someone humble submission and respect). The unfortunate thing is that they don’t need evidence to make their statements.
Do you believe that your voting record includes supporting a rate of development that arguably exceeds the infrastructure and environment sustainability?
I believe everything is “arguable”. That is seems like a strange way to word a statement. I think the community is becoming more educated about growth. They see the benefits of growth and see that we are not growing haphazardly. There are years of planning and many meetings that happen before a project is approved to move forward. Impact fees created by development allow us to charge for growth in our community. New homes average about $30,000 dollars each in impact fees. If we didn’t have those fees, current residents would bear the cost of tens of millions of dollars to fund water. For example, our water bills for current residents could be a few hundred dollars a month in order to make sure we could afford the new water system. It’s critical to have that for the future because regardless of growth, we are going to need the infrastructure for that new renewable water system. We have also tried to preserve open space in Castle Rock. At full build out, Castle Rock will consist of 30 percent open space and parks. No other community I know of can boast a number like that!
Have you rejected grant money that would have benefitted Castle Rock seniors and women in crisis?
That is patently misleading and untrue. The federal government offered us a block grant $212,000. Historically, this particular grant has been used to repair alleys and maintain roadways in Castle Rock. This money was never ever used to benefit non-profit organizations. Council rejected this grant because it came with 377 pages of regulations, which we were given 12 days to review. It turns out, if we had taken this money, it would have allowed the federal government to dictate whether we were a diversified community or not. If they determined we were not diversified, they could force us to build Section 8 housing and make us pay for it. It would have given them untold authority over the sovereignty of our residents and our community. So council said “No”. Unfortunately, if a municipality rejects these funds, the federal government then denies block funds to non-profits in that community. Basically our federal government tries to extort communities to accept these funds. We are the only community in Colorado that had the guts to say no. I think that more communities are going to follow our lead in the near future. Actually, it’s not us denying the non-profits money, it’s the federal government. We have a contract to support the Castle Rock Senior Center financially and we have increased our funding for the center. We also give money to the Crisis Center.