Summarizing a story that’s been brewing down in La Plata County in the southwest corner of our state, we’d like to draw your attention to a report from earlier this month in the Durango Herald about opposition to a proposed new land use code:
A faction of La Plata County residents who oppose the county’s proposed land-use codes believe the work is part of an international conspiracy led by the United Nations to create a “New World Order.”
“This is the Agenda 21,” said Ignacio resident Dan Percell, who received loud applause at the end of his speech from many of the more than 600 people who attended a Jan. 16 meeting about the land-use codes…
Percell and others are referring to a U.N. document called Agenda 21, which was developed and signed in 1992. Its stated purpose is to help guide local, state and national governments toward sustainable development in the “21st century” – hence the name.
Megan Graham, spokeswoman for the county, said the U.N. and Agenda 21 have had no role in La Plata County’s land-use code revision effort. [Pols emphasis]
The Colorado Independent’s Kelsey Ray explains how this rather unhinged opposition to proposed new land-use codes has evolved into an attempt to recall a La Plata County Commissioner by the name of Gwen Lachelt:
Late last year, the La Plata County Planning Commission released a long-awaited first draft revision to its land-use code, which hasn’t been updated since the late 1980s. County officials hoped that updating the code would make the development process cheaper and more efficient, and allow landowners to more easily predict what they can and cannot do with their land…
[A]t the end of January, three La Plata residents, including Peters, filed an official petition with the county clerk and recorder’s office to recall and replace Commissioner Lachelt. Petitioners have until March 30 to collect 7,505 signatures in support of the recall, in which case a special election will be called. In its stated grounds for recall, the petition claims that Lachelt “repeatedly leveraged [the] public office for her private gain” by appearing before Congress to advocate for environmental causes, and that her actions required the county to investigate ethics complaints against her.
The recall petition did not mention the land-use code, which makes sense — all three commissioners, not just Lachelt, supported revisions to the code.
The “ethics complaints” citied against Lachelt were dismissed by the county as meritless, stemming from perfectly legitimate advocacy on her part for environmental causes. It’s not completely clear why local far-right activists would zero in on Lachelt, since all three commissioners supported the land-use code changes, but much like the 2013 recalls against state legislators over gun bills we assume she is just the most opportune target for backlash.
It’s unknown as of this writing whether this recall petition drive has much real support. Keep in mind that an attempt during the 2013 recalls to go after then-Rep. Mike McLachlan sputtered out without obtaining enough signatures. There’s much anecdotal beyond the UN conspiracy theory silliness that the whole effort is being driven by what local residents understand to be…less than credible voices. And it’s a tall order: just over 7,500 valid county voter signatures are required by the end of March to put the recall on the ballot, about 17% of the total number of registered voters in La Plata County. With that said, recall proponents haven’t filed any campaign finance disclosures, but Denver energy industry political mouthpieces have put this campaign on their radar–and they have the resources to manufacture plenty of trouble at the county level if they choose.
We hope, for the reputation of all the residents of Colorado’s beautiful southwest corner, there aren’t that many La Plata County residents waiting for the blue helmeted stormtroopers to come marching over the ridge.