It took a handful of board meetings of the Whispering Pines Metropolitan District #1 in Aurora for resident Claude Selitrennikoff to realize residents needed a bigger voice in determining what happens there.
“We were concerned about the lack of accountability and transparency, a debt where 50% of our taxes just pay interest on bonds, and a large number of management issues — landscaping, trails and parks — (that were) promised but not completed,” Selitrennikoff told The Denver Post. “The list goes on and on.”
Three of five district board seats in Whispering Pines are up for election in May — the same time that hundreds of other metro district seats are up for election across Colorado — and Selitrennikoff is determined to have a say in how his community works. All five current board members at Whispering Pines are affiliated with builders or developers of the district, according to conflict of interest statements filed with the Colorado secretary of state’s office.
Selitrennikoff is among dozens of metro district residents to contact The Post to say they were running for a board seat, largely because of the newspaper’s investigation into how districts work. Friday is the deadline for candidates to file self-nominating petitions for a board seat.
Six others have chosen to run with Selitrennikoff for the three available seats — one two-year seat and two three-year seats. Scores of metro district elections are to take place to fill hundreds of seats. In Adams County alone, more than 500 board seats are scheduled to be on the May ballot, although a number of them are guaranteed to remain developer-held because no homes have been built there.
“After reading The Post’s stories, it was clear that we, as a community, needed to have homeowner representation on the board to begin to address these critical issues, especially the financial burden being placed on the homeowners without any input,” Selitrennikoff said. “I chose active participation to affect positive change.”
The same was true for Kristen Miller, a registered nurse who lives in the Indy Oak TOD Metropolitan District in Lakewood.
“I feel as though I have a duty to my fellow neighbors to run for a board position in order to ensure that there is fair homeowner representation of our community instead of solely developer representation,” she told The Post. “We need a voice and a vote for the best interests of the people who reside here.”
The Post stories revealed how developers work both sides of financial deals by creating and then serving on metro district boards, which levy taxes to reimburse them for infrastructure costs. The developers approve multi-million-dollar bonds, shielding themselves from any risk should their developments underperform, that homeowners are bound to repay through decades of property taxes. The rates homeowners pay on those bonds are frequently higher than if the cost had been built into their mortgage. The Post found cases in which developers purchased the bonds themselves, near-guarantees of hefty profits with tax-free returns.
“I just checked my property tax bill and the metro district share was 37%. Yikes,” said Kathy Snyder, a former assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego running for a board seat in the Cundall Farms Metropolitan District in Thornton. “This is about normal people controlling their own destiny. Too many people who live in HOA communities and metro district communities are apathetic. These quasi-governmental bodies have enormous power and people aren’t even aware of it.”
Metro district manager Charles Wolfersberger said many residents are unaware of the election process and the strict deadlines they must meet to be a candidate for a board seat.
“We have been holding several information meetings with homeowners encouraging them to run for their property tax boards,” Wolfersberger said of about a dozen metro districts including Prairie Farm Metro in Commerce City, Lewis Pointe in Thornton, Two Bridges in Elizabeth and Southshore Metro in Aurora.
Director spots usually are two- or four-year terms, staggered for reelection in even-numbered years, although the state is changing that so they occur on odd-numbered years. That means this year’s election and that of 2022 will be for a three-year term instead of four years. The four-year term will resume in 2023.
“It’s surprising just how many people don’t realize they can run, or, more importantly, that Friday is the deadline and if they miss it, that’s three more years of a developer-controlled board,” Wolfersberger said. “The developers aren’t openly against residents running, but I did hear one tell a group of residents that they’d pretty much rescind their funding and let the district go insolvent if residents took control.”
Any resident or landowner within a district is eligible to run, provided they are registered voters. Spouses of a landowner are also eligible to run. They must fill out a form that’s available from the designated election official for their district. That person’s name is available on the Colorado Department of Local Affairs website, under the metro district name and the “contacts” tab.
“I’m a CPA and part of a slate of candidates running to take over Southshore Metro District #2,” said Ross Garrett. “I’ve been raising some pretty public concerns on social media … and we have another CPA and attorney as part of our slate. Your reporting is having a tremendous impact.”
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