Castle Rock council removes town board member

4-3 vote comes in wake of email sent to developer

Thelma Grimes
tgrimes@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/30/21

The Castle Rock Town Council continues to be at odds over the Downtown Review Board. In the latest round of division, the council voted 4-3 to remove Annamarie Engelhard from the Historic …

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Castle Rock council removes town board member

4-3 vote comes in wake of email sent to developer

Posted

The Castle Rock Town Council continues to be at odds over the Downtown Review Board. In the latest round of division, the council voted 4-3 to remove Annamarie Engelhard from the Historic Preservation Commission, which also voids her ability to continue serving on the review board.

While the issue was not on the official agenda, Councilmember Desiree LaFleur made a motion to have Engelhard removed during the council discussion portion of the Nov. 16 meeting.

Prior to the start of the meeting, councilmembers were provided copies of emails Engelhard sent to Highline C.M. Inc., a housing developer planning to submit a site plan to the town for a 113-acre, 423-home development called Chateau Valley. The prospective development will be located directly north of the Baldwin Park neighborhood and proposes to extend South Valley Drive.

LaFleur said the problem with Engelhard’s email is that it appears she was speaking on behalf of the Historic Preservation Board and the Downtown Review Board.

In the Oct. 31 email to Highline C.M., Engelhard said she is a District 4 resident and listed her board affiliations before expressing concerns with “seeing this lush land developed.”

“In anticipation of this coming development, I would like to express my hopes and concerns for how this new neighborhood will integrate into our community and discuss ideas how this project can be neighborly to the existing residents,” Engelhard said via email.

Besides the developer, Engelhard sent a copy of the email to City Manager David Corliss, the town council, Director of Planning Tera Vargish, Long Range Project Manager Julie Kirkpatrick, Senior Planner Sandy Vossler, Planning Manager Kevin Wrede, Planner Brad Boland and Director of Parks and Recreation Jeff Brauer.

After receiving the email, Vargish emailed Engelhard on Nov. 1.

In the return email, Vargish said, “Thank you for sending your feedback to all of us. I do need to ask you to confirm that your comments are your own personal comments as a resident of the town, and they are not comments on behalf of District 4, the Design Review Board, nor the Historic Preservation Board.”

In response, Engelhard said, “Thank you for letting me know about the confusion. I apologize for that and did not realize I was sending mixed messages. You are absolutely correct. My board references are disclosure only. My contribution is solely as a resident.”

Even with the apology, LaFleur said Engelhard’s actions crossed boundaries. Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Bracken seconded LaFleur’s motion to remove Engelhard from the Historic Preservation Commission, agreeing that Engelhard stepped out of bounds. Bracken said she could have expressed her concerns directly during the neighborhood meetings the town has hosted regarding the proposed development.

Councilmember Caryn Johnson said removing Engelhard is an overreaction. Johnson said Engelhard’s emails clearly expressed her personal opinions.

Johnson questioned the process for the emails and how Vargish became the person designated to respond. Town Manager Corliss said Engelhard expressed her concerns to him and he suggested she write the developer an email.

After the email was sent, Corliss said LaFluer expressed her concerns with him regarding Engelhard listing her board affiliations in the signature portion of the Oct. 31 email.

Corliss said he then had a conversation with Vargish that led to her responding directly to Engelhard.

Councilmember Tim Dietz said he disagrees with the standards being applied to Engelhard when the same councilmembers voting to remove Engelhard did nothing to reprimand Downtown Review Board (DRB) member Garo Chalian.

In May, Councilmember Laura Cavey, the council liaison to the DRB, said she had concerns about Chalian asking town attorneys about suing council members speaking out against the DRB.

Cavey, Johnson and Dietz said it is unfair to say nothing about Chalian’s behavior but punish Engelhard, who could use more training and direction to prevent such issues in the future.

“At least she apologized,” Johnson said. “I don’t believe (Chalian) even apologized to Councilmember Cavey. I think she’s being forthright and honestly admitting to it.”

LaFleur defended her motion, saying Cavey’s allegations boiled down to a “he said, she said” situation whereas Engelhard wrote everything in an email.

After discussion, the council voted 4-3 to approve LaFleur’s motion. Mayor Jason Gray, Bracken, LaFleur and Councilmember Ryan Hollingshead voted to remove Engelhard. Johnson, Dietz and Cavey voted against the measure.

On Nov. 23, the town’s Community Relations Manager Melissa Hoelting said that by removing Engelhard from the Historic Preservation Commission, she is automatically removed from the DRB. Engelhard was the designee serving on the DRB from the Historic Preservation Commission.

As per town code, the Design Review Board is required to have:

• One member from the Planning Commission

• Two members from the Downtown Development Authority

• Two members from the Historic Preservation Board

• Two property owners within the Downtown Development Authority boundary

The Castle Rock Town Council has continually disagreed over the DRB over the last two years. Cavey, Dietz and Johnson have tried multiple times to change DRB operations. All attempts have failed in 4-3 votes.

Dietz, Cavey and Johnson believe the non-elected, volunteer DRB has too much power in having the final say in major downtown projects. The three minority councilmembers have asked the council to approve decreasing DRB powers by moving any projects over 10,000 square feet to the council.

LaFleur, Gray, Bracken and Hollingshead have consistently voted to keep the status quo for the DRB. The four councilmembers say the DRB has proper oversight through town staff to decide how to proceed with downtown development proposals.

Engelhard did not attend the Nov. 16 meeting to address council concerns directly. She also did not return Colorado Community Media’s request for comment.

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