Back-room politics before Lowe’s vote in Silverthorne

Looking down toward the site of a proposed big-box retail facility, now home to an abandoned car dealership, as well as a small patch of cottonwoods, aspens and willow wetlands.

Council member Dave Anderson says his honor has been called into question; accuses town staff of  ‘character assassination’

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Tensions are rising in Silverthorne over the upcoming vote on the Lowe’s proposal, as town council member Dave Anderson said he’s been asked by another town council member to recuse himself from the vote because of a potential conflict of interest.

The town council is set to vote on a final site plan approval for the planned mega-retailer Wednesday evening. Backers say the sales tax revenue will stabilize town finances.

Opponents of the Lowe’s plan say the new store will create more problems than it solves, adding to traffic woes and possibly putting some local stores out of business. At the least, those critics say the town should impose a moratorium until the issues associated with the Lowe’s proposal are more thoroughly addressed. The plan has already been subject to multiple reviews by town planners and the planning commission.

Anderson is a part-owner of Neils-Lunceford, a landscaping and nursery operation — and just one of many businesses in town that would be affected by a new big-box retailer. He said the suggestion that he wouldn’t give the Lowe’s proposal a fair hearing is a direct attack on his integrity, and he’s not happy about it.

“My honor has been put in question … This is character assassination,” Anderson said, explaining that he doesn’t have a substantial ownership interest in Neils Lunceford. “I do not participate in the day-to-day operations of the business and it’s not my primary source of income,” he said.

Another council member may have also been contacted with the same request in some questionable behind-the-scenes political maneuvering. In most cases, potential conflict of interest issues are raised in open council meetings with the public in attendance, according to former Silverthorne town council member Howard Hallman.

“It was presented as more of a request … I believe I’m expected to step down,” said Anderson, who was the top vote-getter in the most recent Silverthorne town council election. Anderson said he is prepared to relinquish his vote, but he said he thinks the move to keep him from participating would disenfranchise hundreds of Silverthorne residents who voted for him.

“I think they’re trying to silence the majority of people in the town,” Anderson said Sunday afternoon. “I respect all my fellow town council members,” he said, adding that he thinks the political power play is being driven by town staff. “I think it’s an attempt to determine the outcome of who can vote,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that the town attorney and the town manager would stoop to this level … I do not wish to deny Lowe’s a fair hearing.

Reached at home Sunday afternoon, the town manager deferred questions about the issue until Monday, and Summit Voice will follow up to get Batchelder’s perspective, as well as some clarification on the Silverthorne town council’s conflict of interest rules.

Meanwhile, Anderson said he is disappointed by the political infighting, and especially what he perceives as involvement by town staff.

“The town manager and the town attorney should resign in disgrace,” he concluded.

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