Dutch residents express frustration with hunting near neighbourhoods, and the lack of affordable housing

Dutch residents obsessed over printed sermons as they waited Thursday night to address the Boulder County Board of Commissioners with concerns about the future of their small mountain community.

Commissioners convened their municipal council in August in the Netherlands to meet with residents and hear pressing issues for the city. About 25 people attended the city hall.

The meeting in Nederland comes as the city prepares for elections this month to replace a former mayor who resigned just months after taking office and to take a seat on the board of trustees. The future of the town’s police department is also uncertain after two township police officers resigned in July, leaving the department with just three officers.

During the meeting, many residents of the Netherlands spoke, but two main issues took center stage: the safety of weapons and affordable housing.

Anita Moss, a resident of the Netherlands, expressed frustration and anger while reading her statement to county leaders about the annual high-powered shotgun hunting allowed at Sugarloaf.

She said she’s been talking with commissioners since 2012 about expanding the 4.5 square miles around the Sugarloaf already closed to fishermen with an additional 5.5 square miles to protect nearby neighborhoods.

“This is a residential neighborhood,” Moss said. “Last year we had 22 school days where kids were zipping through the woods to get to bus stops, and we had hunters in our community while these kids were navigating.

“Do you think we should wait until someone is injured or killed before we seal off an area with residents like this?”

Commissioner Claire Levy on Thursday addressed Moss, saying she was also disappointed that nothing had been done to close the area to poachers.

Levy said after meeting with the county attorney, the commissioners learned that they could not restrict licensed fishermen from hunting in the area based on Colorado law.

Moss said this law gives counties permission to regulate the firing of firearms in areas with an average population of at least 100 people per square mile.

But Levy added that if the law did not give the county authority to restrict fishing in the area, it could be changed.

“I agree with you that it is unsafe to fish in a dense community like you,” said Levy.

During the evening, Teigen Blackie, who lives on Magnolia Road in Boulder County, read the statements of her neighbors who share similar concerns as Moss’s. But in contrast to the moose’s displeasure with hunters in a densely populated area, residents of Magnolia Road are wary of shooting targets near their homes.

“It’s an issue that a lot of residents have taken a lot of time to try and find a solution to,” Blackie said. “We’re very close to the end because of what the Forest Service did.”

In 2020, Boulder County commissioners voted unanimously to approve the first phase of the Boulder rifle range. Officials at the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests announced in 2019 plans to close parts of the forest service’s land for recreational photography once public range shooting options are developed. The first phase of the Gun Club expansion will meet requirements to close sections of Forest Service land for recreational photography—a problem that many campers, hikers, and members of the mountain community have reported as a problem in Boulder County.

But there remains one problem with closing the deal and opening the scope: financing.

“We feel that talking about saving lives – both residents and catchments – is a much more concern than noise complaints,” Blackie said.

Commissioner Matt Jones responded to Blackie’s call to end shooting at the target near its neighbor and said the county is looking at options to continue funding the rifle’s expansion.

When it comes to expanding low-cost housing in Nederland, Kayla Evans said she has a plan. It’s a plan she’s had for a long time.

“Nine years ago I tried to annex 17 acres to the town of Nederland to build affordable housing,” Evans told the commissioners. “The reason I can do this is because I don’t have to buy the property. It’s part of my family’s farm.”

Evans said Nederland completed a housing needs assessment in 2014, and at that time, the city needed 210 units to meet housing demand.

“What do you think today?” She asked.

She urged the commissioners to continue working with city officials to change the language in Nederland’s intergovernmental agreement to give the city the power to make annexation decisions rather than leaving it to the county.

“Please understand that there are people who really want to help and work with the county to solve these issues, but the feeling is that there is a reluctance to really commit and actually do things that are useful to the city of Neverland,” Evans said.

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