Steamboat Springs Members of the Community Alliance intend to hit the streets this weekend with a petition drive meant to ensure public votes on future major annexations to Steamboat Springs.
Steve Aigner, community organizer for the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley, gave the Steamboat Springs City Council an ultimatum to that effect Tuesday night at Centennial Hall.
"If you don't decide this evening to instruct the city attorney to prepare an ordinance that would put on the fall ballot a proposal to amend the Home Rule Charter so that there will be a public vote on all substantial annexation, then starting tomorrow, the Community Alliance will initiate a petition drive to amend the Home Rule Charter," Aigner read from a prepared statement.
After leaving City Council chambers in Centennial Hall, he said things would begin to happen quickly.
"Tomorrow we intend to file a statement signed by five persons at the city clerk's office," Aigner said Tuesday night. "We should be in the streets with petitions by this weekend."
Council has set tentative dates of Sept. 22 and Oct. 13 for votes on first and second readings of an annexation ordinance for the Steamboat 700 proposal just west of city limits. The outcome of a Community Alliance ballot question would not be known until after those annexation votes. However, Tuesday's City Council agenda packet explained that a successful petition and ballot question could refer a Steamboat 700 annexation ordinance back to City Council for scheduling of a public vote on its fate.
Aigner began his remarks by reminding City Council that on July 7, Councilwoman Meg Bentley made a motion that her colleagues direct the city attorney to craft an ordinance that would amend the city charter to require a public vote on annexations. Councilman Steve Ivancie seconded her motion, which subsequently was defeated.
"In voting the motion down, 5-2, you seemed to dismiss the arguments made for the motion," Aigner told City Council. "We would like you to reconsider that motion and support it. Are you willing to do that this evening?"
Aigner's remarks came during the regular 7 p.m. time slot reserved for public comments on matters not on the agenda. City Council consistently has declined to discuss non-agenda items on the spot and met Aigner's question with impassive faces.
Asked after the meeting whether she approved of the course being plotted by the Community Alliance, Bentley said, "I do think it needs to be done."
Bentley said she had been a member of the Community Alliance for many years and added that Aigner had encouraged her to make her motion July 7. However, she said it was something she had contemplated from the time of her election to City Council in November 2007.
"Steve and I talked about it, but I'm not his front-woman," Bentley said. "I made the motion because I think the people need to have a voice in this. It will have a big impact on Steamboat Springs, and the people living here should have a direct say in it."
Aigner said he began broaching the subject of the petition drive with fellow Community Alliance members late last week. He said the group's board of directors unanimously supported the initiative.
Aigner declined to name the members of the board of directors without their prior approval.
The success of future ballot petition drives could be directly affected by a separate City Council vote Tuesday. Council members voted on first reading to pass an ordinance placing a question on the Nov. 3 ballot seeking to amend Article 8 of the city's Home Rule Charter. The ordinance would reduce the threshold for a successful petition from obtaining signatures of 20 percent of qualified voters in the last election to 10 percent in conformance with the state constitution.