700 vote anything but simple

If council OKs annexation, petitioners must gather signatures

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To petition for a vote

- Five city voters must file an affidavit with the city clerk stating that they'll serve as a petitioners' committee.

- The group must file its referendum petition within 30 days after the City Council adopts the ordinance being challenged.

- When a referendum petition is filed with the city clerk, the ordinance sought to be reconsidered shall be suspended. The suspension shall terminate when:

1. There is a final determination of insufficiency of the petition, or

2. The petitioners' committee withdraws petition, or

3. The council repeals the ordinance, or

4. Certification of a favorable vote of qualified electors of the city on the ordinance.

- The vote shall be held not less than 30 days and not later than 90 days from the date of the final council vote. If no regular municipal election is to be held within the period prescribed, the council shall provide for a special election.

Source: Steamboat Springs' Municipal Code

Discussions of the proposed Steamboat 700 development have been anything but simple, and residents and officials have bandied about the question of who has the right - and responsibility - to make the final decision.

Voters and city officials have raised the specter of a public ballot on the annexation. Residents have the right to challenge most Steamboat Springs City Council ordinances by gathering petition signatures and taking them to voters. It's not a simple process, however.

Resident Omar Campbell has sought a vote on the 508-acre annexation nearly since it was first proposed.

"It gives the people a democratic right to vote for it," he said. "I mean, it's not something the council : should decide."

Under Steamboat's Home Rule Charter, petitioners must have signatures of at least 20 percent of the total voters registered in the previous municipal election, City Clerk Julie Franklin said. Under Colorado law, however, that number is 10 percent.

Steamboat 700 developers have agreed to accept that 10 percent threshold. City residents will vote in November on changing the city's threshold to match the state level.

But a public vote on Steamboat 700 wouldn't be possible until the City Council approved annexation. From there, the clock would start ticking. Petitioners would have 30 days to gather the required signatures.

City Council President Loui Antonucci said he didn't know how soon an annexation vote would come. City staff members have worked with Steamboat 700 developers to create a possible timeline, he said. Those estimates put the annexation up for consideration in September.

If the petitioners collected the required 10 percent of signatures from registered voters, the ordinance would be suspended, Franklin said. The council then would have a chance to reconsider the ordinance. If it still approved the measure, the question would go to voters in 30 to 90 days.

Under that time frame, it could appear on the Nov. 3 ballot for city voters.

If Campbell had his way, all of Routt County would be allowed to weigh in. Antonucci said that he supported a vote if the public really wanted one. But the council is obligated to follow the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, which allows for development in that area, he said.

"That thing went through a lot of public scrutiny and went through this plan, and our job is to uphold that," Antonucci said.

Campbell disagrees. He said residents shouldn't be expected to be able to follow such discussions closely.

"We're like a bunch of sheep out here trying to make a living, grazing in the pasture, and we don't pay much attention to the goings on," Campbell said.

Sure, he agreed, people should always pay attention to their government, but the bottom line is that they don't. Steamboat 700 is important enough to require a public vote, Campbell said. He's concerned about the additional housing and people.

"They'll increase the traffic by 2,000 houses to be built," Campbell said. "That means at least two or three vehicles per house, and all of them will be coming into town every day to work and shop and do whatever they do, and we're already at the maximum."

The council is doing its due diligence by examining study after study, Antonucci said. Officials will look at fiscal impacts, U.S. Highway 40, water issues and recreation issues, for example, he said.

If the council approves annexation and petitioners get the signatures, Antonucci said he supported a vote. But right now, he said, it seems as though only a few voices are raised.

"To me, it's like, hey, if there's really a large portion of the population that has concerns about this and wants to take this to a vote, I'm all for it. : The fact that we have had public process, I would choose not to drag this thing through the mud unless it's mandated by the people," he said.

Comments

Fred Duckels 5 years, 1 month ago

I could live with this either way, but our process should not entail spending tens of millions by the applicant before we decide what we want. This does not speak highly of our community.

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