Opposition group plans to petition city's sale of downtown emergency services building

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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 of the Steamboat Springs City Council adopting 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:

  • There is a final determination of insufficiency of the petition, or
  • The petitioners' committee withdraws petition, or
  • The council repeals the ordinance, or
  • 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

— If the Steamboat Springs City Council votes to sell its downtown public safety building on second reading next month, two opponents of the sale said they will work to freeze the transaction and put it to a public vote.

Steamboat Springs residents Scott Ford and Roger Good, along with three other petitioners who plan to call themselves Citizens Opposed to Poor Planning, would have 30 days after the council's decision to collect the valid signatures of 955 voters in the city and successfully petition the ordinance onto a referendum. The question then would go to a vote of all residents.

“I'm glad we have this check and balance in the system and the citizenry has the ability to speak out,” Ford said Wednesday.

The city is proposing to sell the building to BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger for $2.1 million and to construct new headquarters to replace its downtown police and fire stations at a cost and location that has yet to be determined.

The council agreed Jan. 8 to delay the final reading of the sale until Feb. 8 so city officials could strengthen the sales contract for the building and have firmer plans in place for relocating police services.

“There are more than enough people who are willing to help” petition this ordinance onto a referendum, Ford said Wednesday. “It's not a daunting task, but it would take a fairly organized effort.”

Good said that although the petition cannot be filed until after the second reading of the sales contract, the group already is laying the groundwork to secure the referendum.

He said preparations include registering the petitioners' group name with the Secretary of State's Office, obtaining and vetting lists of registered voters and developing a mobile app that could make it easier for supporters of the petition to canvass.

“It's a very short time frame to get a lot done,” Good said about the 30 days a five-member petition committee would have to gather the necessary signatures.

Last month, Ford and Good drafted a letter to the City Council opposing the sale of the building.

The two wrote the transaction would “create an artificial sense of urgency that is unnecessary and does not allow time for due diligence and public process.”

The letter was signed by about 70 community members, including some business owners and leaders.

The sale also has seen strong support from other leaders in the business community, including Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett and Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association President Tom Kern.

They and some other business owners downtown said the sale is an opportunity to aid a revitalization effort on Yampa Street and to help keep a growing business in Steamboat.

The right for citizens to petition council's decision to sell 840 Yampa St. is made possible by the city's charter.

City Attorney Tony Lettunich said Wednesday that if the group of petitioners can get enough valid signatures, the sale would be put on hold and the council then would have to decide whether to cancel the sale or put it to a public vote.

“If the city doesn't repeal the ordinance, it goes to a vote and the election is set no sooner than 30 days and no later than 90 days after that meeting,” Lettunich said. “Then, it's just majority wins.”

Ford and Good met Monday with Lettunich, City Clerk Julie Franklin and Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark to learn more about the logistics behind a potential referendum.

Referendums challenging the decisions of the City Council are rare in Steamboat Springs.

The last successful referendum came in 2009, when a group opposed to the annexation of Steamboat 700 successfully petitioned the council's approval of the massive development project and put the ordinance to a public vote.

In March 2010, city voters handily rejected the annexation during a special election that was paid for by the developers of Steamboat 700.

Franklin said that mail-in election cost the developers $39,000, but the city would bear the cost of any special election this year regarding the sale of the public safety building.

Council President Bart Kounovsky, who supports the sale of the downtown emergency services building, said Wednesday that the potential challenge won't affect his vote and that he respects the right of any citizens group to put the sale to a public vote through the referendum process.

“I think voters are well within their rights to challenge any decision that we come up with that has the potential to be referred out,” Kounovsky said.

Ford said Wednesday that voters should help determine whether the sale and construction of new police and fire stations “is the best use the city's money” at this time.

He said if the sale is approved by council, petitioners will seek out signatures not just from opponents of the sale but also from people who may be neutral or support it but want to see it put to a public vote.

“The bigger issue is, how much money does the city have, and is this the wisest and best use of these funds right now?” Ford said.

Ford recently resigned from his position as a contracted economic analyst with Yampa Valley Data Partners after he said the nonprofit organization was pressured regarding Ford's public opposition to the deal. Ford said he simply was expressing his opinion as a private citizen.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year, 8 months ago

I have no idea why the City Council has not backed down in the face of those deeply concerned that selling the building first is a bad idea.

The only reason given for going ahead is that they've agreed to give the building to BAP at a big discount and that is that.

They could easily take much of the public's concerns into consideration and have completed and approved plans for replacement buildings and then sell. It is pretty unlikely that BAP would refuse to buy the current building in a year or two at a 30% discount to fair value if City still thinks that is a good idea.

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