Basalt government rejects second citizen petition on Pan and Fork
January 10, 2016
For the second time in two weeks, the town of Basalt has rejected a citizens' initiative petition designed to force an election on the purchase of the Pan and Fork property and to limit development on the site.
Town Clerk Pam Schilling rejected the first petition Dec. 23 for a variety of reasons. The citizens group thought it resolved the issues by creating two petitions and resubmitted them for town review. Schilling informed the group this week that the new petitions also were rejected because they didn't cure a key issue. The petitions propose that the town approve a contract to purchase 2.3 acres of the Pan and Fork site owned by Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. for $3 million.
"Contracts are administrative matters, and as such are not subject to initiative or referendum," Schilling wrote to the citizens' group Monday after conferring with Town Attorney Tom Smith. The Town Council was given an update on the issue in a closed session Tuesday night and the letter was released to the public Wednesday.
"We're going to continue to collect signatures and present them to the council," said Allyn Harvey, a civic activist who is advising the Basalt group. The goal is to show that the concept has enough support among Basalt voters to convince the council to place questions on the ballot as a referendum rather than an initiative, he said.
The citizens' group "respectfully" disagrees with Smith's position about the purchase contract, Harvey said, but it wants to avoid a legal battle and move quickly to get questions on the town's municipal election in April. That election also features a race for the mayor's seat and three of the six council seats.
The group needs to collect about 220 signatures but intends to exceed that amount. Members plan to attend the council's Jan. 12 meeting and update them on the effort, formally submit the petitions Jan. 19 and meet with the council for proposed formal action Dec. 26.
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Town Manager Mike Scanlon said he couldn't say at this point how the council would respond to a petition that isn't legally binding. He said the goals of putting questions on the ballot seeking voter approval of bonding to buy the property and raising property taxes to pay off the bonds is legally allowed. Proposing a specific purchase price violates the town's right to negotiate.
"It's telling the town what to purchase the land for, and that you can't do," Scanlon said.
Attorney David Myler helped the committee prepare the petitions. He contended in a Dec. 30 letter to the town that the way the petitions were worded avoided problems with the purchase contract. The petitions propose an ordinance for the purchase.
"This ordinance is about legislative, community-driven objectives," Myler's letter said. "The Colorado Constitution gives the citizens of Basalt the right to present legislation 'of any character' for adoption by the Town Council or the voters."
The petitions also would limit development on 0.5 of the 2.3 acres. Committee member Mark Harvey, no relation to Allyn Harvey, explained the reasoning behind the petitions in a guest opinion appearing on page A14.