Anti-Burlingame petitions half-way to goal
Petition circulators who hope to send Aspen’s Burlingame Ranch affordable housing back to the polls are about halfway to their goal.The two initiative petitions each contain roughly 400 signatures from registered voters, according to local resident Bert Myrin, who’s helping spearhead the petition drive. Each petition requires 736 signatures.Burlingame opponents have until early February to collect the signatures, but they had been pushing to wrap up the effort quickly, with hopes of swaying the City Council at its Dec. 13 meeting. That’s when the annexation of two parcels associated with the housing project had been scheduled for public hearings and, possibly, approval.Those public hearings will instead be continued until Jan. 10, when the council will take up not only the annexations, but also the zoning of the parcels and the proposed free-market development on the neighboring Bar/X Ranch.Myrin said he hopes the presentation of the petitions will convince the council to simply hold off on the annexations until the community’s continuing desire for Burlingame can be gauged in an election next spring.”We’re hoping the two initiatives convince the council to put Burlingame on the ballot,” he said.The city appears to be bracing for an election of some sort on the controversial housing project, even though it recently contracted with a design/construction team to come up with final designs for the first phase of the housing.”You’re not going to break ground until after the election, is my guess,” city attorney John Worcester told the council this week.If the council goes ahead with the annexation, the project’s opponents are likely to start circulating a referendum petition that seeks repeal of the action, Myrin said. That measure would be in addition to the two initiatives. Citizens’ initiatives, which propose actions to be taken to the city, are often open to legal challenge, he noted. Referendums, which address actions already taken by government, are more clear-cut. And, a referendum petition requires fewer signatures than an initiative – 10 percent of registered voters versus 15 percent.”We’re trying to head it [annexation] off ahead of time with the initiatives. The referendum will be the backup,” Myrin said.Burlingame has already received one endorsement from voters.In August 2000, Aspenites approved a pre-annexation agreement that set forth a plan for up to 225 homes at Burlingame, west of town. Just recently, the council selected a winning design for a 236-unit project that includes 97 residences in the first phase.Burlingame opponents have complained that the vote four years ago offered no details about the cost of the housing or anything else. It’s time to check in again with the voters, they contend.Now that the specifics of the project are available, Myrin said he’d be happy with a simple yes/no vote on the project next spring to ensure the public still favors housing at Burlingame.”That would satisfy me. I think that would satisfy a lot of people,” he said.The two initiative petitions Myrin is helping circulate have been termed “good government” measures by their authors – former county Commissioners Dwight Shellman and Joe Edwards.One proposed ordinance would force the city to withdraw from the pre-annexation agreement it struck with neighboring Bar/X Ranch owners for the Burlingame housing and prevent the city from entering into such agreements in the future.The other would prohibit the city from spending money on capital improvements for a housing project and granting annexation or land-use approvals for the housing until the costs of the project have been determined and approved by voters. It would apply to housing projects of more than 10 units, when the public subsidy for the units is $100,000 or more.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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