Aspen four-lane effort denied
ASPEN ” A Pitkin County judge has denied four-lane advocate Jeffrey Evans’ two city ballot initiatives calling for permanent solutions at the Entrance to Aspen.
Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols ruled this week that Evans’ petitions are administrative actions, not legislative. An administrative action is a matter for government staff; a legislative action is a matter for a legislative body, such as a city council.
Residents can introduce ballot questions over a legislative issue, but not over an administrative matter, and that was the substance of the dispute.
Judge Nichols upheld an October 2007 ruling by Karen Goldman, a Lakewood-based administrative hearing officer who deemed the two ballot measures administrative.
Nichols’ ruling also was in line with Les Holst, Clifford Weiss and Terry Paulson, who protested the ballot questions, claiming that the proposals were administrative actions and not appropriate for a residentspawned vote. Evans and Curtis Vagneur in August of 2007 proposed two ballot questions asking voters to decide on two four-lane solutions to the traffic on Highway 82 as it enters Aspen, which would involve using the Marolt Open Space.
“Petitioners cannot force, or require, the city to convey an interest in open space property to CDOT on conditions ” petitioners can only obtain voter approval for such a conveyance,” according to Nichols’ ruling. “… conveyance of property is an administrative function and [the city charter] does not give voters the authority to direct or require City Council to convey property; it only gives the voters the right to approve such a conveyance … Even if the court ignores the conveyance language, the petitions do not simply propose a change of use for the open space ” they require a specific, detailed design for a highway.”
Evans said he is relieved of Nichols’ ruling and is ready to take the issue to the next level.
“We’re relieved to finally be out of the district court since it’s not very likely that a district court would over rule a local government,” he said. ” Now we’ll put together an appeal and go the appellate court where we should have been at from the beginning.”
City Attorney John Worcester said he’s pleased with Nichols’ decision, especially since she took great effort in examining a complex case as a relatively new judge ” she was sworn in this past summer.
“It’s the first decision we’ve got from a new judge and it was quite clear she was thorough and was conscientious,” he said.
Nichols also noted that she recognizes the frustration of the petitioners, since there have been more than two dozen votes on the Entrance of Aspen issue.
Evans said if the Entrance to Aspen is ever going to get resolved, it must take leadership.
“If the residents of Aspen are tired of this then they should just elect three people on the City Council who will put these initiatives on the ballot,” he said.
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