Basalt group reboots Pan and Fork petition drive
January 4, 2016
The organizers of a petition drive in Basalt have rebooted their effort to force action on the Pan and Fork site after the town rejected their initial petition.
The petition organizers threw a bonfire party at the Pan and Fork site Sunday evening after the Denver Broncos' football game to rally support and distribute petitions. The goal remains intact: to get an ordinance before the Town Council that proposes the purchase of 2.3 acres owned by Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. The petition also directs the council to schedule an election to seek voter approval to issue bonds for the purchase and raise property taxes for repayment. The petition also spells out that 0.5 acres of land should be designated for development while 1.8 acres should be left as open space.
"We would love to go on the April ballot," said Cathy Click, a member of the petition group.
However, that appears unlikely because of a number of legal requirements. Town Clerk Pam Schilling informed Click by letter in December that state law requires a 40-day protest period after a petition is submitted.
"If no protest is filed, the petition can be submitted to the Town Council for review within 30 days," Schilling wrote. Ballot questions for the April election must be finalized in January.
Schilling also informed Click that after she conferred with Town Attorney Tom Smith, she determined the initial petition couldn't be accepted. State law requires a petition to focus on a single subject. The initial petition aimed to get the council to take action and set up an election. The section of the petition authorizing debt and taxes must be separate from the section seeking land uses, Schilling's letter said.
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The town also maintained that "contracts are administrative matters and, as such, are not subject to initiative or referendum."
Click said the group had an experienced attorney draft its petition. The petition wording was reviewed by two additional attorneys as well as a bond counsel. The group feels its petition passed legal muster but won't focus on fighting the town over the issue. Instead, they separated the issue into two petitions and addressed other issues raised by the town.
"It's less important for us to say, 'No, it's right,'" Click said.
The new petitions were submitted to the town for review, but Schilling, Smith and Town Manager Mike Scanlon were out for the holidays, so the petition group hasn't heard yet if the petitions will be accepted.