Burlingame petitions tweaked | AspenTimes.com
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Burlingame petitions tweaked

Janet Urquhart

A pair of citizen initiatives challenging Aspen’s Burlingame Ranch housing project are being tweaked to ensure they can withstand a legal challenge.Taking a lesson from a recent attempt to put a parking garage before Aspen voters through the initiative process – an initiative that was ruled invalid – the backers of the Burlingame initiatives are reviewing the wording of their petitions.The revised initiatives will be resubmitted to the city clerk’s office shortly, according to Joe Edwards, the Carbondale attorney who put forward the two initiatives along with Dwight Shellman, an attorney in Woody Creek. Both men are former Pitkin County commissioners.The pair hope to avoid the pitfall that befell would-be parking garage developer Peter Fornell. He circulated petitions to put his Park Place project on a ballot, but the ordinance proposed by his initiative was successfully challenged by neighbors of the project. A hearing officer ruled that much of the petition addressed administrative matters rather than legislative ones, and it was declared invalid as a result.City Attorney John Worcester, who issued the legal opinion that formed the basis of the hearing officer’s decision, indirectly gave Edwards and Shellman a heads-up about possible problems with their petitions.A letter from City Clerk Kathryn Koch to Edwards noted Worcester had not reviewed the petitions for content but that he had indicated doubts about whether the proposed ordinances contained in the petitions were proper subjects for an initiative and whether they would be legal if voters approved them.Fornell, meanwhile, has sued the city to get Park Place on a ballot. He has been highly critical of Worcester for letting him circulate a petition that wouldn’t pass muster.Despite changes to the Burlingame petitions, the gist of the initiatives will not change, according to Edwards.One of the proposed ordinances would force the city to withdraw from the pre-annexation agreement it struck with neighboring ranch owners for the Burlingame housing development 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.Each petition will require the signatures of 736 registered city voters.The construction of infrastructure to serve Burlingame, a development that could include up to 330 homes on the outskirts of town, has already begun.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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