Burlingame vote the last word?
City Councilman Terry Paulson reiterated his intent Monday to have Aspenites vote on the annexation of land for Burlingame in a special election this summer, even though that question will be put to voters next Tuesday.If the Burlingame annexation wins approval Tuesday, the City Council must decide whether to proceed with the worker housing project, despite the potential for yet another election.Meanwhile, the city is bracing to conduct its second protest hearing in as many months over a citizen-sponsored ballot question – the one that could force a second vote on the annexation. Unless it fails to survive the protest challenge.Confused yet?Paulson, a mayoral candidate, and local gadfly Toni Kronberg circulated a referendum petition that sought to put the annexation issue before voters. By the time it was submitted and deemed sufficient by the city clerk, it was too late to put their question on the May 3 ballot.However, the council, knowing the petition was likely to force the issue to a vote anyway, went ahead and put the annexation question on the May 3 ballot.The council chose to pose exactly the same question proposed by the referendum petition, which would seem to obviate the need for a subsequent election in response to the referendum. Or not.Paulson and Kronberg say they’ll let their petition run its course with a second election on the annexation this summer, assuming it survives a protest filed Friday by local Burlingame supporter Frank Peters.Paulson confirmed during Monday’s council meeting that he was not interested in withdrawing the petition.State statutes don’t address the issue of withdrawing a petition once it has been submitted and verified as valid, according to City Attorney John Worcester.But since it would ask exactly the same question that the council is asking of voters next week, he has suggested the referendum petition is unnecessary.”My opinion is that it’s moot,” he said yesterday. “But, it’s not my call. Council is going to have to make that call.”If the annexation is approved on Tuesday and the city proceeds with the housing development, it will do so despite the outside risk that a judge could order the matter put on another ballot to fulfill the intent of the petition, he said.First, though, the petition faces a challenge from Peters, who joined City Council candidate J.E. DeVilbiss in protesting two other housing-related citizen-initiative petitions last month. Their protest was upheld by hearing officer Karen Goldman.The city has tentatively set a May 13 hearing on the latest protest and has contacted Goldman about presiding over the proceedings, according to City Clerk Kathryn Koch.Peters’ protest attacks the referendum petition on two grounds. First, it claims that both the citizens who signed it and the circulators who signed affidavits attached to the petition failed to include their city and county of residence, as required by law.The same attack was made on the two initiative petitions last month, but was rejected by Goldman. She declared those measures invalid over another issue, but found the signatures sufficient despite the missing information.Peters has also challenged the summary prepared by the city clerk for the Paulson/Kronberg petition, calling the wording unintelligible.The summary states: “Ordinance Summary Annexes the Bar/X ranch into the city boundaries of the City of Aspen Bar/X ranch parcel is comprised of 146 acres located east of the Airport Business Center, adjacent to the city-owned Burlingame Ranch and the Maroon Creek Club.”The law requires the clerk to prepare an accurate and truthful summary; the one on the referendum petition fails to meet that standard, according to the protest.”This summary makes it unclear whether the summary or the ordinance or the referendum annexes the Bar/X ranch,” the protest states. “Moreover it appears that words are missing that would change the meaning, depending on what the missing words are.”Stay tuned.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
July 3rd and 4th will probably never be quite the same for residents of the mid-Roaring Fork Valley after the events of 2018.
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