City Council to mull repealing Aspen hydro ordinance |

City Council to mull repealing Aspen hydro ordinance

Staff report
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – The Aspen City Council Monday will consider repealing an ordinance it passed Dec. 12 that gave land-use approval and rezoned open space property for the controversial Castle Creek Energy Center hydroelectric-plant project.

A March 1 memorandum from City Clerk Kathryn Koch to council members and Mayor Mick Ireland states that she determined a petition of Aspen voters seeking to repeal the ordinance was “sufficient.” The petition organizers, strong critics of the project, had well more than the required 594 signatures of city-registered voters. A period to protest the petition came and went in late February with no official protests filed by the Feb. 27 deadline.

In the memo, Koch outlines the council’s options:

• It can simply repeal the ordinance on the land-use and rezoning matter with no further action. A minimum three-fourths majority vote is required to repeal the ordinance, meaning the council needs at least four votes (of the five total voting members) for a simple repeal.

• It can call for a special election of Aspen voters to decide the land-use and rezoning matters on either May 15 or May 22. No city elections are scheduled yet this spring, hence the potential need for a special election. Koch has estimated the cost of holding a special election to be $16,000, which doesn’t include staff time.

• It can repeal the ordinance, as mentioned in the first option, and vote to hold a public referendum on the matter tonight or at some future date as long as the decision to call the referendum is done at least 60 days prior to the election date.

Some council members in recent weeks have expressed a desire for the third option and a preference to hold a Nov. 6 referendum on whether to continue the Castle Creek hydroelectric project. More than $7 million has been spent so far. The city has estimated that it will take more than $3 million to finish the job.

Supporters of the hydroelectric facility say that a public vote on Nov. 6, the presidential election date, would have higher turnout than a special election in the spring. Many critics, however, prefer a spring election, adding that the matter should be decided once and for all in order to ensure that the project costs won’t escalate any further.

Some council members have indicated that a spring election, with its likely lower turnout, wouldn’t make sense given that opponents have criticized the successful 2007 referendum on a bond issue to jump-start the project based on its extremely low turnout.

In other business, the council is expected to consider a resolution that would either continue or ban the practice of adding fluoride to the municipal water supply. The issue was postponed during the council’s last regular meeting on Feb. 27.

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