City of Aspen: civic office foes missed deadline, didn’t have enough signatures
Organizers of a petition aimed at letting voters decide whether the Aspen government should build a new office building expressed dismay Tuesday that the city rejected the petition.
The city, in a letter to petitioners Marcia Goshorn and Steve Goldenberg, said the petition was submitted after the deadline and without the sufficient number of signatures.
The city notified the petitioners May 12 their deadline was the end of the business day May 15. The deadline, however, was still in question because the the city published the ordinance the petitioners were challenging, under the requirements of the Home Rule Charter, on April 12.
Manning, in a letter to the petitioners, said she would extend the deadline until the end of that coming Monday, May 15, and “we will address the issue of the deadline at that time. If you are unable to collect adequate signatures, the issue would be moot.”
Activist Toni Kronberg and others spent the weekend gathering what she said were 753 signatures of registered Aspen voters — more than 100 over the 640 signatures they needed — and turned them in May 15.
Goshorn suggested that the petitioners were misled by the May 12 letter.
“The fact that we had more than enough signatures, and now they’re saying we didn’t do it right?” Goshorn said.
Another letter from Manning to the petitioners, dated June 13, which Goshorn provided to The Aspen Times, said the clerk met with the City Attorney’s Office on Monday, and it was determined that the deadline was, in fact, May 12. Additionally, Manning’s letter stated that of the 753 petition signatures that were submitted to the city, just 396 were valid.
“Based on this review and assuming, for argument, that the deadline was May 15, I must certify that the petitions submitted are insufficient,” Manning wrote.
The City Council was scheduled to meet privately about the matter after the public portion of its meeting adjourned Monday. Calls to City Attorney Jim True and Mayor Steve Skadron were not returned Monday.
Goldenberg and Goshorn’s referendum petition aimed to have the electorate decide on the city’s plan to construct 28,400 square feet of new space for civic offices on Rio Grande Place near the Pitkin County Library. The city also will use another 6,400 square feet of existing space on Rio Grande Place for future offices.
The City Council, by a 4-0 vote at roughly 11 p.m. April 3, passed Ordinance 4, which the petitioners wanted the council to either rescind or kick to voters.
Goshorn and Kronberg said they hope new Councilman Ward Hauenstein, along with Bert Myrin, will lead the charge to take the matter to a public vote, despite the city’s rejection of the petition.
“I’ll leave it to Bert and Ward … to deal with,” Goldenberg said in a text message. “They need 3 of 5.”
Said Kronberg: “There’s no way in hell (the city administration) wants to bring this to a vote, because they know they are going to lose it.”
Kronberg has maintained that the city would be violating the 2006 Civic Master Plan because the plan prohibits civic offices where they are proposed; the space is instead designated for affordable housing or neighborhood-commercial development. She also has contended the city would be encroaching on open space with the development.
The project’s estimated cost ranges from $35.9 million to $38.6 million, $21 million of which would be paid with city cash and the rest through financing. That estimate also includes a gutting and remodel of the existing City Hall at the corner of East Hopkins Avenue and Galena Street.
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