City ponders Burlingame on May ballot
If a pair of ballot questions put forth through citizen initiatives are withdrawn, Aspen City Council members indicated Tuesday that they’d be willing to put a yes/no question regarding Burlingame Ranch to voters on May 3.Mayor Helen Klanderud suggested the council pose a Burlingame question during the city’s regular May election to poll the electorate on the controversial housing project. Councilmen Terry Paulson and Torre suggested much the same thing last month, when the council approved the annexation of land associated with the housing development. At that time, however, the rest of the council wasn’t interested.Yesterday, four council members expressed a willingness to consider it; Paulson was absent.The city could ask voters to affirm or reject the annexation of the Bar/X Ranch, since it’s the annexation that paves the way for Burlingame, said John Worcester, city attorney.A referendum petition is already being circulated that asks voters if the annexation should be repealed, but if the city put the question on the May ballot, it would obviate the need for the citizen-generated referendum and a special election later in the summer.”I certainly think it’s worth considering,” said Councilman Tim Semrau.Councilwoman Rachel Richards, a staunch advocate of Burlingame, said she’d consider putting a question on the May ballot, if only to prevent further delay and increased costs for the construction of the housing.”There’s another factor, which is the human cost, of another year’s delay,” Semrau said.Torre said he’d be willing to put an annexation question on the May 3 ballot, but only if the two initiative petitions are withdrawn. “You could do it regardless, but I think it’s in the city’s best interest to have the two initiatives withdrawn,” Worcester said.The council voted Monday to put two housing questions on the ballot after the circulators of the initiative petitions successfully collected enough signatures.Neither question addresses Burlingame specifically but would establish new rules governing the city’s development of worker housing.Worcester said he pitched the idea of pulling the initiatives off the ballot in exchange for a Burlingame question to former Mayor Bill Stirling on Tuesday. Stirling is one of the sponsors of the two initiatives, along with Joe Edwards, a former Pitkin County commissioner.Stirling said yesterday evening that he had placed calls to both Edwards and Dwight Shellman, a former commissioner who also was involved in drafting the petitions.”We’re certainly going to talk about the proposal that John [Worcester] made to me,” Stirling said.Edwards could not be reached last night, but Shellman questioned whether it would be legal or ethical to withdraw the petitions, each signed by roughly 1,000 citizens, now that they’ve been submitted. The signatories have an expectation that the ordinances proposed by the petitions will be put to a public vote, he said.One of the petitions proposes an ordinance that would prevent the city from entering into preannexation or annexation agreements of the type that established the parameters for Burlingame; the other would require public votes for city-subsidized housing projects of more than a certain size.The two initiatives aren’t about Burlingame specifically and their backers aren’t necessarily interested in pulling them off the ballot in exchange for a Burlingame question, Shellman said.”The fact is, they’re not about the same thing,” he said.It’s possible that voters would approve the annexation of the Bar/X, allowing Burlingame to proceed, but also approve the initiative questions so that the “abuses” that occurred in the evolution of Burlingame aren’t repeated, Shellman said.Meanwhile, the group circulating a referendum petition that seeks to repeal the Bar/X annexation may be willing to cease its efforts if the council will put the question on the May 3 ballot, said Toni Kronberg, one of the initiators of the referendum.She quizzed the council, though, on whether it would agree to put the question on the ballot and then pull a fast one – withdrawing the question after the referendum circulators suspend their efforts.”If I voted to put it on the ballot, I would not vote to pull it off,” Richards said.Klanderud agreed, calling it a matter of trust.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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