Clerk rejects Kronberg referendum petition
Aspen’s city clerk has rejected local activist Toni Kronberg’s proposed referendum on the planned new building at the corner of Galena and Main streets.Kronberg submitted the proposed language for a referendum petition last week, intending to seek enough signatures to force an election on the project. The clerk issues the petition and drafts a summary paragraph.City Clerk Kathryn Koch, however, rejected Kronberg’s petition. In a letter to Kronberg, Koch said the proposed petition “does not seek to repeal a municipal legislative matter in accordance with referendum power reserved to the people by our City Charter or the Colorado Constitution.””My first reaction is bull—-,” Kronberg said last night, promising to appeal her constitutional right to the referendum process in court.Kronberg predicted the Galena and Main project itself would face a separate court challenge from other parties. The ordinance adopted by the City Council that gave the Galena and Main project the go-ahead didn’t contain any new laws that could be repealed through a referendum, according to Koch. The ordinance was entirely administrative in nature and therefore not subject to a referendum.The issue of what’s administrative versus legislative has been the focus of two recent protests lodged against citizen petitions. In both cases, a hearing officer has invalidated the petitions, ruling they addressed administrative matters.State statutes say a city clerk “may” reject a petition because it addresses administrative matters, according to John Worcester, city attorney. In past cases, Koch issued petitions even though she and Worcester had doubts that they would withstand the administrative versus legislative test because they didn’t want to deny the right to petition city government.This is the first time the clerk has rejected a petition, Worcester said. Kronberg’s petition addressed what are clearly ineligible, administrative matters, he said.”This particular ordinance has nothing in it that’s of legislative character,” he said. “It’s not fair to all the people who sign this referendum if it’s not going anywhere.”The ordinance approved by the council gave the project a growth management allocation and a subdivision approval that ensured proper infrastructure upgrades. No lot lines were altered as part of the subdivision.Kronberg contends the referendum deals with a legislative matter that is the proper subject for a referendum petition.”Anytime you have a public hearing on a land-use matter, that’s zoning,” she said.Zoning can be repealed through a referendum. In fact, a referendum petition last year challenged the rezoning for the previously proposed development at the Galena and Main site – a building that included a new visitor center. Voters approved the referendum last November, effectively rejecting that project.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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