Entrance to Aspen petitions short by some 400 signatures

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The petition drive to force a new vote regarding the Entrance to Aspen is about 400 signatures short, according to City Clerk Kathryn Koch.

The petitions turned in last month by the citizens behind the campaign contained 394 certified signatures from registered Aspen voters, according to Koch. Another 179 names were invalid.

That means the group needs to collect another 403 signatures. Petition drive organizer Cliff Weiss said Monday that supporters of the initiative will be out in force in the coming days, hitting some of Aspen’s denser neighborhoods in search of additional signatories.

“I get phone calls all day from people wanting to help, wanting to circulate petitions,” he said. “I’ve got more than 30 volunteers.”

The group plans to knock on doors in the Centennial, Hunter Creek, Smuggler and Cemetery Lane neighborhoods. In addition, someone will be stationed at the post office on Wednesday through Friday from noon to 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 to 5 p.m., he said.

The petitioners are hoping to force the council to repeal a resolution that grants an easement to the state for the realignment of Highway 82 across open space on the west side of town.

The petition proposes an ordinance that repeals the resolution and prevents the city from turning the easement over to the Colorado Department of Transportation unless the property transfer is approved by voters.

“Lots of people feel strongly about this. That’s the message I can’t seem to get across to Tom and Tony,” Weiss said.

Councilmen Tom McCabe and Tony Hershey, along with Tim Semrau, voted in favor of the resolution that grants the easement.

“I just intend to make sure that they hear from as many people as I can get,” Weiss said.

Weiss contends that past votes on the Entrance to Aspen have produced “murky” results and that a clear ballot question that polls citizens on what they want for the entrance needs to come before anything is built.

Many opponents of the approved plan for the entrance claim it does not have public support today, though it won voter approval in 1996. The entrance plan calls for a two-lane highway and light-rail corridor linking the Maroon Creek roundabout to upper Main Street. The new alignment would cut across the Marolt open space, in part buried in a 400-foot tunnel, and cross Castle Creek over a new bridge.

Though Weiss and his backers hope to send a message to the City Council, their initiative may never find its way onto a ballot, even if the group collects sufficient signatures.

In fact, no one is sure how many signatures the group needs to collect in support of a ballot measure that is apparently illegal in the first place.

According to City Attorney John Worcester, a council resolution can’t be repealed via an ordinance, rendering the ballot measure moot.

That aside, the group needs the signatures of 797 registered city voters for a citizen’s initiative, or 531 signatures for a referendum. The proposed ballot question, however, doesn’t really fit the definition of either an initiative or a referendum, according to Koch.

Weiss said his group will shoot for the higher number required of the initiative process in the hopes that nearly 800 signatures will force the council to rethink its position regardless of the legality of the petition drive.

Although Koch called Weiss yesterday to let him know how many valid signatures the initial petitions contain, the group won’t renew its efforts until after he receives a certified letter from the clerk’s office.

Then, Weiss must notify Koch that he intends to amend the petitions to correct the deficiency. His group has 10 days to collect additional signatures.