Housing petitions valid
Proposed new rules that would affect Aspen’s future worker housing projects have taken a step closer to the ballot box.A pair of initiative petitions proposing the measures contain sufficient signatures from Aspen voters to force an election, City Clerk Kathryn Koch confirmed Friday.The petitions, circulated by opponents of the city’s planned Burlingame Ranch housing development, were submitted to Koch in early February. She has verified each of them contains the required 736 signatures from registered city voters – 15 percent of the electorate; the petitions’ circulators actually collected roughly 1,000 signatures on each petition, just to make sure they had enough.The next step rests with the City Council, which could adopt the ordinances proposed by the two initiatives or put the measures before voters. Of the two choices, the latter appears likely. The ordinances could appear on the city’s May 3 ballot.Koch said she’ll report that the petitions have been “certified” to the council on Monday. A protest period, during which the petitions or signatures can be challenged, extends until March 14, Koch said.Whether the petitions will face a legal challenge remains to be seen. City Attorney John Worcester expressed doubt early on as to whether the measures are proper subjects for an initiative.”I think they’d have a difficult time if they were challenged in court,” he said yesterday.The ordinances contained in the petitions will probably need to be enacted – either by the council or the voters – before a court would consider intervening in response to a legal challenge, Worcester added.Also on the horizon is a referendum petition, now being circulated, that seeks to repeal the annexation of land associated with Burlingame. If that effort results in a ballot measure, a special election may be necessary. The referendum process probably won’t be finished in time to make the ballot for the city’s regular election in May, Koch said.The city is poised to begin construction of the first phase of housing at Burlingame this spring. Up to 236 condos and single-family homes are planned at the site, located north of the Maroon Creek Club, across Highway 82 from Buttermilk.The two initiative petitions were spurred by opposition to Burlingame, though they don’t address that project specifically.One proposed ordinance would require voter approval of housing developments once the public costs of a project have been analyzed and disclosed. It would apply to projects that exceed 10 units or a public subsidy of $100,000 per unit.The other ordinance would prohibit the city from entering into pre-annexation agreements of the type that established the parameters for Burlingame.Proponents have termed the measures “good governance” policies; opponents predict they’ll have far-reaching, detrimental impacts on city government’s ability to develop affordable housing for the local work force.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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