Ireland: Let public vote on new land-use code |

Ireland: Let public vote on new land-use code

Allyn Harvey

Voters in Pitkin County will have the final say over changes currently being made to the county’s land-use code if Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland has his way.

Ireland suggested the new rules should go to the voters in August at the same time they will likely be deciding whether or not he should be recalled.

“I think people understand perfectly well whether they want more or less growth and whether there should be impact fees or not,” he told the 20 or so people attending last night’s meeting of the growth-management task force.

And given the response of Ireland’s fellow county commissioners, there’s a fair chance voters will get to vote on the changes.

The task force was convened in late February, about six weeks after the county commissioners adopted a six-month moratorium on development applications for large homes. It includes representatives from different areas of the county and several members of the development community who have been advising county staff and elected officials on how to revise the growth-control sections of the land-use code.

Last night’s meeting focused on a report about the impacts of development on roads and the various ways for making new construction pay for some of its effects. The discussion remained quite technical, livening up only after Ireland proposed the election.

“The voters ought to have their say on it so we can be done with it. Otherwise people will say the changes aren’t valid because they didn’t get a chance to vote on it,” he said.

The proposal was met mostly with resistance from the task force members.

“It’s a good idea, but the people most impacted will say they didn’t get to vote on it,” said task force member Phil Miller, referring to the second-home owners who live here only part time.

Attorney Andy Hecht questioned whether a referendum was the right tool for complex issues like the growth management quota system and mitigation impact fees. Task force member Keith Webster called Ireland’s idea a “noble sentiment,” but also questioned whether the electorate could be fully educated in time for an August election. Webster also worried that the outcome could be swayed by propaganda that misportrays the issues.

“I don’t think you’re going to get the information you want,” said another task force member. “People are going to vote on one issue they like or don’t like.”

Commissioner Leslie Lamont indicated she was willing to consider the idea of an election, but first wants to gauge public reaction to the proposed changes during public hearings next month. Commissioner Patti Clapper also said she’d consider the idea but was worried about putting enormously complex questions before the electorate.

Ireland, who is the subject of a recall campaign that was hatched shortly after the moratorium was adopted, said he felt voters could handle the question. “Let’s just have an election on issues instead of what Mick Ireland wears to school,” he said. Ireland’s foes have said his rude behavior is the real reason for their effort to remove him from office.

“In November, three members of the Board of County Commissioners are up for re-election,” said Commissioner Dorothea Farris. “That seems to be a good opportunity for people to comment on what we’ve done.”

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