New Entrance to Aspen ballot initiative
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Four-lane advocate Jeffrey Evans is exercising his legislative right to bring county voters a new funding request for the Entrance to Aspen in November.
In 2007, Evans proposed two city of Aspen ballot initiatives calling for four-lane fixes at the entrance. And on Wednesday, Evans filed a county ballot initiative to fund either of those four-lane plans with an annual county tax increase of $4.6 million and as much as $38 million total.
If approved, the money would go toward a four-lane highway with two general purpose and two transit or HOV lanes extending from Buttermilk to Seventh and Main streets, including a possible cut-and-cover tunnel and a new Castle Creek bridge, according to the ballot question.
If city voters don’t agree on any plan, the additional county funds could be used for much-needed improvements to county roads, Evans said.
A special hearing officer shot down Evans’ initial four-lane ballot initiatives filed with the city, calling them administrative matters for city staff, not legislative matters for the voters. Evans and Curtis Vagneur then took the matter to district court, where they are awaiting trial.
“Anybody can go out and have any petition filled,” said Janice Vos Caudill, Pitkin County clerk and recorder.
But after consulting with county attorney John Ely and officials from the Colorado Secretary of State department, she told Evans the proposed county initiative would not fly.
Evans’ funding request violates the county home rule charter, which forbids resident initiatives concerning the county budget, annual appropriations or the levying of taxes, Vos Caudill said.
But Evans said he is protected under state law, and he resubmitted the ballot question Wednesday, giving Vos Caudill five days to reply.
Ely said there is some room to debate whether the county’s home rule charter or state laws about ballot initiatives take precedent, but the ultimate decision is up to Vos Caudill, Ely said.
If there’s any dispute it would go to a judge, Ely said.
“Basically, she’s got very limited grounds to reject an initiative,” Evans said.
If Evans gets the go-ahead from Vos Caudill, he would have 45 days to collect signatures and then take the petition to the county commissioners to be certified ” at which time they could adopt the petition by a vote, something Evans said was unlikely, or take the matter to the voters.
Evans insists there would be no need for a new Environmental Impact Statement or a new Record of Decision on the proposed plans for four lanes at the Entrance to Aspen.
“It’s directly out of the menu of choices that [the Colorado Department of Transportation] has evaluated,” Evans said. “There just needs to be the determination on the part of CDOT to go ahead and build.”
That raises the funding question ” something Evans said the new county initiative would solve.
Following a meeting of the Elected Officials Transportation Committee on Thursday, Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said there could be a handful of Entrance to Aspen ballot questions in November. Ireland said he only hopes that Evans comes forward with something that is a valid question.
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