No need for another vote on Burlingame

Janet Urquhart

A referendum petition that aimed to put Aspen’s Burlingame Ranch housing project before voters has been ruled both insufficient and moot.It appears city voters won’t be asked to vote again on the worker housing project.Hearing officer Karen Goldman issued a decision Wednesday that invalidates the petition on two grounds: The circulators failed to include a summary as worded and approved by the city clerk, and a May 3 ballot question rendered the referendum moot.Her ruling comes after a protest hearing Friday on several challenges lodged by local resident Frank Peters against the petition.The petition, which sought to put the annexation of the Bar/X Ranch before voters, was circulated by Councilman Terry Paulson and local resident Toni Kronberg. The Bar/X contains a piece of land slated for the Burlingame worker housing development.Goldman’s decision could be appealed in court, but Kronberg on Wednesday said she won’t take that step.”I think I’ll let it stand,” she said.Paulson could not be reached for comment, but Kronberg said he left the decision up to her. Kronberg defended the petition at last week’s hearing; Paulson was unavailable.”He basically said whatever I wanted to do was fine with him,” Kronberg said. “I wanted to go through with the hearing. I thought it was important to stand up for the referendum.”But, Kronberg conceded the May 3 public vote on the annexation of the Bar/X essentially fulfilled the intent of the referendum. The City Council chose to put the question on the ballot; the referendum presented the potential for another election on the same issue.”Even the petitioners agreed that the desired outcome was to have the voters decide,” Goldman noted in her ruling. “The voters did exactly that and they approved the annexation. Therefore, the referendum as written is moot.”Goldman also ruled that the petitioners, Kronberg and Paulson, failed to follow state law when the summary paragraph provided by City Clerk Kathryn Koch was not reproduced on the petitions in the form in which she wrote it.Though the wording was identical, Koch’s version – a title and two bullet points – instead appeared as one run-on sentence devoid of some needed punctuation. Its meaning was no longer clear.Koch testified that she provided the summary through e-mail exchanges with petition activist Bert Myrin. No explanation for the altered format of her summary was provided when Kronberg presented her case.”Alteration of the summary and the failure to submit the first printer’s proof of the petition section to Ms. Koch prior to circulation is more than a casual approach taken by the petitioners to the referendum process, is more than mere sloppiness,” Goldman wrote. “It is a serious defect that can only render the referendum in noncompliance with state statute.”However, Goldman rejected one of the challenges lodged against the petition. Individuals who signed it and those who circulated it failed to include their city and county of residence with their signatures, but Goldman did not consider that omission a fatal flaw.Goldman is secretary of the Colorado Senate; the City Council has hired her on several occasions to preside over protest hearings involving citizen initiative and referendum petitions.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is