Park Place developer has new plan in works
Would-be parking garage developer Peter Fornell has a new plan to get his Park Place project before voters: Ask the City Council to put it on the ballot.
And if the council refuses, Fornell said he’s prepared to try again with the citizen initiative process – this time with a petition that can withstand a protest challenge.
Fornell represents Hyman Avenue Holdings LLC, which wants to build Park Place, a 99-space, automated parking garage, at 707 E. Hyman Avenue.
He collected the 736 required signatures to force a public vote on the garage proposal after the City Council rejected the project late last year. Last week, however, his petition was deemed invalid by an administrative hearing officer in response to protests against the initiative by several neighbors of the project.
The ordinance Fornell hoped to put before voters – the same one the council rejected – contained a number of components that aren’t valid subjects for a citizen initiative, the hearing officer concluded.
The City Council, however, could put the ordinance on the ballot, Fornell noted. The government isn’t bound by the same limitations that apply to a citizen initiative.
It’s obvious the registered voters of Aspen support putting Park Place to a public vote, Fornell reasoned, given the number of citizens who signed his petition. The council should acknowledge that sentiment and put the issue on the ballot, he said.
“They’ve seen the signatures come across. It’s clear the citizens want an election,” Fornell said.
If the council puts the matter on the ballot, however, it isn’t legally bound by the results, according to City Attorney John Worcester. It would be an advisory question, though the council could commit to abide by the voters’ wishes, he said.
The city would be legally bound by the results of a ballot measure put forward by a citizen.
If the council refuses his request, Fornell said he’ll draft a new initiative – one that won’t contain the flaws that doomed his first attempt – and collect signatures all over again.
“I’m going to get it right,” he said.
Initially, Fornell said he’d appeal the protest ruling in court. Now, he has backed off on that plan and said he’s confident the voters will back a new petition drive, judging from the response and condolences he has received after last week’s setback.
“I got ripped off. That’s the 100 percent consensus so far,” Fornell said.
Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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