Petitioners take on new Aspen city offices
Foes of a new Aspen government building will be scrambling for the next few days to collect enough signatures to place the issue before voters in a special election.
The City Clerk’s Office on Friday gave the go-head to referendum petitioners Steven Goldenberg and Marcia Goshorn. They don’t have much time. Their deadline is 4:59 p.m. Monday, before the end of business.
The petitioners will need to gather at least 640 signatures from registered Aspen voters in order to keep their mission alive. The Aspen Home Rule Charter requires that referendum petitions are signed by at least 10 percent of the number of residents who were registered to vote in the most recent municipal election, which was May 2. In that election, Aspen had 6,400 registered voters, according to the Clerk’s Office.
“We’ll be putting on our hiking books and we’ve got our clipboards,” said Snowmass Canyon’s Toni Kronberg, who has spoken out against the civic offices in numerous City Council meetings.
She said gathering that many signatures is “almost a physical impossibility, but we will try.”
The referendum petition aims to have the electorate decide on the city’s plan to construct 28,400 square feet of new space for civic offices on Rio Grande Place near the Pitkin County Library. The city also will use another 6,400 square feet of existing space on Rio Grande Place for future offices.
The City Council, by a 4-0 vote at roughly 11 p.m. April 3, passed Ordinance 4. In a letter addressed Friday to Goldenberg and Goshorn, City Clerk Linda Manning suggests the petition’s merits are on shaky legal ground.
That’s because City Attorney Jim True “indicates he has serious doubts as to whether any section of Ordinance 4 is a legislative matter subject to the referendum power reserved to the people,” Manning’s letter says.
No Colorado case law addresses the matter in question, so True directed Manning to make the call on approving the petition. Because the city’s property development is at the center of the dispute, the city could protest the petition, Manning wrote.
Manning and True were out of the office Friday and could not be reached for comment. Mayor Steve Skadron, who voted in favor of the ordinance, also could not be reached.
The petitioners don’t have much time to turn in the signatures because the city added the ordinance to the Home Rule Charter on Friday. Technically, Friday would have been the deadline, but Manning extended it until the end of Monday and “we will address the issue of the deadline at that time,” her letter says. “If you are unable to collect adequate signatures, the issue would be moot.”
Before the City Council’s vote of approval last month, Kronberg argued that it would be violating the 2006 Civic Master Plan because the plan prohibits civic offices where they are proposed; the space is instead designated for affordable housing or neighborhood-commercial development. She also contended the city was encroaching open space with the development.
The project’s estimated cost ranges from $35.9 million to $38.6 million, $21 million of which would be paid with city cash and the rest through financing. That also includes a gutting and remodel of the existing City Hall at the corner of East Hopkins Avenue and Galena Street.
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