Time to vote: S curves or straight shot? | AspenTimes.com

Time to vote: S curves or straight shot?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen voters will be asked in November which alignment they prefer for the Entrance to Aspen: the existing one or a new one over open space on the west side of town.

After weeks of debate about what, if anything, to ask Aspenites about the entrance, the council voted 3-2 to put a simple, 26-word question on the ballot. It will read: Which alignment for the Entrance to Aspen do you prefer? (Choose only one.) ?S? Curves (existing alignment); or Modified Direct alignment across the Marolt/Thomas property.

?Why are we putting this question on the ballot? We?ve already conveyed the alignment. What?s the point?? asked Mayor Helen Klanderud, who voted against the ballot question along with Councilman Terry Paulson.

The pair have been on the losing side of several recent council votes regarding the controversial entrance, including the one that directed the city manager to go ahead and convey the easement for a new Highway 82 alignment across the Marolt/Thomas open space to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

A majority of council members favored conveying the easement right of way, reasoning CDOT won?t use it without local support. Delaying the property transfer, they argued, could jeopardize the entrance?s chances for state funding in a new ranking of transportation projects that could be finalized before the Nov. 5 election.

Although Councilmen Tim Semrau, Tony Hershey and Tom McCabe pushed forward on conveyance of the easement, they agreed to gauge public opinion on the entrance again in November. The ballot measure focuses strictly on the alignment and does not propose what should be built.

?It?s an alignment question, not a mode question,? said City Attorney John Worcester. ?The only question here is the alignment.

?No matter how this question comes out, people will interpret this to mean this, that or the other thing,? he predicted.

The ballot question did little to please the handful of citizens at the meeting who support the existing alignment. The Citizens for a Small Town Entrance attempted to halt the conveyance of the easement to CDOT through a citizens initiative that would have forced the city to ask voters for permission to hand over the right of way. The council rejected the initiative; the issue is now the subject of a pending lawsuit.

Some members of the group fear a vote for the existing alignment in November could prove meaningless, since the question approved by the council is advisory.

?It?s an advisory question ? but I?m going to take the advice,? Hershey vowed.

?The question has no legal significance ? it has obvious political significance,? Worcester said.

A vote for the S curves will not supersede the results of a 1996 vote, he confirmed. In that election, voters authorized conveyance of the easement to CDOT for the construction a two-lane parkway and light-rail corridor across the open space. The new stretch of highway would link the Maroon Creek Road roundabout and the upper end of Main Street ? the so-called modified direct alignment, often referred to as the straight shot.

Nor, however, would a vote for the new alignment authorize anything more than what was approved in 1996, according to Worcester.

?It doesn?t authorize new uses for Marolt, nor does it take any away,? he said.

After the council?s vote to put the entrance question on the ballot, Paulson handed shirts out to his council colleagues that members of the Citizens for a Small Town Entrance have been wearing lately. They sport a logo with a slash across the words ?Straight Shot.? Below that symbol are the words ?S Curves Are Sexy.?

The council received white shirts with the exception of Klanderud, who typically dresses in black. She got a black shirt.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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