City Attorney trying to avoid overlapping special election with presidential or state primary elections.
An election to decide Brown Ranch Annexation could happen at the end of March or early April, based on a timeline laid out by Steamboat Springs City Attorney Dan Foote and moved forward by City Council on Tuesday.
In October, Council approved Brown Ranch Annexation without referring it to a public vote after initially planning to send it to voters. The Let Steamboat Vote petition campaign spent the next month gathering signatures to require annexation go to a public vote.
The city declared the petition sufficient on Nov. 27 and first discussed how to proceed on Tuesday. Foote recommended City Clerk Julie Franklin officially present the petition to Council next week on Dec. 12 and then have Council decide on an election date at its Jan. 9 meeting. Council unanimously agreed to move forward with this timeline on Tuesday.
At the Jan. 9 meeting, Council also has the option of simply repealing the annexation ordinance rather than sending it to voters, though repealing the ordinance was not given serious consideration on Tuesday.
When Council meets on Jan. 9, it starts a clock that requires the election to take place between 30 and 90 days. That means the vote would need to take place between Feb. 8 and April 8. Foote said staff sees March 26 as the ideal election date, but April 2 could work as well.
Foote said part of the consideration for those dates was due to Colorado’s Presidential Primary on March 5 and the State Primary on July 25. A Brown Ranch question cannot be placed on a primary ballot, so having an election on or near either of those dates could cause confusion for voters, Foote said. Running the election the same day as the March Primary would also be difficult because the county’s election judges wouldn’t be available for the city to use, Foote said.
Members of the petitioner’s committee stressed that the vote should happen as early as possible, with former council member Heather Sloop saying in public comment it should happen in early March if not February.
“We heard constantly from the housing authority that we could not put this off because grants were at stake and all this stuff was at stake because of timing,” Sloop said. “If timing is of the essence for grants and all these things, why would you put this off any longer than you need to?”
“I encourage you to get this on the ballot as soon as you possibly can,” said Jim Engelken, a member of the petitioners committee.
Yampa Valley Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley said he supported the timeline Foote had laid out.
“We’re not suggesting that this is being delayed. We want to have the community vote on this,” Peasley said. “I’m looking at [Franklin] and [Foote] and their recommendation on how they can run a fair and proper election and we think their recommendations are good ones.”
Before public comment, council member Joella West reminded those in Centennial Hall and those tuning in online that comments should be reserved about the election date. That didn’t stop several commenters from spending much of their three minutes talking about why they oppose Brown Ranch.
“I don’t necessarily appreciate the opportunity for everybody to come up here and just spout off and wax poetic about the project when what we’re talking about is the date for the election,” Peasley said. “I think it’s important we have a community discussion about this and whenever the election is, I’m looking forward to hearing what the community has to say.”
Council will meet next about the petition on Dec. 12, according to the schedule agreed to on Tuesday.
Top Photo Caption: A rendering of neighborhood A at the Brown Ranch. (Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy)