Impact-fee petition denied
City stands by decision to uphold request to take plan to voters
Steamboat Springs — The city stood fast behind its charter Tuesday night, deciding to uphold the city clerk’s ruling to deny a group of petitioners its request to take impact fees to the voters.
City Council members felt they had a duty to uphold the city’s charter, even though language in the charter conflicts with language in the state constitution in regard to referendum petitions. While the home rule charter states petitioners need 20 percent of the electorate to sign the petition to force a vote on an issue, the state constitution asks for no more than 10 percent to be required.
Although they acknowledged the discrepancy, council members were unwilling to go around their charter.
The petitioners were able to get 10 percent of the electors to sign but did not reach the 20-percent plateau.
“Considering the home rule charter, we have no choice but to abide by what its provisions are and uphold the ruling of insufficiency,” said Councilman Bud Romberg.
City Attorney Tony Lettunich said the conflict was actually between two sections of the state constitution: one asking for 10 percent and the other giving cities the power to use their charters to guide issues such as referendums.
Lettunich said there is only one legal body presumable the Colorado Supreme Court that decides issues of conflicts in regard to the state constitution and “it’s not the ACLU.” Lettunich was referring to a letter sent to the city by the American Civil Liberties Union claiming the city’s stance on the petition was unconstitutional.
Attorney Bob Weiss, who represents the petitioners, said he still feels the city needs to go by the state constitution, which he thinks sets a maximum at 10 percent.
Norbert Turek, one of the petitioners, said he was disappointed but was not sure whether the group would be going ahead with a challenge to the city’s ruling, which could eventually end up in court.
Discussion at the meeting swung quickly from the role of the two sections of the constitution to the merits of impact fees themselves, with City Council members saying they might be willing to drop the fees if there was enough community support to pass an excise tax for the same purpose. Impact fees, passed by the council June 19, are charged on new development and pay for capital needs caused by growth.
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