Steamboat’s Referendum 2C would clarify jurisdiction of local courts
October 22, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Referendum 2C, a ballot measure that city of Steamboat Springs voters will be deciding, would allow challenges to the city's land-use decisions to be heard in district court.
In the city, lawsuits challenging the Steamboat Springs City Council's decisions on land use have historically been filed in the 14th Judicial District Court.
A Colorado Supreme Court decision involving Frisco's town charter recently stated that state courts couldn't hear these cases, as they do not have jurisdiction based on a clause within the town's charter. Steamboat's city charter contains the same clause.
If approved, the ballot measure would amend the city's charter to allow land-use decisions to be heard in district court, where governor-appointed district judges would review them.
Though the council has not taken a position on the matter, City Attorney Dan Foote said he believes "there's concern about the appearance of the municipal court judge, who is appointed by the council, reviewing the council's decisions.”
The lack of clarity has impacted a lawsuit currently under litigation between the city and Rocky Mountain Remedies. Rocky Mountain Remedies recently filed a lawsuit challenging a city council decision to reject the dispensary's application to move to a new location on Lincoln Avenue between the mountain and downtown.
In light of the state Supreme Court decision, the city moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that it was not under the district court's jurisdiction, though up until now, that's where similar land use suits have been filed.
"This is not an issue that we really were aware of until recently, so historically, these cases have always been filed in district court," Foote said. "The charter amendment would allow us to continue doing that. If the charter amendment fails, I think we'd have to continue arguing to the district court that these things go to municipal court."
If the amendment fails, Foote said the city would also have to create fee schedules to determine the cost of filing suits in city court.
Referendum 2C was not included in Routt County's Tax Payer's Bill of Rights notification booklet — the half-page pamphlet outlining pros and cons of ballot issues — because it is not a TABOR measure. Foote said TABOR mandates that the booklet only includes the information required by TABOR, so the city had no option to include 2C in the pamphlet.
The city has also created a fact sheet about the measure, which is available online.