Thursday, November 17, 2016

UPDATE: Parks ballot measure down to the wire

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 3:03 PM

click to enlarge A KKTV journalist, left, interviews Save Cheyenne President Richard Skorman after a court hearing today. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A KKTV journalist, left, interviews Save Cheyenne President Richard Skorman after a court hearing today.
Here's a clarification from the city about scheduling of the lawsuit regarding the Protect our Parks measure:
The scheduling conference resulted in a vastly expedited schedule. Court rules, not the City of Colorado Springs, require plaintiffs to pay the costs associated with the matter.
Also, Steve Harris, representing ballot measure group, clarifies the organizations involved:
Save Cheyenne is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that is the plaintiff in the legal challenge to the land exchange. My client is the Protect Our Parks Petition Committee, which is not a 501(c)(3), and the entity pushing for the Charter Amendment. I just wanted to make clear that these are two separate organizations.

————ORIGINAL POST 3;03 P.M. THURSDAY, NOV. 17, 2016——————

The city of Colorado Springs is doing what it can to reduce the time available for circulating petitions for a parks ballot measure, while also soaking the plaintiffs who want to place the measure on the April 4 city election ballot.

During a court hearing Thursday afternoon, the city sought more time to file legal arguments in a lawsuit filed by Save Cheyenne, which takes issue with the city Title Review Board's ruling to omit a clause in the measure that would make it retroactive to May 1, 2016.

That's important, because the Protect our Parks (POPs) measure — which calls for voter approval of all sales and trades of city park land — would then encompass Strawberry Fields. The 189-acre open space was approved by City Council for trade to The Broadmoor on May 24.

Today, the city asked for time to have transcripts made of five hours of hearings before the Title Review Board and the Initiative Review Committee. And, under court rules, such a transcript, which in this case will cost $1,050, must be funded by the party who appealed, or in this case Save Cheyenne. (Save Cheyenne, if it prevails, could seek reimbursement from the city.)

Save Cheyenne is a nonprofit comprised of citizens who formed the group amid debate over the land swap earlier this year. The swap gave the city more than 400 acres of wilderness property, trails and trail easements in exchange for Strawberry Fields in Cheyenne Canon. The open space was purchased by the city after voters approved acquisition in 1885.

Save Cheyenne maintains in a separate lawsuit the city's May 24 approval cannot stand, because disposal of park land requires a vote of the people.

In the action at hand today in court, Save Cheyenne is appealing the Title Review Board's ruling to eliminate a portion of a petition that goes back in time to render as moot the land swap Council action.

Judge Michael McHenry set a deadline for all legal filings for Dec. 2. More than 15,000 signatures of registered voters of the city are required to force the measure onto the ballot. Deadline for that is Jan. 4 for the April 4 election.

Assuming Save Cheyenne prevails in getting the retroactive clause reinstated, "That gives us a month or so," Save Cheyenne leader Richard Skorman said after the hearing. "It's cutting it close, but if that's the best we can do, we'll give it a shot."

That's not to say that petitioners couldn't take longer — up to three months — but that would result in the calling of a special election, estimated to cost $350,000, and Save Cheyenne folks have said they're goal isn't to cost taxpayers extra money.

If Save Cheyenne doesn't prevail on the retroactive clause debate, supporters could circulate petitions minus that provision, though Save Cheyenne attorney Steve Harris says his clients haven't decided whether to do that.

Harris argued to the court that a transcript of the Title Review Board and IRC hearings isn't needed, because the case will be decided based on the legal arguments, not what was said during those hearings.

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