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Eagle election still set for April 7

EAGLE — Coronavirus won’t stop democracy in Eagle. It won’t even slow it down.

The Eagle Town Board decided unanimously that the town’s April 7 election would go forward as scheduled.

It’s a mail-in ballot election so there’s not much call for human contact.

It could also be a watershed election. Eagle voters will make three major decisions:

  • Changing the town government’s structure to Home Rule.
  • Whether to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars of the county’s tobacco tax money in the town, or to let Eagle County keep it.
  • Elect a town board. Three of the board’s six seats are open. Scott Turnipseed is running unopposed for mayor.

Keep tobacco tax revenue

Eagle County voters imposed a $4 per pack tax on cigarettes and 40% on all tobacco and nicotine products.

Eagle voters will decide whether to let the county government keep all the money, or whether the tobacco tax revenue generated in Eagle should stay in Eagle.

Eagle’s share of that tax is projected to be around $600,000 the first year. If Eagle voters reject Ballot Issue 2B, that money stays in the county’s coffers, not Eagle’s.

Home rule

Eagle is one of Colorado’s few remaining statutory towns. That means Eagle is a division of the state government and can only exercise powers that are granted by state law.

A home rule charter is essentially a constitution for the town, outlining the powers and authorities the town’s voters grant to its municipal government. So, instead of asking the state before the town can act, the town can act on its own authority.

Of Colorado’s 271 municipalities, 101 are home rule. Those 101 home rule communities are home to more than 90% of Colorado’s town residents.

Under the home rule charter, the town board would still be non-partisan and seven members — six board members and the mayor.

A home rule charter also cannot authorize any new taxes, and does not fiddle with the state’s TABOR regulations that require voters to approve tax increases.

Eagle County towns have different plans for elections to deal with COVID-19 shutdown

EAGLE COUNTY — Municipal elections in Eagle, Gypsum and Minturn are just three weeks away and each of these Eagle County communities has its own COVID-19 approach for the April 7 event.

Eagle

The town of Eagle had already planned a mail-in ballot and its election plan is proceeding, for the most part, unchanged.

“Ballots were mailed from our printer on Monday,” said Eagle Town Clerk Jenny Rakow. “We are proceeding as normal with that.”

Because Eagle Town Hall is closed to public traffic, voters can drop off their ballots at the locked utility payment box located in the parking lot behind Town Hall. Additionally, residents can choose to mail back ballots.

Rakow expects Election Day will present some social distancing challenges as election judges verify and count ballots. To aid that process, judges will begin to presort ballots next week to help with the Election Day returns.

To learn more about the Eagle municipal election, contact Rakow at jenny.rakow@townofeagle.org.

Gypsum

Gypsum’s April 7 vote is planned as a polling place election, which presents obvious issues in the age of COVID-19 social distancing recommendations.

Along with the problem of people congregating at the polls, Gypsum Town Manager Jeremy Rietmann said he is concerned about disenfranchising voters because people will be afraid to come out to cast ballots or in isolation on Election Day.

Rietmann is working with the town attorney to determine if the town will proceed with its election or if there is a way to postpone it to a specific, future date. If a postponement is an option, Rietmann said the town will likely conduct its municipal election with a mail-in ballot.

For more information about the Gypsum municipal election, contact Gypsum Town Clerk Danette Schlegel at danette@townofgypsum.com.

Minturn

With its estimated 1,100 residents and approximately 800 registered voters, Minturn was planning a polling place election on April 7. Now the town has a different action plan.

“While we are a polling place election, one of the caveats is that we can do absentee applications and ballots,” said Minturn Town Clerk Jay Brunvand. “It’s one of the procedures that is allowed for in a polling place election.”

So to offer a COVID-19 work-around, Minturn wants everyone to vote by absentee ballot.

“We are really trying to get the word out that you can vote early if you get your absentee ballot,” he said. The town has already collected more than 40 ballots, twice the number of absentee ballots submitted in its last municipal election. So far, he said Minturn residents have been appreciative of this alternative voting plan

Speaking of Minturn’s last municipal election, a total of 204 votes were cast. Brunvald said that manageable number is one of the reasons why the community believes it can reach citizens to let them know about the absentee voting plan.

“I would hate to try to do something like this in Denver,” Brumvald noted.

Brumvald can be reached through the town’s website at minturn.org.

Avon styrofoam ban stalled as Donovan bill fails in committee

The Avon Town Council has unanimously passed an ordinance to ban Styrofoam containers for take-out food in town, but the bill that would make it effective was voted down by the Colorado General Assembly’s Local Government Committee.

On Tuesday, state Sens. Jeff Bridges and Joann Ginal voted in favor of SB 20-010, a “repeal on blastic regulation in local governments,” and Sens. Larry Crowder, Don Coram and Angela Williams voted against it.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Kerry Donovan, of Vail, and also received support from Rep. Dylan Roberts, who lives in Avon.

Ban on bans

Ordinance No. 19-11 in Avon, which bans Styrofoam take-out food containers for prepared foods, is “conditioned upon the repeal of a Colorado Revised Statute 25-17-104 that prohibits local government regulation of plastics,” the town wrote in a press release issued Tuesday.

However, the town added, House Bill 20-1162, a statewide ban on the use of expanded polystyrene containers for prepared foods, is also under consideration by the Colorado legislature, which would make ordinance 19-11 unnecessary.

Colorado Communities for Climate Action, which represents Avon, Vail and 30 other cities and counties across Colorado, supported SB 20-010.

“It’s a lost opportunity,” Jacob Smith, the organization’s executive director, told the Denver Post on Tuesday. “This is really important to our members that want local government to have the ability to make these decisions.”

Partisan divide

A culture-war issue similar to the plastic straw debate, efforts to regulate plastic products are often decided along party lines, with Democrats in favor of legislation designed to reduce plastic use.

Williams, however, is a Democrat. In voting against SB 20-010, Williams told the Vail Daily she believes Colorado should have statewide uniformity in addressing problem plastic litter and single-use plastics.  

“Keeping track of all 96 municipal ordinances while distributing various plastic products to thousands of retail locations would be problematic,” Williams said.

Statewide approach

In a phone interview with the Vail Daily in January, Donovan — who represents Avon in the legislature — acknowledged that a statewide ban could also be an effective approach to rid communities of single-use Styrofoam containers.

“But I think when it comes to some of these ideas, some communities are ready to move forward, some communities aren’t,” Donovan said. “Some communities have a bit more affluent populations that can more easily adjust to some of these decisions, so I think this is the right pathway to allow communities to decide how they want to move forward when it comes to how they deal with materials in their communities and the environment.”

Williams also referenced House Bill 20-1162, a statewide prohibition of food establishments’ use of polystyrene, which was introduced on Jan. 21.

“While SB 20-010 did not pass out of committee, this effort has not been brought to a halt as there are other efforts to address this problem,” she said.

Eagle voters to decide fate of home rule proposal

EAGLE — The town’s home rule proposal is headed to Eagle voters in April.

The Town Board made it official this week, voting unanimously to put the proposed home rule charter before voters on the April municipal election ballot.

The Town Board’s vote follows months of work by an elected home rule charter commission that created the document, and two public hearings.

Scott Turnipseed made the motion. Kevin Brubeck seconded it and the Town Board approved it.

“We’re off and running,” Anne McKibbin said.

Community constitution

Essentially, a home rule charter is the community’s constitution.

“This would become the foundational and structural document for the town going forward,” charter commission member Charlie Wick said.

The charter outlines the powers and authorities the town’s voters grant to its municipal government.

Right now, Eagle and Red Cliff are Eagle County’s only statutory towns, operating as a division of the state government. Statutory towns can only exercise powers that are granted by state law. State legislators come and go, but their policies remain.

Home rule communities operate independently of the state government.

“We can do it on our own,” Wick said.

The town would still need voter approval for tax increases — as required by the Colorado Constitution’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which has been enshrined in Colorado’s constitution since 1992.

Statewide, 93.44% of Coloradans who live in cities and towns reside in a home rule municipality, according to the Colorado Municipal League.

Eagle already supports it

Most Eagle voters already support the idea. A survey by Magellan Strategies before the home rule charter commission started its work found that 74% of Eagle voters support home rule after learning that federal and state laws — such as TABOR — still apply, but the town would have the power to create its own laws and policies without state interference.

Contested elections loom for Eagle, Gypsum and Minturn

EAGLE COUNTY — Voters in Eagle, Gypsum and Minturn will have an array of candidates to consider when they head to the polls in April for their respective municipal elections.

Monday was the deadline for candidates in the three towns to turn in their nominating petitions and be listed on the ballot. Municipal elections in the three communities are planned for Tuesday, April 7.

Eagle Town Board

The Eagle mayor race is the only uncontested municipal election this spring. Current Eagle Town Board member Scott Turnipseed is the sole candidate for the post. Because Turnipseed is currently a member of the Town Board and he has two years remaining on his term, he will resign that post to take over as mayor. The board will then appoint someone to serve the remainder of Turnipseed’s term.

There are eight candidates for the three vacancies on the Eagle Town Board. Two incumbents — Kevin Brubeck and Paul Witt — are not running for re-election. The third incumbent, W. Mikel “Pappy” Kerst, will seek another term. In addition to Kerst, the candidates are Kyle Hoiland, Ellen Bodenheimer, Yvonne Schwartz, Charlie Gundlach, David Gaboury, Adam Palmer and Maren Cerimele

Gypsum Town Council

In Gypsum, seven candidates will compete for three four-year Town Council seats.

Tom Edwards, Chris Huffman and Marisa Sato currently hold Town Council seats and all three are seeking re-election. The other four candidates are Kathleen Brendza, Lori McCole, Jesse Meryhew and Cicero DaSilva.

Minturn Town Council

In Minturn, voters will elect three Town Council members to four-year terms, one Town Council member to a two-year term and a mayor for a two-year term.

Incumbent mayor John K. Widerman IV is seeking re-election and will face challenger Gordon “Hawkeye” Flaherty.

Incumbent Town Council members Terry Armistead, George Brodin and Eric Gotthelf will seek re-election, facing newcomers Darin Tucholke, Spence Neubauer and Gusty Kanakis.

The Vail Daily will be publishing candidate profiles for the Eagle, Gypsum and Minturn municipal elections.

Avon considers worker housing for Wildwood, but court proceedings and an election may be required

AVON — The town recently asked local professionals to study its Wildwood land to see if, and how much, housing can be constructed there.

Marcin Engineering and Martin Manley Architects have determined a maximum of 14 townhomes could be constructed across two tracts of town-owned land in the area, which is located along a hairpin turn on West Wildridge Road in the part of the Wildridge neighborhood known as Wildwood. The full findings of the housing feasibility study will be presented to the Avon Town Council in a work session on Tuesday.

A long list of requirements, including amendments to the town’s comprehensive plan and the Wildridge PUD, would be required to make the housing a reality. Town staff has recommended that the council move forward with these steps.

The two tracts of land — known Tract N and Tract Q — are identified as open space and low-density residential, respectively, in the plan’s future land use map. A public process demonstrating compliance with town regulations is required to edit the map.

Court action

Currently, community housing is not included as an allowed use for open space in the area, according to the protective covenants in the Wildridge PUD.

In a memo to the Town Council from Town Panner David McWilliams and Planning Director Matt Pielsticker, the idea to amend the language of the covenants to permit community housing is not recommended.

“The amendment procedures prove difficult as they require obtaining support of 75% of the private property owners in the subdivision,” the planners write. “The covenants were last amended in 1983 when there were far fewer owners and the Wildridge Covenants Committee was still active. Instead of amending or condemning the covenants, it is recommended to pursue quiet title action. This would eliminate the restrictions within the covenants. This process involves bringing action though the Eagle County Court. The Town is required to demonstrate the circumstances have changed in Wildridge since the covenants were originally filed (i.e. the Town assumes land use authority over Wildridge, Annex maintenance facility was constructed, etc.) to warrant the elimination of restrictions for the tracts.”

Ballot action

An election is also recommended because, while the town owns the land currently, if Avon needed to transfer or sell the land to a developer to see the project through, it would need to first obtain the approval of a majority of Avon voters to do so.

That’s according to the town’s charter. The town-owned properties plan also calls for housing to be explored in the town’s Swift Gulch parcels, so it could come up again, and it also came up recently in the town core, as referenced in the memo.

“While it is not comparable in scale or use, the town’s electorate voted to authorize the disposal of public property adjacent to the Seasons building for the purpose of private development a few years ago,” the authors noted.

Eagle readies home rule charter

EAGLE — Eagle’s proposed home rule charter does not give the town the power to raise taxes — or add new taxes — without a public vote.

Eagle’s home rule charter commission wrapped up weeks of work to create what amounts to the town’s new constitution. Among the first questions the commission tackled weeks ago, and one of the last things they made certain of during Wednesday’s final commission meeting, was whether anything in the charter allows the town to raise taxes without public approval.

Satisfied that it does not, Eagle’s home rule charter commission voted unanimously to approve the proposed charter and send it to the Town Board. The sparse crowd at Wednesday’s meeting applauded the commission’s decision.

The Town Board is expected to approve it during Tuesday’s meeting, placing it before Eagle voters on the town’s April municipal election ballot.

Doesn’t tinker with TABOR

During this week’s final home rule charter commission meeting, member Charlie Wick told his fellow members that the question about taxes is the one he faces most.

A home rule charter cannot authorize any new taxes, several commission members explained, and does not fiddle with Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights that has been enshrined in Colorado’s constitution since 1992.

Home rule would remove the town from being subject to the whims of the state legislature, said Brent McFall, the home rule commission chairman.

A community’s constitution

A home rule charter is essentially a constitution for the town, outlining the powers and authorities the town’s voters grant to its municipal government.

For now, Eagle and Red Cliff are Eagle County’s only statutory towns. That means they are a division of the state government, and can only exercise powers that are granted by state law. State legislators come and go, but their policies remain.

So, instead of asking the state before the town can act, the town can act on its own authority, McFall said.

Statewide, 93.44% of Coloradans who live in cities and towns reside in a home rule municipality, according to the Colorado Municipal League.

The basics of the town government would not change, McFall said. The Town Board would still be nonpartisan and comprised of seven members — six board members and the mayor.

Eagle already supports it

Most Eagle voters already support the idea. A survey by Magellan Strategies before the home rule charter commission started its work found that 74% of Eagle voters support home rule after learning that federal and state laws — such as TABOR — still apply, but the town would have the power to create its own laws and policies without state interference.

The same survey found that 71% of Eagle voters support home rule to allow residents to control the way the town changes and grows.

Eagle County’s 2020 election season will begin in March

EAGLE COUNTY — If you tell Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Regina O’Brien that it’s a little early to be talking about this year’s elections, she’ll just laugh.

O’Brien is in charge of the county’s elections. She and her staff are already waist-deep in preparing for all the voting — and its attendant paperwork — to come this year.

That voting starts with the March 3 presidential primary. That primary puts Colorado into a multi-state “Super Tuesday” group that will select a large group of delegates to both the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

While President Donald Trump is almost certain to earn the Republican Party’s nomination for a second term, O’Brien noted there are six candidates on that party’s primary ballot.

The picture is more jumbled on the Democratic ballot. O’Brien said at the moment there are 17 names on that ballot. And, she added, the ballot may see another name or two added to the list. The current preliminary ballot also features a couple of candidates who have announced their withdrawal from the race, but haven’t yet filed the appropriate state paperwork. If withdrawn candidates’ names end up on the final ballot, votes for them won’t be counted.

Just about any registered voter can participate in the presidential primary.

O’Brien said that a 2016 state ballot measure opened party primaries to unaffiliated voters. Those with a party preference can check their voter registration on the state’s GoVoteColorado.gov website. People can request a party-specific ballot on that site. The deadline is Feb. 3 to make that request.

Registered voters who don’t make that request will receive presidential primary ballots from both parties. But a ballot can be returned for only one party. If you submit ballots for both parties, neither ballot will be counted.

Turning toward local

The March 3 presidential primary is for presidential preference only. The state’s local and state nomination process starts on March 7, when both Republicans and Democrats hold their county caucuses.

Eagle County Republican chairwoman Kaye Ferry said Republicans will hold their caucuses in Eagle and Basalt. Melissa Decker, Ferry’s Democratic Party counterpart, said that party will meet at Vail, EagleVail, Edwards, Eagle, Gypsum and Basalt.

Those caucuses are the start of the local political year. That’s where party members select people to participate in county assemblies at the end of March.

Those gatherings will discuss party platforms and nominees for county and state offices.

Only three county offices are on this year’s ballot. County voters will select two county commissioners, and help pick the Fifth Judicial District Attorney.

At the county level, incumbent Democrats Matt Scherr and Kathy Chandler-Henry are expected to seek re-election.

District Attorney Bruce Brown is term-limited and can’t run again. Deputy District Attorney Heidi McCollum, a Democrat, has announced she’s seeking the job.

No Republican has yet announced a run for that office.

There are no declared candidates yet for the county commission positions. And no one yet has announced a challenge for House District 26. That seat in the Colorado Legislature is currently held by Democrat Dylan Roberts.

Ferry said she’s talked with several people about running for those offices. But, she added, she expects people to make their candidacies official later this year.

Ferry said candidates recently have tended to make “last-minute” announcements at county assemblies.

From local to state

Those who participate in the March 3 caucuses and subsequent county assemblies can then be picked to participate in the parties’ state conventions, to be held in April.

Those conventions will finalize candidates to participate in the state’s primary election, set for June 30.

That primary will winnow candidates for offices around the state, as well as county offices if needed. 

The biggest state primary race is likely to be the Democrats’ selection of a challenger to incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Third Congressional District incumbent Scott Tipton, a Republican, and Second Congressional District incumbent Joe Neguse, a Democrat, are expected to defend their seats. Both representatives’ districts include portions of Eagle County.

Check your address

If you’re voting in either the presidential or state primaries, O’Brien encouraged voters to check the address in their voter registration information.

O’Brien noted that a number of voters are out of town before November elections, and have ballots mailed to where they’ll be then. Those people need to ensure their correct mailing address is included in their voter registration information.

Another change this year applies to those casting their first votes. People who are 17 now, but will turn 18 before the Nov. 3 general election, can vote in the presidential and state primaries.

O’Brien urged people voting in any of the primary or general elections not to wait until the last minute. Ballots returned by mail must be delivered to the clerk and recorder’s office no later than 7 p.m. on those election days.

But, O’Brien said, most voters use the county’s five 24-hour drop boxes. And, she added, voter information is available both on the county’s website and from people in clerk and recorder’s offices in Eagle, El Jebel and Avon.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.

Busy ballot looms this spring for Gypsum voters

GYPSUM — The town of Gypsum’s 2020 municipal election should feature a busy ballot.

Voters in the community will elect three members of the Gypsum Town Council on April 7, and it remains to be seen if it will be a contested vote. Nomination petitions are now available for the three- to four-year terms and are due by 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27.

With the election already planned for April 7, this week the Gypsum Town Council gave initial approval to a proposal for six ballot questions. One of the questions is a spending issue; the other five are revisions to the town’s home rule charter.

Sweetwater Lake

In November, the Gypsum Town Council pledged $20,000 to the Save the Lake campaign, which is working to raise money to purchase the popular Sweetwater Lake Resort. In April, the town will ask voters if they support donating an additional $80,000 to the effort.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust is shepherding local preservation effort for the Sweetwater Lake deal. The price tag for the 488-acre property is in excess of $9 million. There are dual fundraising efforts currently underway for purchase. The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, is working with the White River National Forest to request a significant amount of the purchase price from the National Land and Water Conservation Fund. Additionally, there is a $3.5 million local fundraising campaign spearheaded by the land trust that would provide matching funds to spur the federal request.

When the Denver-based group that owns the property agreed to give preservation a chance, and the Conservation Fund secured a contract to purchase the property from the sellers amid competing bids from private developers. A partnership consisting of the Conservation Fund, the Eagle Valley Land Trust, the U.S. Forest Service and community partners has the collective goal to prevent the private development of Sweetwater Lake Resort. Eventually, the property would be sold to the Forest Service and integrated into the surrounding White River National Forest.

As part of their fundraising push, representatives from the Eagle Valley Land Trust note that for decades, Sweetwater Lake Resort functioned as a quasi-public amenity. However, after a development proposal to build more than 240 homes and an 80-room hotel and golf course at the site failed, an investor group took over ownership and shut down access to the lake and cabins and listed the property for sale.

The town of Eagle pledged $10,000 toward the project in 2020, and according to the land trust, more than $700,000 has been donated toward the preservation.

Charter changes

The other five ballot issues deal with changes to Gypsum’s home rule charter.

“The town has a 38-year-old charter. It is older than your town manager,” said Gypsum town attorney Bob Cole. “It has served you well.”

But changes in the community and advancements in technology are prompting the suggested charter changes, Cole said.

Here’s a rundown of the five proposed changes:

  • Election timelines: Colorado HB15-1130 changed the timelines for filing nomination petitions, and this change would reflect the state law.
  • Initiative and referendum processes: This change would clarify the rules for the processes and reflect state regulation.
  • Powers and duties of the mayor: “Back in 1982, Gypsum had one or two employees and the mayor, and they ran everything,” Cole said. “The way your charter is written, the mayor has the power to come in and run the show, but that hasn’t happened recently.” Gypsum now operates in a more conventional manner, with the mayor and town council making policy and the town manager implementing their actions. The charter change reflects that practice, Cole said.
  • Hard copy or electronic copies of ordinances: This change allows the town to provide ordinance copies both electronically or by hard copy.
  • Posting and publication: This change would designate the town’s website as the official location for any posting or publication of notices and documents. Currently, the Eagle Valley Enterprise and the Vail Daily are the town’s official publication venue.

The Town Council unanimously passed the ballot question ordinance on first reading, and the issue will come back before the council at its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 28, for final approval.

Election 2020: Here are the Vail Valley towns holding elections this year

EAGLE COUNTY — In addition to county, state and federal elections, all but one of the valley’s towns will hold elections this year. The only exception is Vail, which holds odd-year elections.

Here’s a look at what town voters will decide this year:

Avon

Avon’s Town Council election will take place Nov. 3.

Jake Wolf and Jennie Fancher are term-limited and can’t run again this year. Amy Phillips is finishing a four-year term and is eligible to run again.

Eagle

Three seats on the seven-member Town Board are up for election in the April 7 election.

The terms of Mikel Kerst, Kevin Brubeck and Paul Witt expire this year, as well as Mayor Anne McKibbin. None are term-limited.

Town voters will also determine if Eagle adopts a home-rule charter. That move would allow the town more flexibility in how it handles its business.

Eagle will hold a mail ballot election, but ballots can be dropped off at town hall.

Gypsum

Three seats are up for election in an April 7 polling place election.

Terms are expiring for Marisa Sato, Chris Huffman and Tom Edwards.

Minturn

The polling place election is set for April 7. There are five positions available. The mayor’s job, which John Widerman currently holds, comes up for election every two years.

In addition, the seats of George Brodin, Terry Armistead, Eric Gotthelf and Chelsea Winters are up for election this year. The top three finishers earn four-year terms. The fourth-place finisher serves a two-year term.

Red Cliff

Red Cliff will hold an election for two open seats on its board of trustees on April 7.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.