Will Crossroads be challenged?
VAIL – In 1994, then-Vail resident Art Kittay spoke out against an ordinance passed by the Town Council banning possession of assault weapons. But the council passed the law anyway.”I said, ‘No you’re not, you’re not going to pass it without a vote,'” said Kittay, who now lives in Eagle.The law was “feel-good legislation” during a time when many parts of the country were passing anti-gun laws, Kittay said. So he decided to lead an effort to put the law to a vote. He stood outside the post office gathering signatures until his group had 10 percent of Vail voters – the required number to bring it to a referendum.In a February 1995 special election, voters narrowly upheld the assault-weapons law. That was the last time a petition-driven referendum was held in Vail.But Kittay, now an Eagle resident, said he’s glad the mechanism is in place to challenge council actions.”I think there should be a system for it,” he said. “You petition, you do it the right way.”Another referendum?
The controversial Crossroads plan – now called Solaris – got approval from the Vail Town Council on Tuesday, 19 months after it was first submitted to the town. But if opponents, who object the height and bulk of the proposal, gather enough signatures to force a vote, Solaris’ fate could be up in the air for another three months.No one has yet begun the referendum process for Solaris, Town Clerk Lorelei Donaldson said Wednesday. A special election would cost the town about $5,000 to $6,000, Donaldson said.A committee of five voters must start the process within five days after the town publishes a legal notice announcing the Town Council has considered an issue for the second time, Donaldson said. Such an ad is scheduled for Saturdays Vail Daily, which means a committee has to start the process by Thursday, Donaldson said.Opponents would then have 30 days to gather signatures from 380 Vail voters. An election would then have to take place by late June.The referendum process allows Vail voters to force reconsideration of any ordinance passed by council. If the council doesn’t repeal the law, it then goes to a vote of the people.Last year’s initiativeLast spring, a group of Vail residents tried to prompt an election on the proposed conference center. Rob Ford, a leader of that effort and a former Vail mayor, said the proposal for the conference center had changed drastically from the original proposal approved by voters.”I was absolutely convinced that the majority of individuals in Vail would not support it once they had all the information that was available,” he said.They halted their drive after the Town Council decided on its own to put a do-or-die vote for the conference center on the November ballot. The conference center was resoundingly defeated by voters.
Still, gathering the signatures is a huge undertaking, Ford said.”It is a tremendous amount of work,” he said.And referendum campaigns can be divisive to the community, he said. If the council is representing the majority of the community, referendums shouldn’t happen very often, he said.”You don’t want to be doing this on a regular basis, and if your council is doing a good job, you shouldn’t have to,” he said.In 2002, residents appealed a lower board’s approval of the Middle Creek employee housing complex, which now stand across I-70 from Vail Village. Opponents objected to the project’s height, bulk and density – the same issues opponents to Solaris cite. Town Council denied the Middle Creek appeal, and the building was completed in 2004.In the late ’80s, voters overturned an ordinance that changed business license fees for business owners, said Assistant Town Manager Pam Brandmeyer.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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