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Elections

Growth initiative debate extended after hearing

Second administrative session to discuss situation set for Sept. 7

Posted

Lakewood's City Clerk, Margy Greer, extended the debate over a controversial measure to place a 1 percent annual limit on residential growth and return decisions on large multifamily projects to city council following a two hour administrative hearing on the morning of Aug. 31.

Dennis Polk, counselor for Steve Dorman, who filed a challenge against the initiative, and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, counselor for Cathy Ketner, board member of Lakewood Neighborhood Partnerships, a nonprofit that created the ordinance, laid out arguments but could not come to any agreement on the situation after two hours.

Greer, with the advice of Mark Grueskin, who was serving as legal adviser to the clerk, added an additional hearing at 9:15 a.m. on Sept. 7, and one for final statements on Sept. 11.

"I appreciate the expedited efforts by both counsels to provide prehearing briefs. They were quite substantial, but there open issues that haven't quite been addressed," Grueskin said. "It would advisable to present you with time to address very specific legal issues that haven't yet been addressed."

The extra week would allow both lawyers a chance to research a variety of questions, including the full extent of Lakewood's home rule authority in matters of elections, and the authority of a city clerk to rule on matters of constitutionality, as well as subpoena the more than 30 petition circulators.

Dorman, vice chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party, filed the challenge because he said people who signed the petition weren't made fully aware of the contents of the measure.

His challenge also alleges the ordinance would "subject the City to numerous claims of unconstitutional taking under the Colorado Constitution and Constitution of the United States of America" and is an unreasonable restraint of property rights.

"You cannot ask citizens to vote on something that on its face is patently unconstitutional," Polk said. "The ordinance is over 4,000 words and 14 pages, and the short summary petitioners showed people was not an adequate explanation."

The Lakewood Neighborhood Partnerships submitted 6,192 signatures of registered Lakewood voters, which was found to be enough to move it forward, either to approval by city council or to the ballot in November.

In his statements, Gessler said the city approved the petition language, so the complaints against the summary are too little, too late, and should have been brought forward earlier in the process.

"If there are conflicts with the city code and ordinance, that would be worked out if and when the measure passes. First, people need to have the chance to vote on it."

It was unclear at press time whether the court challenge would create a timing problem for the city to place the ordinance on the November ballot, but Gessler and his clients said they were very cognizant of the time crunch, and eager to get the issue resolved as soon as possible.

Both the petitioners and challenger voiced concern about whether or not a city clerk could make a decision like this, and investigating that was part of the "assignment" Grueskin gave both sides before the meeting ended.

Either side will be able to appeal the city clerk's decision to district court once it is made.

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