Elections

Growth initiative won't make November ballot

Challenge to city clerk's decision delays addition to ballot

Posted 10/2/17

After clearing its first legal challenge on Sept. 18, it appears the initiative to limit residential growth will not appear on November's ballot.

The delay is the result of a challenge in Jefferson County District Court by Steve Dorman, vice …

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Elections

Growth initiative won't make November ballot

Challenge to city clerk's decision delays addition to ballot

Posted

After clearing its first legal challenge on Sept. 18, it appears the initiative to limit residential growth will not appear on November's ballot.

The delay is the result of a challenge in Jefferson County District Court by Steve Dorman, vice chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party, against City Clerk Margy Greer's decision that the initiative to put a 1 percent annual limit on residential growth and return decisions on large multifamily projects to city council received sufficient signatures in the proper way.

"The question will not be on the ballot as the city cannot proceed with this ill-advised measure," Dorman said. "The proponents have 21 days to respond, after which time an initial hearing will be held, which would most likely set a trial date several months out."

In response, Cathy Kentner, a board member of Lakewood Neighborhood Partnerships, the group that organized the initiative, said the City could file a response and have the appeal thrown out expeditiously.

"For years the community voice in Lakewood has been stifled by developers with big money. This summer people banded together and turned in an initiative which would restore neighborhood voice to large development projects," said Kentner, who is co-petitioner with Anita Springsteen and Heather Wenger. "Big money has sued the City Clerk just to keep Lakewood from voting on this measure in November."

Springsteen sees the suit as an effort to stop Lakewood residents from exercising their voting rights.

"They are sending a message loud and clear that if you petition in the City of Lakewood, you will be punished and silenced," she said. "I believe this is a reflection of citizens’ inability to petition our local government effectively and lack of faith in the voter to be smart enough to make the right choices."

As Greer explains, Lakewood's Municipal Code does not allow for council to take action on an initiative petition while it is under protest or appeal, therefore council cannot vote to approve the petition nor vote to send it to an election.

"The Nov. 7 coordinated election ballots have already been printed and the overseas ballots have already been mailed by the county," she added.

The District Court will make a judgment regarding Greer's decision, so next steps depend on the court's schedule. Greer's best estimate for the cost of putting the question to residents in a special election is about $300,000.

The Lakewood Neighborhood Partnerships submitted more than 7,500 signatures from community members on July 28, and Greer verified 6,192 signatures were sufficient to move it to the ballot at the time.

Dorman filed an initial challenge to the initiative at the end of August because he said people who signed the petition weren't made fully aware of the contents of the measure.

Over two days of hearings on Aug. 31 and Sept. 7, Dennis Polk, counselor for Dorman, argued those who collected the signatures did not follow the city's election rules. The argument rested on the fact that the bulk of the circulators' affidavits were not signed and submitted under oath when they were turned in to a notary, rendering those petitions and signatures not valid.

Countering that argument, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and counsel for Kentner, argued that the act of signing was an affirmation of the validity of signatures, and that not making customers swear an official oath is common practice for notaries.

In a decision announced on Sept. 18, Greer found in favor of the Kentner and her co-petitioners.

"The 'affidavit' form, approved for use by the Clerk for Proponents' circulator page, strictly complied with all criteria and requirements of the Lakewood Ordinance," Greer's decision states. "As such, the petition form used was sufficient as a matter of law."

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