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Hal Brown, former Salida city councilman, submitted a draft referendum protesting Ordinance 2018-04, which approved the Salida Crossings planned development at the former Town and Country car dealership on U.S. Highway 50 near the intersection with state Highway 291.

Brown submitted the referendum and associated petition March 29. Salida Deputy City Clerk Lynda Travis validated the petition with a Letter of Sufficiency.

Travis issued a written statement affirming that Brown is now able to collect signatures for his referendum petition, noting that he will need to collect 227 verified signatures to prevent the ordinance from taking effect.

Travis references Colorado Revised Statute 31-11-105: “No ordinance passed by the legislative body of any municipality shall take effect before thirty days after its final passage and publication … .

“Within thirty days after final publication of the ordinance, a referendum petition protesting against the effect of the ordinance or any part thereof may be filed with the clerk.”

Therefore, Brown has 30 days from the date the ordinance was published to collect 227 signatures, 5 percent of registered Salida voters. Brown said he calculates that date as April 21, a Saturday, making Friday, April 20, the last day to submit the signed petition.

The former councilman said he has 10 people lined up to circulate petitions. “I think there will be a sufficient number of signers.”

If Brown’s petition effort is successful, state statute requires city council to reconsider the ordinance “promptly.” If council again approves the ordinance, it will need to go to a vote between 60 and 150 days “after the final determination of petition sufficiency,” which happened March 29.

The 60-150-day window means a vote would need to be taken between May 28 and Aug. 26, which would require a special election for final approval of the ordinance.

Brown said, “What started this whole initiative was that a number of citizens had questions that weren’t answered. … Very few people that I’ve talked to are just dead set against this, but there are a lot of people who have serious questions that need to be answered.”

As examples, Brown mentioned impacts from increased density; the height of the proposed buildings; increased traffic, especially with the new apartments nearby and other new units on C.R. 105; and “legitimate questions about affordability.”

Brown said he’s “come to hate the term ‘affordable housing’” and asked, “Can we define the problem? I don’t think anybody has ever yet done a good job of defining the problem.”

Brown acknowledged that the recent housing needs assessment shows a need for housing at below-market cost. “Prices have escalated way faster than wages. … If that’s the problem, then let’s sit down and address the problem.”

Brown said government-subsidized housing has been discussed, but so far only the private sector has proposed new housing projects, which are market-driven and will likely go to upper-income level buyers.

“We haven’t looked at the problem with a comprehensive view. If (Salida Crossings) fits in, that would be great, but we don’t have all the information we need to make that decision now. That’s what’s driving the petition. We need more information.”

The former councilman said he and others believe a referendum will provide an opportunity to slow down the process and allow people to get answers to their questions through public meetings. Brown said he’s “already visited with (Salida Crossings developer) Duane Cozart about having a joint meeting.”

When asked about costs to Cozart and the city resulting from the referendum, Brown acknowledged that both the delay and the outcome of the referendum could increase costs for Cozart as well as the price of the proposed condominiums.

Brown said if the city reconsiders and repeals the ordinance, the process would start over, which could increase costs, and addressing issues like height would lead to fewer units at a higher cost per unit.

“If (city council members) pass it again, then there has to be a special election, and that puts the developer on hold,” said Brown. “It definitely would cost the city to put on a special election.”