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Glenwood Springs city attorney, mayor warn of airport ballot initiative consequences

A proposed ballot initiative making the rounds that is meant to preserve the Glenwood Springs Airport is raising questions and concerns from Glenwood Springs city officials over possible unintended consequences.

Glenwood Springs City Attorney Karl Hanlon said the language used in the ballot initiative would appear to require the city to hold a special election anytime the city needed to release an easement or abandon a service line not even related to the airport.

“We own interests in a lot of easements for water lines, sewer lines and electric lines,” Hanlon said.



“On a relatively regular basis, those may move. The language used in the ballot initiative would seem to mean that we would have to go to an election to release that easement on an abandoned service line. That is kind of pricey.”

Hanlon said the city will take temporary easements for construction purposes, which by definition are for governmental purposes.



“My fear is we then have to constantly condemn easements, and that’s not the kind of relationship with the public I want to have as the city attorney. It really does raise some concerns,” Hanlon said.

“It definitely will have an impact with how we conduct business as a city and make it much more confrontational. I frankly understand people’s hesitation to grant an easement if you have to go to an elector to get it released. That may not be the intended consequence of the language.”

Currently, if the city wanted to sell the airport, that decision would require an election, Hanlon said.

According to a document being used to garner signatures in support of the ballot initiative, if the measure passes voters will be able to determine if the city should be required to continue to own, operate, repair and maintain the airport, including the facilities, improvements and 3,305-foot runway as configured, unless and until a majority of qualified electors of Glenwood Springs approve the sale or redevelopment of the airport property.

Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes said the city heard rumors about the ballot initiative a couple of months ago.

“Then a month ago, we heard that it was certified,” Godes said.

“From there, we started looking at the language. The last couple of weeks our city attorney said this was really problematic,” he added.

Godes said what concerns him the most are the fiscal issues created by the ballot initiative, if it does pass.

“It creates a massive, unfunded mandate,” Godes said.

“If there is some cracks or maintenance that is going to cost $3 million to $4 million and we’re in the middle of a recession, constitutionally, our city charter, if this passes, will require that this is the highest priority of spending in our entire community — higher priority than our police, fire and our streets.”

Godes said the city would be required to fix and patch a small pothole in the runway before fixing a sinkhole in front of someone’s house.

“There’s been nothing like this in the state of Colorado that has been hoisted over the community,” Godes said. “It goes so beyond the airport, it’s not even funny. We’ve spoken to them about it, and they’re unwilling to change the language.”

Godes said if the intent is to preserve the airport, he’s all for putting a responsible community-based question on the ballot.

“If the intent is to completely tie up the city’s time, resources and legal team for the next however many years, then this is something that is really tough to understand if it’s this complicated or if it’s about the airport,” Godes said.

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or smarvel@postindependent.com.


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