Save Cheyenne loses bid for ballot measure on Strawberry Fields

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Protect Our Parks President Richard Skorman on a tour of Strawberry Fields last spring. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Protect Our Parks President Richard Skorman on a tour of Strawberry Fields last spring.
This just in: The Protect Our Parks group has lost its attempt to mount a ballot measure to overturn the Strawberry Fields land swap and require all future parkland sales or swaps to go to the voters for permission first.

The ruling means there will be no signature-gathering effort to get a measure on the April 4 city election ballot. While the group plans to ask City Council next Monday to refer such a measure, it's unlikely to gain favor with the Council, which voted 6-3 on May 24 to approve the trade of the 189-acre open space known as Strawberry Fields to The Broadmoor.

Here's the measure the group will propose:
See related PDF POPsToCouncil.pdf
The ruling and Council's vote next week could set the stage for Strawberry Fields to become a campaign issue in the April election in which voters will chose six of nine Council members.

Here's the release from Protect Our Parks:
Ruling on the POPS Ballot Title Board legal action:
This morning, District Court Judge McHenry ruled in favor of the City's Title Board and against Save Cheyenne. He wrote in his ruling that the Protect Our Parks (POPS) Ballot Charter Change Title should exclude the "Strawberry Fields" clause in order to comply with the City Charter's single subject requirement for Initiated Ballot Titles. Judge McHenry stated in his ruling that including Strawberry Fields, even though the deal hasn't yet closed, could confuse some voters, as they may favor or oppose the Strawberry Fields land trade and the POPS voter "approval" requirement for future park disposition as well. Thus, he stated, POPS with Strawberry Fields clause in it, could be confusing for voters and constitutes two subjects.

Judge McHenry also ruled that, unlike the "future disposition" of dedicated Parks, the "Strawberry Fields" land deal is now an administrative decision since Council voted 6-3 to approve the transaction in May. It is not legal for citizens to place a Charter Change Initiative in front of voters that is "administrative" in nature.

While we are disappointed with this ruling, w e do very much appreciate Judge McHenry's willingness to expedite this appeal process so that if he had ruled in our favor, we could have had enough time to collect 15,200 valid signatures.

​Next steps - No signature collection:
Save Cheyenne will continue its Court challenge of the original Council decision. Nothing in Judge McHenry's POPS Ballot decison should affect our claim that the City ​did not and does not have the legal authority to convey this land to the Broadmoor to begin with or that the City didn't comply with its own procedures in doing so. We will not move forward to collect signatures to place the "approved" Title in front on voters because the time-frame to collect 15,200 signatures is still very short (less than a month), and we do not want to force an expensive "special election" by taking our full three months as allowed by law if Strawberry Fields isn't included. At this time, ​ ​ we know of no other similar transaction pending to motivate us to go forward to collect signatures at this time.

We intend to ask City Council to refer the City-approved language to the ballot for April 2017:
At next Monday's informal, Save Cheyenne will ask Council to place the approved title language on the April 2017 ballot, without the inclusion of Strawberry Fields paragraph. We still strongly believe that all dedicated parks in the City's inventory should have the same "voter approval" protection as all TOPS and GOCO purchased properties as well as the same protections Denver City and County parks currently enjoy and have enjoyed since 1954. Colorado Springs lags in public policy to protect our most special lands.

This is particularly important to us now because of the bad precedent set by the proposed Broadmoor land swap. We are afraid this decision could open up the door to other similar land transactions in the future. It's important to note that other attempts, in the past, were made by City or County staff and some elected officials to sell or trade Boulder Park, Section 16, Bear Creek Park and parts of Monument Valley Park. It should also be noted that several local City or County officials were willing to allow Stratton Open Space, Red Rock Canyon, White Acres, Rock Ledge Ranch in Garden of the Gods, Union Meadows, Blodgette Peak Open Space and University Park Open Space to be developed for housing; it took a loud public outcry, major fundraising and voter petitions to protect these "well-loved" parks and open space for the entire public to enjoy.

We believe strongly that we are on the right side of both the law and, more importantly, the moral side for the people and wildlife who depend on these public lands. 



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