Ahead of today’s vote about exchanging land with The Broadmoor hotel, the Colorado Springs City Council released a legal opinion yesterday from the City Attorney’s office answering the question: Must the city take the issue to the electorate?
The short answer: No. The council does not legally have to send the issue to the voters.
The opinion, released yesterday during the council’s regular work session, says the city has a home-rule charter and is ordinances hold precedent over state law that requires voters to weigh in whenever parkland is sold.
“Though the proposed exchange is a ‘disposition’ of real property used for park purposes, city council has adopted an ordinance of general applicability, through the exercise of the city’s constitutional home rule authority, authorizing the sale or exchange of municipally owned real property, and providing disposition procedures, which do not require approval by vote of the electorate,” the city attorney’s office said in the opinion. “City Council also adopted ordinances governing the method and procedure to be used for all real property transactions involving municipally-owned real property. … Under established law, …. the conflicting state statute is superseded by the city ordinances which require compliance with the city of Colorado Springs Procedure Manual for the Acquisition and Disposition of Real Property Interests and prescribe the legally controlling procedure by which a land exchange is completed. Compliance with the Real Estate Manual is the only procedural requirement applicable to this transaction.”
The opinion comes after months of controversy over exchanging land with The Broadmoor. Under the proposal, the local hotel will receive roughly 189 acres of open space, known in the community as Strawberry Fields in Cheyenne Canon park. the city will receive land that includes access to the Manitou Springs Incline and the lower Barr Trail, as well as other acreage that city officials say could make it easier to complete the Chamberlain Trail and give access to other parts of city parkland.
Most of the opposition centers around Strawberry Fields, despite assurances from The Broadmoor that it would grant a permanent conservation easement on the property and give the city the right of first refusal if the hotel decides to sell the property. The Broadmoor has also agreed to fire mitigation on the open space and to build and maintain trails for public use. Opponents say the deal sets a bad precedent for giving away open space to a commercial entity, while supporters say that it’s good for businesses because it will bring more tourists to the area through The Broadmoor.
For a discussion of both sides, click here.
Click here to read the supporters’ point of view.
And click here to read why people oppose it.
City Council is expected to take up the matter this afternoon at its regular meeting at 1 p.m. at City Hall.