A heavily challenged ballot measure in a Denver suburb that aims to place strict limits on new residential construction got a breath of a life from a judge this week, but not in time for it to be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Jefferson County District Judge Diego Hunt ruled Monday that the Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative, which would limit annual new home permits to no more than 1% of the existing housing stock in the city and require elected leaders to approve multifamily projects with 40 or more units, had been properly verified and approved for the ballot by the city clerk.
The city’s approval, given in September of last year after more than 7,600 voter signatures on petitions were turned in, was challenged in court by a Lakewood resident who alleged that signature gatherers for the ballot petition had not been properly sworn and that there were constitutional concerns with the initiative itself that disqualified it from appearing on a ballot.
But Hunt asserted that the city had acted properly in approving the measure and that any constitutional issues that might exist with it would have to be resolved in a separate proceeding.
“The Court does not find persuasive protestor’s assertion that the title or proposed initiative is so constitutionally defective that the court or (Lakewood) clerk has authority to prematurely prohibit the exercise of the initiative,” he ruled.
Hunt then ordered the parties to contact the court to schedule a trial on the case no later than Sept. 7. City spokeswoman Stacie Oulton said that would likely push things past the deadline for getting the measure into the upcoming election, though it could be decided at a special election after November.
“Our focus has always been on ensuring that the petition review process was executed properly, and the judge ruled that it was,” Oulton said. “What this means is that the city vigorously defended against the protester’s efforts to stop it from going to the ballot, and in doing so, the city actions protected the fundamental right of initiative.”
The Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative has been under fire since it was first proposed nearly 18 months ago. Proponents of the measure say growth limits are needed in a metro area that is overcrowded and beset by worsening traffic congestion. But detractors say a 1% growth cap on new homes would only exacerbate the surge in housing prices that has swept across Denver and its suburbs over the past decade.
Cathy Kentner, who is spearheading the growth limit effort, said she was happy the court ruled in Lakewood’s favor. But she expressed frustration over the fact that further legal scrutiny appears to be necessary before the measure can actually go to voters.
Tribune Content Agency