Safeway showdown tonight in Silverthorne
SILVERTHORNE – The Safeway rezoning saga, which has divided the town the past several years, could be over tonight after a town council vote. But the issue might go into triple overtime in the courts.
At 6 p.m. today at the town hall, the Silverthorne Town Council will vote whether to rezone a portion of the Smith Ranch from agriculture to planned unit development for a 95,000-square-foot Safeway shopping center. The public hearing for both the preliminary and final rezoning approval was continued to tonight from the Oct. 8 town council meeting.
If the town council approves the Safeway commercial rezoning, a group of residents says it will protest. The group, Silverthorne Advocates for Votes on Expansion (SAVE), wants to file a petition to bring the rezoning issue to a vote by town residents.
“No one on our committee believes our vision is necessarily better. All we’re saying is that something this important deserves a vote by the people,” said SAVE member Jim Shaw, who lives in the Willowbrook neighborhood next to the Smith Ranch. “If this passes, other developments will come forward, and pretty soon we’ll have a town that’s five miles long and one block wide. It’s that kind of Colfax sprawl we object to.”
Getting a rezoning issue on the ballot would be anything but simple.
Silverthorne’s charter allows for referenda when residents disagree with council decisions, except in four scenarios. Voters cannot overrule their elected leaders on the budget, capital programs, town officials’ salaries or zoning issues.
Shaw said he and the attorney hired by SAVE plan to challenge the town if the petition is not accepted by town officials. They might take the issue to court for a judge to decide. Apparently, Boulder County residents several years ago petitioned their county commissioners on a rezoning issue, Shaw said.
At the time, Boulder commissioners were considering multiple downzonings that essentially changed the county’s master plan. Shaw said the judge ruled that such a change in policy could be subject to referendum, even if it was a rezoning.
State law allows referendum on policy issues, Shaw said. The major difference is that the Boulder issue was a downzoning on several properties.
The Silverthorne Town Attorney, Jerry Dahl, would not comment on the issue.
SAVE plans to turn in a petition of residents’ signatures to the town clerk on Thursday. It is allowed to take up to 30 days to do so, in accordance with town codes for referendum drives.
The town budget and Safeway
Many Silverthorne residents want Safeway. They want to continue to enjoy the benefits that used to come from sales taxes from the Silverthorne Factory Stores and the former City Market. City Market took its business to Dillon.
They do not want property taxes increased.
Sales taxes makes up more than 60 percent of the town budget, said Silverthorne Finance Director Donna Braun. Braun estimated the town would bring in $700,000 annually from Safeway.
“The Target store and Big Horn Lumber (sales tax revenue) have brought us back to 1997 levels,” Braun said. “But we’ve added more streets and residents since then. We’re falling farther and farther behind in keeping up our streets.”
The new Target this year will bring in at least $300,000 directly for the town, bringing the town financial picture back to where it was before City Market moved. While Silverthorne’s estimates for revenue from Target this year are as high as $800,000, a portion of the revenue will be returned to the store as part of the deal that brought the store to town.
Compared to 1997, there are six more miles of road to plow, more houses for police to patrol, more building permits and more water bills to process, for example.
Christine McManus can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229,
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