Colorado Springs Issues 2B And 2C: Does Parkland Deserve A Higher Threshold Before Sale Or Transfer, And If So, How?

October 20, 2020
Looking NW into the meadow at Strawberry Fields from the hill above on the eastern edgeLooking NW into the meadow at Strawberry Fields from the hill above on the eastern edgeNoel Black/KRCC
The trade of Strawberry Fields to the Broadmoor in 2016 is a motivating factor behind Colorado Springs ballot issue 2B.

Colorado Springs has two measures on the November ballot related to the sale or transfer of city-owned parkland. 

Both Issue 2B and 2C seek to raise the threshold by which such transactions could occur.

  • 2B would require a vote of the citizens of Colorado Springs after being referred to the ballot by a super-majority of city council members. 
  • 2C would require approval from a super-majority of city council members.

A super-majority of council means at least seven of nine members would have to approve either referring any proposal to the voters (2B) or the deal itself (2C). Exceptions in both cases are made for issues of easements, eminent domain, or other reasons.

El Paso County Votes: Click here to view a sample ballot

If both measures pass, the measure with the most votes would be enacted.

The ballot issues stem, in part, from a controversy a number of years ago, when the city brokered a land swap with the Broadmoor. It was a highly contentious exchange, approved 6-3 by city council, in which opponents sued the city to try and prevent the trade from moving forward. Ultimately, the Colorado Supreme Court rejected the suit.

Both 2B and 2C were referred to the ballot in August by city council on 5-4 votes. Only Councilor Jill Gaebler—who was among the "no" votes for the agreement that included Strawberry Fields—voted to send both measures to the ballot. Of the other council members, each supported one measure or the other.

Issue 2B

Issue 2B comes from the group Protect Our Parks (POPS), led by Kent Obee. Obee is a long-time parks advocate in Colorado Springs and once served on the TOPS Working Committee. The TOPS Working Committee manages the funds generated from a voter-approved sales tax geared specifically toward trails, open space, and parks.

Obee opposed the Broadmoor land swap involving the parcel known as Strawberry Fields and resigned from the board of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, or TOSC, over the group's stance on it.

"If we really wanted the properties that the Broadmoor was offering," Obee said. "We could have bought them with TOPS [funding] … When you have that go-to-the-voters, people find if it's really important, you find other ways of doing it. But you don't trade off existing parkland to get something new."

The POPS group also argues that it would be unlikely to require a special election because the city often has other issues on any given ballot.

"It's better because it's voter protection," Obee said. "These parks belong to the people. They don't actually belong to the city council, the mayor, or the parks department."

Current council president Richard Skorman also left the board of TOSC as a result of the group's stance on the Broadmoor exchange. He backs 2B. 

"While we have a system of 'representative government,'" Skorman wrote on the issue in the Gazette, "It is also true that some decisions are deemed too important to be left to politicians. Under TABOR, a tax increase requires a vote of the people. A tax increase can be repealed, but parkland given away is gone forever."

Issue 2C

Councilman Wayne Williams is advocating for ballot Issue 2C, which keeps the decision-making process with city council. 

"I believe there are a number of reasons why [2C] is superior, most of those deal with the ability to make improvements to the park system," Williams said at an August council meeting, saying that the measure offers a high level of protection for parkland. "I don't believe it's appropriate to either miss out on opportunities … or to incur the hundreds of thousands of dollars in expense that would be necessitated if the transaction didn't happen to line up with a particular election."

2C is also backed by parks advocacy group Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC). At the same August council meeting, TOSC Executive Director Susan Davies said the group won't "vigorously oppose" the alternative measure, but, "All of our years of monitoring both the Parks Advisory Board and the TOPS Working Committee, as well as your deliberations on these often very complex land exchanges, we just think that representative government is going to serve the park system overall to the best degree."

Additionally, a statement on the TOSC website says the board has concerns over what a possible special election could cost "given our cash-strapped parks department."

Voting YES on 2B means you would like any possible transfer of parkland to be put to a vote of the people after being referred to the ballot by a super-majority (7 of 9) of city councilors.

Voting NO on 2B means you would not like any possible transfer of parkland to be put to a vote of the people after being referred to the ballot by a super-majority (7 of 9) of city councilors.

Voting YES on 2C means you would like any possible transfer of parkland to require a super-majority (7 of 9) of city councilors.

Voting NO on 2C means you would not like any possible transfer of parkland to require a super-majority (7 of 9) of city councilors.

If both measures pass, the measure with the most votes will be enacted.

What Else Is On My Colorado Springs Ballot? Learn more about Issue 2A