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Colorado Springs voters decide they should have the choice on park land swaps

Posted at 3:37 PM, Nov 03, 2020

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs voters made their voice heard when it comes to who makes the decision on future purchases or land swaps for park lands.

If you didn't read your ballot carefully, you may not have realized the difference between the two measures, but there is one. It's the result of a years-long fight over public park land in the city.

As both 2B and 2C have the majority of the vote so far, whichever has the most "Yes" votes, in the end, would be the "winner" and become law. Both were approved but 2B edged out 2C by around 7,000 votes.

To understand why options 2B and 2C showed up on your ballot, you'll need to take a step a few years back in time to the land swap of the so-called Strawberry Fields between the City of Colorado Springs and the Broadmoor.

Opponents of that swap said the city go a low-ball appraisal on the land.

Kent Obee was one of those opponents. He and his group "Protect our parks" took the issue to court, but lost. However, they had a backup plan. They got language put into the city charter that states that public park land can't be given away without putting the issue to a citywide vote, rather than just City Council.

"Park land doesn't belong to the mayor or the parks department director or even the city council, it belongs to the citizens," Obee said.

Of course, there are two options

Susan Davies' group, the Trails and Open Space Commission would rather see 2C pass, which instead of putting land swaps to a public vote, would instead require a supermajority of at least 7 out of 9 council members voting in favor of it to pass.

"With 2C it would require a supermajority of 7 of 9 city council, so that's a pretty high bar," Davies said.

For them, it's partly a logistics issue. "Sometimes these land exchanges come along and you need to be somewhat nimble. If you have to wait for a public vote, that could reduce your ability to act quickly."