Council should negotiate with Brady before taking issue to the ballot
There will be a mystery at City Hall tonight when the City Council meets to affirm its decision to put the issue of industrial zoning on the riverfront to a vote of the people.
What mysterious knowledge or theory persuades council members that they must not, under any circumstances, engage in discussions with the Brady Trucking Company to resolve Brady’s need for an industrial site for its business and the people’s desire to remove industrial operations from the river to allow completion of the riverfront project?
At its Monday workshop this week, the City Council did what it does best — at least as far as Brady Trucking is concerned. It kicked the ball down the road — again.
The ball, in this case, is the opportunity for the council to revisit its decision to zone the Brady riverfront property for industrial use, allowing heavy trucks to operate on a parcel adjacent to the proposed Las Colonias Park and intersecting the Colorado Riverfront Trail.
As The Daily Sentinel reported, “While counselors are expected to approve language for an April ballot measure, they also instructed city staff to continue to investigate ways to purchase the land from the trucking company.”
Unfortunately, this search for a compromise does not include council members actually sitting down with Brady Trucking to seek a negotiated settlement.
Brady officials are fully prepared for the question to go to the ballot. They are confident they can win on the issue of private property rights — with the help of money they are prepared to commit to the campaign. But Brady has nevertheless sent signals that it is willing to discuss a settlement to sell its land to the city, according to a letter to the City Council received this week from Chuck Johnson of Brady Trucking Inc.
Although there have been some discussions about a possible sale, it is not accurate to say the city and the trucking firm are “in negotiations,” Johnson wrote.
Monday’s workshop was essentially a replay of meetings last fall when the council made a similar decision. At that time, given the opportunity to negotiate the zoning conflict with the Brady Trucking Company, the council agreed to send the issue to the ballot to be decided by the people.
This is an evasion of responsibility by the City Council. With city planning experts, the zoning commission, understanding of land-use issues and long-range plans and other resources, members of the City Council are far better able to analyze the issues and make an informed decision than voters.
Besides, that’s what they get paid for — making decisions, not delegating their responsibility to the voters.
Ironically, the zoning issue is back before the council because the voters have already spoken once. When the council attempted in 2008 to zone part of Brady’s land to allow the industrial truck operation to operate on the riverfront, Western Colorado Congress coordinated a successful petition drive to put the issue on the ballot.
The success of the ballot initiative touched off four years of litigation over the validity of the petition. Mesa County District Court Judge Bottger ruled the petitions invalid, but the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed his decision. The Colorado Supreme Court refused to review the Court of Appeals decision. The case was remanded to Judge Bottger, who remanded it to the City Council.
Now the council seeks once again to remand it to the people to decide, making it look like it is going in circles.
The City Council has the option of repealing the industrial zoning and returning the matter to the Zoning Commission to recommend a more appropriate zoning or referring the issue to voters to decide if the industrial zoning should stand.
By selecting the latter option as their only choice, rather than attempting to work with Brady for a negotiated decision, council members stand to inflict a terribly divisive conflict on the community, as property-rights advocates line up against champions of the public interest.
Even after the ballot language is approved Wednesday evening, the door remains open to seek a negotiated solution with Brady. Voters who agree that the council should work with Brady to seek a less conflicted, more community-minded solution should let their council members know they want to see action and leadership by their elected leaders.
It may not yet be too late for a rational decision on this issue, but Brady is unlikely to keep its offer to negotiate on the table for long.