They needed 4,021 signatures, on petitions to force the Longmont City Council to either revisit their approval of a megachurch-driven annexation or take it to a vote of the people.
They’ve got 5,500 signatures – and are still counting. Organizer Jen Gartner says that 60 petitions are still being circulated in an attempt to halt the LifeBridge development plan; her group, What’s In It For Longmont?” plans to submit all of the petitions to the city clerk’s office tomorrow afternoon.
“We’ve been amazed at the passion and turnout on this issue,” Gartner said.
Keep reading.The controversial development project involves a Christian megachurch, LifeBridge, to annex 348 acres of land to the city of Longmont, on which it plans to build 700 homes, a 160,000-square foot fitness center and commercial retail. The city council approved the annexation on a 6-1 vote in August, after hours of heated testimony and a petition of opposition that was signed by 880 Longmont residents.
Gartner says that opponents are in part concerned over the religious aspect of the development — including questions about whether the church’s nonprofit status will allow homeowners within that community to be exempted from property taxes. In that scenario, property owners in the rest of Longmont could be forced to bear the cost of paying for infrastructure and other costs in the new annexation.
But Gartner said a number of other questions have not been addressed, including the potential environmental impacts on the property, which is near Union Reservoir three miles east of Longmont.
Gartner estimated more than 100 people showed up at a downtown park in Longmont on Sunday, for the final blowout event to collect signatures to force the city to reconsider. Of the 5,500 signature the group has collected so far, it appears that at least 4,700 appear to be complete, she said, including listing the fully legible names, addresses and county of residence. After the petitions are submitted, the city clerk will have 15 days to validate the signatures – that it, make sure the names are of real people who are registered to vote.
If the number of valid signatures does not meet the 4,021 requirement, Gartner’s group would then have another 15 days beyond that to collect additional petitioners.
But on Monday, she was stoked about the response, noting that her group has already collected nearly 40 percent more names than are required to force the city council to revisit its approval of the plan.
During the petition-signing campaign, she has said, some opponents of the LifeBridge development were harassed and called names. Gartner said one person e-mailed her and threatened to nail her dog to a wall. But, she maintains, members of her group include citizens from all walks of like – and all ideologies.
“This is really not a political issue,” she said. “It really has to do with the community – this is something that affects people across the board.”
Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org