A group battling a Christian megachurch’s controversial planned community in Longmont makes history today, successfully clearing the path to a vote of the people.The citizens’ group, What’s in It For Longmont, was notified today that Longmont City Clerk Valeria Skitt validated at least 4,725 signatures on their petition as legitimate, setting the state for the City Council to either revisit their approval of the plan sought by LifeBridge Christian Church or send it to a citywide vote.
In all the group needed 4,021 signatures to move forward; the group’s spokeswoman Jen Gartner says it’s the first successful citizens’ referendum petition effort in the city’s history.
I’m just really, really pleased at how the community came together,” she said. “We had no experience and no funding and we were able to do this.”
Gartner’s group mobilized in August, after the City Council approved the LifeBridge plan, to annex 348 acres of land to the city. The church, and its nonprofit development arm, Corporation for Community Christian Connections, plans to build 700 homes, a 160,000-square foot fitness center and commercial retail space in its planned community.
Gartner said 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.
The petition is now scheduled to head back to the City Council on Oct.16, which will then have until Nov. 15 to decide whether to repeal its approval of the annexation, or schedule a special election to put the issue to a popular vote.
On Wednesday, Gartner said there has been concern that the current council may attempt to delay a decision until after the November 6 general election – in which several council seats are up for grabs. However, Gartner said, she would “strongly” prefer the decision should come from the current council. “They’ve been dealing with this,” she said.
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