What this means for the project was unclear as of Tuesday evening, when the results were declared.
According to the town clerk, a recount must be completed in the next 25 days, but is unlikely to take nearly that long. Town Attorney David Reed was unavailable for comment, but is currently working on what further steps will be taken if the numbers remain tied after the recount.
Even though the highly controversial project was approved by the Mountain Village Town Council in February, council, at the request of the developer, decided to put the final decision in the hands of the voters after an official referendum petition was submitted to the town’s clerk on March 15.
The town’s charter establishes a complex process for a citizen-initiated referendum. First signatures representing five percent of the number of voters in the previous municipal election must submit a petition to council. In this case, that was 23 signatures, and it was done. Council may then either affirm their decision or reconsider it. If council affirms their action, 15 percent of the same voting pool (68 voters in this case) can petition a public vote on the issue. Council avoided the process in this case by simply sending the matter to the voters on their own.
The result is the revelation of a town split right down the middle.
“The bottom line for the reason we did this [special vote] was there is a potential of a group putting a referendum together and it is relatively easy to do that,” Councilmember Dan Garner said last March. “Should there be a referendum called, the earliest it could be voted on is July. This would cause a great deal of money for Monument. They basically lose a year. They have a lot of work to do while the gondola will be shut down and they can’t be digging while the gondola is running. It is a referendum that could in effect stop work. The decision was made [for a special vote] to give the public the vote and to give Monument a quick answer.”
Opponents of the project argued that the variances council gave the developer in approving the project were not justified by the community benefits the developer was giving in return. For some, the 111 feet height of the building was the issue. Others, including representatives of Telluride Ski and Golf Co. owner Chuck Horning, argued that the project included too few “hot beds” or hotel rooms. Still others suggested that the building as approved was too large to structurally sit on the landslide/wetlands geology Mountain Village is founded on.
On the other side, supporters argued that the donation of the 40,300 square feet for the recreation center, 40 public parking spaces, a $500,000 contribution to the recreation center construction, and various other benefits provided by the developer justified the zoning variances.