Government & Politics  March 29, 2023

Timnath group turns in petitions for ballot issue to stop Topgolf

TIMNATH – A citizens group that mobilized to block construction of a Topgolf golf and entertainment complex turned in petition signatures Wednesday aimed at placing a ballot issue before the town’s voters that would ban the construction of nets and fences taller than 65 feet.

Topgolf’s plan includes fences and netting around 156 feet tall, but the opponents fear they would pose a hazard to migrating waterfowl along the nearby Cache la Poudre River.

Bill Jenkins, a spokesman for the group Guide Our Growth, told BizWest that he turned in signatures containing 1,106 names of registered Timnath voters on Wednesday, far surpassing the 651 his group was told it needed to place the issue on the town ballot. However, he said, Town Clerk Milissa Peters-Garcia had an issue with five of the petitions, containing about 196 signatures.

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“She thought they might have been pulled apart and restapled,” Jenkins said. “She said these five are questionable. She was going to seek legal counsel on those five.”

Jenkins acknowledged that such a concern is a valid one. “You’re not supposed to separate petitions because, if you take the back sheet off, you could have people signing it without reading” the ballot language, he said. “That’s why you wouldn’t want petitions being separated.

“If we still hit our 651, it’s not worth contesting,” Jenkins said. “We’ll just have to wait and see. I think we’re still safe, but she’s going to go through and throw out some percentage of them. If we don’t hit 651, we will contest the ones we think are reasonable to be included. Hopefully we don’t have to go there. We have to wait three weeks because she has 15 business days to finish her count, and then we’d have 40 days to address any issues.”

Peters-Garcia said if she verifies 651 or more signatures, “we set it for the next council meeting, and the council at that meeting will set the ballot title. Then at the following meeting, they’d approve it, I would publish a notice, and we would set the election between 60 and 120 days out.”

Topgolf’s site plan for conceptual review, provided to Timnath planners by applicant TB Group on behalf of property owner Sheri Welch and Connell LLC, seeks a height variance from the town’s 57.5-foot structure-height limits. The concept sketch shows plans for a roughly 38,000-square-foot facility on nearly 12 acres including a 40-foot-high building and netting poles 156 feet high.

In a statement delivered Wednesday as he presented the petitions, Jenkins noted that “the Timnath comprehensive plan was created and adopted in 2020 for the community to have guardrails and a collective voice for all development. It seems that the current town council has all but thrown it out with the Ladera development.”

Although members of Guide Our Growth have repeatedly said they want to stop Topgolf, not the entire mixed-use Ladera development planned for the 240-acre site of a current gravel pit southeast of Interstate 25 and Harmony Road, Jenkins emphasized that they oppose the fact that the development would require numerous variances from town building and land-use codes – especially for an amenity such as a Topgolf complex.

In fact, a spokeswoman for Connell confirmed to BizWest on Monday that town staff had reviewed the development’s application for annexation “and has provided comments, which Connell LLC is reviewing in preparation for a resubmittal.”

“The plan states projects should promote the health and well-being of the whole town in a transparent manner, which hasn’t been the case on this project from the beginning,” Jenkins said. “Further, it states that the town will look to partner with projects that bring high-paying jobs that create few off-site impacts. At a minimum we know Topgolf does not meet these requirements.

“Additionally, directly quoting the comp plan, it states the town will preserve areas with high-quality native vegetation, wetlands, or wildlife habitats; avoid environmentally sensitive areas, specifically wildlife corridors and habitats; and establish appropriate buffer distances from sensitive resources,” he said. “With concerns from the Colorado Department of Wildlife and the Audubon Society, this project does not meet the stated goals outlined for our community, drastically deviating from the comprehensive plan, Guide Our Growth is now asking voters to tell the Town Council to stick to the plan.”

Reached for reaction on Wednesday, Timnath town manager Aaron Adams told BizWest that “the town is ready and anxious for the people to have their voice on this.

“I can confirm that a petition has been turned in,” he said. “The council has been pretty clear about this. They’ve stated this publicly. I think there is an appreciation that they took from the first petition, or the first initiative that started, there were some issues.”

Adams was referring to the petition drive initially launched by Guide Our Growth, which would have amended the town charter to put proposals for any structures more than 60 feet high to a public vote instead of having them decided by the town’s elected officials. However, the Timnath Town Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing the amendment, saying such a move would usurp the authority of elected officials and town planners. In response, Guide Our Growth stopped collecting signatures, withdrew its petition and revised its proposal to what Jenkins called a “one and done” issue that simply would prohibit fencing poles or material of any kind from exceeding 65 feet in height.

“We were concerned about some of the legal ramifications of that” first petition, Adams said. “They went back to the drawing board, to their credit, and came back with a second petition that I think calmed a lot of our concerns. So the council has been clear that it does not want to take a position on this one, as it felt like it needed to with that first one. So we are just anxious to let the process play out and take all the necessary steps to make sure things go the way they’re supposed to.”

Spokespeople for Connell LLC had not returned calls requesting comment in time for BizWest’s afternoon deadline.

BizWest’s Christopher Wood contributed to this report.

TIMNATH – A citizens group that mobilized to block construction of a Topgolf golf and entertainment complex turned in petition signatures Wednesday aimed at placing a ballot issue before the town’s voters that would ban the construction of nets and fences taller than 65 feet.

Topgolf’s plan includes fences and netting around 156 feet tall, but the opponents fear they would pose a hazard to migrating waterfowl along the nearby Cache la Poudre River.

Bill Jenkins, a spokesman for the group Guide Our Growth, told BizWest that he turned in signatures containing 1,106 names of registered Timnath voters on Wednesday, far surpassing…

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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