New laws won’t affect much, says Penny

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City Manager Michael Penny says two new laws on Littleton’s books initiated by citizens and passed by voters Nov. 5 will have little practical effect on the day-to-day operations of the city.

“We will abide by the will of the voters,” he said.

Initiative 301 passed with about 73 percent of the vote. It limits city council’s use of executive sessions to only matters that state and federal law require be kept confidential, and to filed court cases.

Penny said that means there will be very few executive sessions going forward, but there will likely be lots more memos circulated that will be protected by attorney/client confidentiality, with council as the client.

“The decision has always happened in public,” he said. “Nothing else will shift into the public arena, essentially.”

Because open-meetings laws only apply when four or more council members are involved, staff will still have the ability to meet with them two at a time or call them individually. Penny said it could be more time consuming, thereby more expensive.

“The big shift is that the council does not have the ability to deliberate among themselves anymore,” he said.

Initiative 302 passed with about 57 percent of the vote. It requires five members of council to approve a rezone instead of a simple majority, in cases where the planning board has voted against it or if 20 percent of property owners within 100 feet of the site file a protest.

“I fully believe that a rezone should have to meet a high bar,” said Penny. “But the issue is more if the code is representative of the community’s values. It’s about the code, not the process. The comprehensive plan and the zoning map need updated.”

The two initiatives were spearheaded by a grassroots group called Citizens for Rational Development, which has launched efforts against various high-density residential projects cropping up around town.

“It is monumental,” they wrote in an email to members. “A real accomplishment. It all makes me proud, and I have to say I actually enjoyed most of the work. I met such wonderful people, enjoyed my time with them, and I am grateful of the new circle of concerned and special citizens.”

While the ballot issues passed, the group’s support of challengers to incumbent city councilors fell flat. Bruce Beckman and Bruce Stahlman won with about 33 percent and 31 percent of the vote, respectively. CRD-backed candidates John Watson and James Dean trailed with about 21 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

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