City council on Tuesday rejected a nonbinding ballot referendum on the issue in the general election on a 3-3 vote.
Council members Ben Manvel, Kelly Ohlson and Lisa Poppaw voted in favor of the referendum. Ohlson said citizens feel helpless about the most highly charged municipal debate he can recall in 40 years.
"At least their local government can give them an opportunity to have their voice, to have a say," he said.
Mayor Karen Weitkunat and council members Gerry Horak and Aislinn Kottwitz opposed it. Councilman Wade Troxell was not present. Kottwitz said the responsibility to take the community's temperature on the stadium debate rests with the university, not city council.
The ballot question would have amounted to a straw poll of Fort Collins' citizens on the polarizing stadium debate. Ultimately, the decision to proceed toward construction of an on-campus stadium to replace aging Hughes Stadium on the city's western fringe rests with CSU President Tony Frank.
He is expected to announce whether the university intends to move forward with the plan for a $246 million, 42,000-seat stadium before the CSU Board of Governors meets Oct. 4. So a municipal vote one month later would likely provide little guidance for the preliminary choice.
A sizeable contingent attended the council meeting and wore their sentiments on their lapels in the form of neon green, yellow and pink stickers that read, "Let us vote!"
During the public comment portion of council's discussion, citizens supporting a referendum and opposing an on-campus stadium were in the majority. Of the 25 citizens who spoke, 21 represented that set of viewpoints.
"I hope you understand how one gets a feeling of powerlessness which falls out the usual system of checks and balances in our democratic process," Bob Overbeck said in support of a vote of the citizens.
Two citizens expressed opposition to an on-campus stadium, but never said whether they want the question on the ballot, and two said they favor a new stadium and oppose a ballot question.
"The decision will be made before the election," Hunter Harms told council. "You're spinning your wheels."
Backers of the referendum said Frank's decision next month does not represent a firm commitment, but a "soft decision" to proceed with an on-campus stadium.
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