Feb 6, 2023
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct information about who can vote in the election.
A campaign to make Keystone join the ranks of Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon by becoming its own town is forging ahead — with a vote scheduled March 28 that will determine if the roughly 1,200-person community will become a home rule municipality or remain unincorporated and governed by Summit County.
Registered voters in Keystone will be asked three questions on their March ballot: whether to incorporate or not; if a charter commission should be formed to write the town’s rules and who should sit on that commission.
A meeting was held Feb. 3 to finalize the ballot order of 13 Keystone residents vying for a seat on the charter commission, according to Keystone Incorporation CommitteePresident Ken Riley.
“The home rule charter is to a town what the state constitution is to a state,” Riley said.
The charter will essentially dictate the rules for the would-be town. If those questions pass on the March 28 ballot, Riley said the next steps would be to hold a second election, possibly in late August or early September, to approve the charter. A third election would then be held, possibly in December, to elect the town’s council, according to Riley.
As the community gears up for the March 28 election, Riley said the incorporation committee will be hosting two open house events to discuss incorporation and hear from the 13 commission candidates.
Riley said those events will be held March 2 at 5:30 p.m. and March 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Keystone Center at 1628 Saints John Road.
The official push to incorporate Keystone has been building since community members circulated an August petition last year which was then approved in December by a district court judge. According to Riley, the petition needed at least 150 signatures from registered voters in Keystone, and it received 208. A judge also appointed an election commission to oversee the election since Keystone does not have a town clerk.
Who are the 13 charter commission candidates?
Voters will be asked to approve a nine-person commission which will write the laws governing the town of Keystone should it incorporate. The 13 candidates vying for the position are:
Ken Riley, president of the Keystone Incopration Committee, said the candidates provide “very good representation” and come from “about every major neighborhood” in the area.
Riley said establishing Keystone’s independence as a town will better position the community to prioritize its needs.
“There are other priorities in Summit County that they believe are more important than ours, and we understand that,” Riley said. “It also positions the town and the citizens of the town to take control of their own future and destiny.”
A one-page sheet provided by Riley lists several “unmet needs” of the area that it claims would benefit from incorporation. Those include: traffic and pedestrian safety issues on U.S. Highway 6; lack of consistent law enforcement presence; lack of child care infrastructure and land regulation rules that are “based on unincorporated Summit County needs, not Keystone’s,” according to the document.
Summit County government is not taking an official stance on the issue, county spokesperson Dave Rossi said, though Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she has some personal concerns should the area incorporate.
“I worry about unintended consequences,” Lawrence said, adding that running a new town will be costly and time consuming and could jeopardize the community’s ability to deliver on key issues from public safety to workforce housing.
“I don’t think now is the time for bigger governments to add more layers with bureaucracy,” Lawrence said. “We are constantly working to prioritize all areas of unincorporated Summit County.”
Lawrence said one of the biggest complaints she hears from Keystone residents is about traffic concerns. But becoming a town may not necessarily solve those problems, Lawrence said, adding that Frisco and Silverthorne had been mired in back-and-forth attempts with the Colorado Department of Transportation to address traffic issues caused by the Interstate 70 corridor.
“I don’t believe that magically a new incorporated town will provide the level of success when it comes to roads and transportation … that the citizens want to see,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said she understands the frustration from residents but said Keystone currently benefits from county policies that may not be the same should a town council take a different path.
One example, she said, is the minimal regulation for short-term rental properties. Under rules being proposed by commissioners, much of the unincorporated county’s neighborhood zones could face caps on short-term rental licenses. Keystone, however, would be spared from those caps since it is considered a resort zone.
“If they became a municipality, I don’t know what that could look like,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said she expects to have more information on the fiscal impacts to the county should Keystone become incorporated following an upcoming commissioner meeting which, according to Rossi, is scheduled for Feb. 21.
Ballots will begin hitting overseas voters on Feb. 10 and Keystone residents on March 6, Riley said. A ballot drop-off box will be open at the Keystone Center beginning March 9 on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Riley said. It will also be open all day until 7 p.m. on election day, March 28.