There won’t be any local propositions on the November ballot from the Save Schultz Meadow campaign after it announced it would hold off on submitting signatures to the City of Flagstaff.
The group, which made the announcement earlier this month, is hoping to preserve a 3-acre parcel of land at the intersection of Schultz Pass and Fort Valley roads as open space. The city has proposed to develop the area as a location for affordable housing.
But in a statement sent to the Arizona Daily Sun and posted on social media, the Schultz Meadow committee said that while they have collected enough signatures to get on the ballot, they would not be submitting the signatures for this election.
The group collected about 4,500 signatures -- just 400 more than they need to get the question on the ballot -- but not as many as they were ultimately seeking. The committee said they wanted to make sure they have plenty of extra signatures when they submit the question to the city because many signatures might be thrown out during the screening process.
After a group has submitted an initiative, the city reviews the signatures before placing the question on the ballot. Signatures can be thrown out for any number of reasons, from someone writing a fake name to being an unregistered voter within the city.
The plan is that holding off the submission will allow the group to continue to collect signatures safely so it can be confident the question will get on the ballot. The campaign had been forced to stop collecting signatures earlier this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It had restarted signature gathering in June but the pause in operations still meant it hadn’t received the number of signatures sought after, the committee’s statement read.
Flagstaff City Clerk Stacy Saltzberg said in waiting to submit, the group is able to preserve the signatures they have already collected and submit them after the election in November.
Once submitted, the group’s ballot initiative would be placed on the ballot in 2022 unless the Flagstaff City Council called for a special election on the subject.
In the meantime, however, there is nothing stopping either the city or the council from moving forward with development of the property. The parcel has already been connected with utility lines, and last year several councilmembers had indicated they would like to see the parcel developed.
But Staci Foulks with the Save Schultz committee said she hopes Council will let the issue rest until voters weigh in.
"Given that the pandemic has made it impossible for the campaign to finish collecting signatures for this November's election, we certainly urge the council to hold off on taking any action and allow the voters to decide -- which is the most democratic way to resolve the question of open space versus development," Foulks wrote in an email.
The Save Schultz Meadow initiative had also become an issue in the ongoing mayoral and council elections.
In the race for Flagstaff mayor, both Paul Deasy and Councilmember Charlie Odegaard had come out in support of the proposed initiative, with both saying the decision should be left to the voters.
During a candidate forum earlier this month, Councilmember Jamie Whelan said she did not support the move to set the land aside, saying the city should make decisions to benefit the entire community, not just the residents living near the parcel.
In the race for city council, candidates Eric Senseman, Eric Nolan and Anthony Garcia have endorsed the proposal.
Earlier this year, the city council also decided against placing any propositions or bonds on the November ballot. Referencing the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, council felt it was not the right time to be asking voters for money.
Other organizations, including the Mountain Line public transit agency and Flagstaff Unified School District, also decided against putting a proposition on the ballot.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.