By Corina Vanek | Arizona Republic
A group of residents is suing Surprise after the city rejected the signatures they submitted requesting a referendum on an affordable housing development.
Voice of Surprise submitted 5,432 signatures on Sept. 16, after the City Council narrowly approved a preliminary development plan that would clear the way for 601 affordable apartment and townhome units to be built near Cotton Lane and Waddell Road.
In a letter sent by the city clerk to the neighborhood group, called Voice of Surprise, City Clerk Sherry Aguilar said her office determined the petitions “do not strictly comply with all requirements for referenda imposed by Arizona law.”
The rejection, based on Aguilar’s letter, hinges on the fact that Voice of Surprise leaders failed to attach a copy of the full title and text of the measure sought to be referred when the group applied for a referendum serial number.
“This deficiency requires by law that all of the petition sheets and signatures be rejected by the city clerk,” she wrote.
However, Tim La Sota, the attorney representing Voice of Surprise, said the group is not required to include the full text in its application for a serial number for a referendum.
In the lawsuit, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, La Sota claims the full text is required for an initiative, not a referendum. The lawsuit also claims that when Voice of Surprise leaders filed the application, they were only told of two mandatory forms, not that the text was mandatory.
If the referendum does make it to the ballot, there are four dates in 2023 — in March, May, August or November — when an election could occur.
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