Midvalley rec center defeated
November 7, 2013
Midvalley residents soundly defeated a proposed recreation center at Crown Mountain Park, according to unofficial election results from Eagle and Pitkin counties.
Question 4C seeking a property tax hike to operate the center failed with 2,309 votes against and 923 in support, the counties reported. Results will be certified later this month.
Question 4D, seeking a property tax hike to pay off $25 million in bonds to build and equip the recreation center failed with 2,298 votes against and 921 in favor. The margin of defeat on both questions was 71 to 29 percent. The results are unofficial until later this month when they will be certified by the county clerks.
"I just think the tax was too large and people like Crown Mountain as a park," said Katie Schwoerer, a Basalt resident who helped organize opposition to the plan.
She said she started getting more confident that the proposal would be defeated as the campaign wore on.
"I'm very happy with those numbers," she said.
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The Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District spans parts of both Eagle and Pitkin counties. Turnout in both jurisdictions was light. It was about 31 percent in Pitkin County and 45 percent in Eagle County.
Schwoerer and Bob Schultz, another opponent of the plan, said they hope the idea of a midvalley recreation center is put to rest. Schwoerer said future boards at the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District shouldn't "waste" additional time and money on the idea.
"Either burn it or dig a big hole and bury it," Schultz said. He wants the recreation district to focus on improving the ecological and passive portions of Crown Mountain Park, which he called a fantastic amenity for the midvalley.
Schultz said it's difficult to determine if voters didn't like the idea of property tax hikes to construct and operate the facility or if they just didn't support the concept of a recreation center.
"I think a sales tax-based (proposal) would have failed, too," he said.
Laurie Soliday, chairwoman of the issues committee Friends of Mid Valley Recreation Center, said there were probably numerous and varied reasons for the defeat.
"Tax increases are tough, particularly property tax increases," she said.
The recreation district had to approach voters with a property tax proposal because it isn't allowed to assess a sales tax. Much of the debate centered on the cost of the facility and how it would affect property owners.
"I feel there was a lot of misperception of cost," Soliday said.
She said she was disappointed though not necessarily surprised by the result. "It would be surprising if it did pass the first time through," Soliday said. She views the results as a good community survey.
Bill Reynolds, president of the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District's board of directors, said the board would have to assess the election and determine its next steps. Voters in the Pitkin County part of the recreation district were opposed by a greater margin than those in Eagle County. Voters in Pitkin County opposed both questions by about a 80-to-20 percent margin.
"The opposition did a diligent job of presenting a bleak picture," he said.
Reynolds has worked on the idea of a recreation center for 7½ years. He said he isn't ready to give up on adding recreation amenities for the kids and other residents of the midvalley.
"I still believe we're lacking facilities," he said. "It's how we get there."
The recreation center's fate was tied to two ballot questions.
Question 4C asked for a property tax increase of up to 2.5 mills to raise $735,000 annually to operate and maintain the facility.
Question 4D asked voters to approve a property tax increase to repay $25 million in general obligation bonds needed to construct and equip the recreation center.
Supporters touted amenities the recreation center would add to the midvalley — providing a sense of place through a facility that numerous groups in the community could use. They stressed that the facility wouldn't be for recreation only. It also would serve as a senior center, and rooms would be available for rent for meetings and parties.
The proposed recreational amenities included an aquatic area with a four- and six-lane lap pool, a leisure pool and a hot tub; weight and cardio facilities; two group fitness rooms; a multi-purpose gym; an indoor jog track; a gymnastics and zero-gravity gym; and a dedicated senior center.