Basalt council will set direction on Pan and Fork ballot question Tuesday night
The Basalt Town Council plans to decide Tuesday which question, if any, it will ask voters in November about purchasing additional land at the Pan and Fork site and making park improvements.
It will be an 11th hour decision because the ballot question wording must be submitted to the clerks of Eagle and Pitkin counties by Sept. 8.
The council has a lot to hash out, based on interviews with three members. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said the council must pare down the size of the bond requested. The recent discussion has been to ask for a $9.425 million bond issue to buy an additional 2.3 acres of land and pay for park improvements.
“I have heard council members and the public say the numbers are too big,” Whitsitt said.
Councilman Mark Kittle said he will keep an open mind during tonight’s discussion but he has doubts that any question could pass at this time.
“My opinion now is we need to wait,” he said.
Kittle wants to focus on making park improvements on the 3 acres the town already owns closest to the Roaring Fork River at the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site. He wants the town to do a good job with installing sod, landscaping and placing some picnic tables so the site can be used, he said in an interview late last week.
Councilman Auden Schendler said he supports putting a question on the ballot, but he’s not sure he would support its approval.
Tying up $9.425 million in bonds with a payback closer to $12 million could leave the town shorthanded to pursue other projects, Schendler said.
Schendler said he would raise the idea of seeking two ballot questions — one asking for a bond issuance to pay for the park improvements on the land already owned by the town, and a second question proposing those improvements plus roughly $3 million to buy the property.
Schendler has acknowledged at public meetings that he doesn’t feel it would be the worst thing for the ballot issue to fail. His preferred approach would be for the town to acquire about 1 additional acre for the park and zone the remainder “aggressively” for development. The town could avoid buying the land slated for development, he said.
The town has a contract to buy the entire 2.3 acres from the nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. for about $3 million. The purchase is contingent on voter approval.
The resignation of Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon Aug. 19 could play a factor in the election outcome. Scanlon had significant popular support. Numerous community members are angry that the relationship between the council and Scanlon deteriorated to the point where he quit.
“It’s probably going to hurt the ballot issue without him here,” Schendler said.
If a question goes on the ballot, the town intends to pay the bonds off without adding a new property tax. However, an existing property tax used to pay off existing bonds would have to be extended to pay the new bonds. The town would also use revenues from a sales tax dedicated to open space and trails to pay off the bonds.
The council’s meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Basalt Town Hall. There will be an open house at 6 p.m. with town staff and consultants to discuss the bond issue.
Town Hall sent a direct email to subscribers Friday that had the incorrect times listed for the meetings, according to Town Planning Director Susan Philp. The intent is to take public comment at the open house, then let the council members weigh in during the work session, Philp said.
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