Basalt river park issues failing prior to final vote tally

Pumpkins line the property that Basalt voters considered purchasing. The measure was trailing by 65 votes, a margin that appeared too large to overcome as final votes were counted.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |


2F — Purchase Pan and Fork

Yes — 829

No — 893

2G — Park improvements

Yes — 778

No — 936

2H — Parks maintenance

Yes — 1,356

No — 299

2I — internet options

Yes — 1,486

No — 191

4A — library operations

Yes — 2,914

No — 1,862

*Pitkin and Eagle County Clerk and Recorder results as of midnight Wednesday

A hard-fought and often contentious campaign in Basalt ended with the voters’ apparent defeat of the purchase of another 2.3 acres at the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site.

Question 2F called for the town to buy 2.3 acres for up to $3.1 million. As of deadline time, the measure was trailing 829 votes in favor of the purchase and 893 against. Both Pitkin and Eagle counties had final votes to tally as of midnight Wednesday, so the gap of 64 votes could, in theory, be overcome. Check http://www.aspen​ for updated results.

A related measure, question 2G, to borrow up to $4.12 million for park improvements, was trailing 778 votes for and 936 against.

Opponents of the measures said the 2.3 acres along Two Rivers Road should be used more for development to spur the vitality of downtown rather than add to parkland the town already owns along the Roaring Fork River.

Foes also argued that borrowing in excess of $7 million would put the town government in too precarious of a financial position. Town resident and ballot measure opponent Steve Chase hammered on the financial aspect of the questions throughout the campaign.

He said by email Tuesday that the Town Council needs to take clear leadership on the issue, assuming it was still failing in the final count. The town must engage with Lowe Enterprises, an Aspen development firm that had worked on a plan for the property, or any other developer and “give a clear picture of what the zoning is to be.” Then the town must follow through on development plans using direction given by the planning commission direction.

The goal, Chase said, should be to “make the best deal that serves the needs of the community and perhaps even find some level of reimbursement.”

Basalt Councilman Auden Schendler is in New Zealand on a business trip, but gave his perspective on next steps via email.

“I’d like to see the community regroup and unite in a broader master planning effort to figure out how the Pan and Fork parcel connects to other areas of the town,” Schendler wrote.

The discussion needs to include improved parks and streetscapes, affordable housing and child care. The town needs to consider asking voters to approve a bond to fund some of those things, he said.

“Last, I think we should reopen a conversation with a potential developer in a way that honors the desire for a park but also recognizes the fiscal challenges on that parcel,” Schendler said. “I am also going to advocate for a series of community conversations with town planning experts to talk about possibilities.”

The proposal called for the town to dedicate 1.3 of the 2.3 acres to a park being developed along the Roaring Fork River. The remaining 1-acre would have been reserved for commercial or “community-serving” development.

Proponents contended the property would be a defining, legacy river park that would be a big draw for Basalt.

Cathy Moffroid, a proponent of the proposal, said the level of borrowing was a concern for voters.

“I think people were afraid that their taxes would go up,” she said. “People have turned it down. I think we fought a good fight.”

She said Basalt’s primary issue — whether to build a park — “pales in comparison” to issues facing the country after the election.

Two less controversial questions were on the ballot for Basalt. 2H sought approval to use up to 20 percent of the revenues generated by Basalt’s existing 1 percent open space tax for maintenance of Parks, Open Space and Trails. It was approved 1,356 to 299, with final votes to count.

In Question 2I, voters granted more flexibility and options in pursuing new and improved high-speed bandwidth services. It was approved 1,486 to 191.

The Basalt Regional Library District was on the ballot with question 4A. The proposal for a property tax hike to raise $350,000 annually for seven years won soundly, 2,914 to 1,862.