Basalt voters OK three ballot issues |

Basalt voters OK three ballot issues

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Basalt voters approved a 5 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana and an addition to the lodging tax on Tuesday.

Basalt voters also approved a housecleaning item in the Home Rule Charter by making it consistent with the state by lowering the residency requirement needed to vote in an election to 22 days. Basalt’s charter previously set a residency requirement of 30 days.

Unofficial results released early Wednesday by Eagle and Pitkin counties. Question 2C, seeking an increase in the lodging tax, was approved 752 to 560, or 57 to 43 percent.

Question 2D for a 5 percent tax on retail marijuana sales won 970 to 375, or 72 to 28 percent.

Question 2E on lowering the residency requirement cruised through with a vote of 1,085 to 195, or 85 to 15 percent.

“Ballot issues pass because the voters trust in the direction we’re going as a town,” said Town Manager Mike Scanlon, as the outcome started to become clear earlier in the evening.

Voter approval of the 2 percent lodging tax provides an economic boost, he said.

“This will allow the Willits area to continue to be successful and be the engine that propels the midvalley area as well as Basalt,” Scanlon said.

The ballot questions generated little debate during the campaign. The Town Council proposed implementing a tax on sales of retail marijuana and marijuana products when it created rules for retail operations. The 5 percent rate was proposed after the staff researched rates in surrounding towns.

The revenues will pay the expenses related to regulation of the marijuana industry as well as education and public health programs related to marijuana.

The lodging tax addition was proposed by town staff and endorsed by the council as a way to help new lodges pay for construction or old lodges pay for upgrades.

Voters approved increasing the existing 2 percent lodging tax by another 2 percent. The approval gives permission to any lodge to use the revenues generated by its sales to help fund construction or upgrades. Annual revenues can be used for as many as 10 years.

The question was born during negotiations between town officials and Mariner Real Estate Management about the company’s proposal for a 112-unit Elements hotel at Willits Town Center. Mariner sought town aid in building the facility. Officials argued a hotel would benefit the town’s businesses and generate sales taxes. The additional lodging tax was seen as a way to provide those funds.

However, voters didn’t have much of a choice. The council pledged that it would provide Mariner with $500,000 out of the town’s general fund if the lodging tax wasn’t approved. Taxpayers were going to pay one way or another, it was just a question of whether it would come from visitors’ or residents’ pockets.