Basalt voters will settle tax proposals on pot and lodging | AspenTimes.com

Basalt voters will settle tax proposals on pot and lodging

Basalt voters will settle the fates of two tax questions and a housecleaning issue in the Nov. 4 election, but no Town Council seats are up for grabs.

Basalt Ballot Question 2C will ask voters if the town government can impose an additional 2 percent lodging tax on the existing lodging tax of 2 percent.

The question also seeks permission to allow hotels that are built or improved to use revenue from their specific tax to fund their projects. The revenue would be available to help pay for capital improvements for up to 10 years. After that, the revenue would go to the town to help market hotels in the Basalt area.

The question was born during negotiations between the town and Mariner Real Estate Investment over approval of a hotel at Willits Town Center. Mariner sought public funding help to build the 112-room hotel, which it argued would improve the economy and produce sales tax revenue for Basalt's pocketbook.

The lodging tax question was born during negotiations between the town and Mariner Real Estate Investment over approval for a hotel at Willits Town Center.

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Negotiators for the two sides came up with the proposal in March for a lodging tax increase to pay for the improvements. However, the specific agreement with Mariner said that if voters don't approve the ballot question, Basalt will provide $500,000 from its general fund to help Mariner with the construction.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said at the time that the proposal didn't pass "the stink test." She said she would rather see the town place the question for the 2 percent lodging tax increase on the ballot without the caveat that $500,000 will come from the town's general fund if the question fails. She said the way it was arranged feels "a little bit like blackmail."

However, other Town Council members voiced support for the arrangement.

The ballot question has generated no apparent debate during the campaign. There is no visible lobbying for its approval or defeat.

Basalt Ballot Question 2D seeks voter approval for a 5 percent sales tax on retail marijuana sales. Town Manager Mike Scanlon said 5 percent was targeted after a survey of other towns in the Roaring Fork Valley and Colorado resorts. It's in line with what most other towns charge, he said.

The ballot question asks whether revenue should be spent to pay "direct and indirect expenses related to the licensing and regulation of retail marijuana industry, enforcement of marijuana laws in general, education and public health programs to mitigate any negative consequences associated with the consumption of marijuana and marijuana products, programs to prevent the illegal diversion of retail marijuana and retail marijuana products to persons under the age of 21, and to otherwise pay the expenses of operating and improving the town and its facilities?"

Scanlon said the tax would raise limited revenues. There are only two retail marijuana licenses available in Basalt. One was issued to a business aiming to open this month in the Southside neighborhood. An application for a second pot store is pending.

Scanlon said the town wouldn't get into the business of educating people about drug use. It would likely pass the funds to existing groups working on that goal.

Basalt Ballot Question 2E proposes a tweak to the length of time of residency for voters to vote in any election. The town's Home Rule Charter currently requires that a person reside in Basalt for 30 days before they can vote. The proposal is to reduce it to 22 days to make Basalt consistent with the state of Colorado's rule. The state revised its requirement last year.

scondon@aspentimes.com