Basalt’s economy takes uneven steps | AspenTimes.com

Basalt’s economy takes uneven steps

Workers are constructing the 112-room Element Basalt hotel at Willits Town Center. The various building fees paid for the project added $265,493 to the town government's coffers.

The 112-room Element Basalt hotel at Willits is expected to lift the midvalley economy when it opens in fall 2015, but it has already boosted the town government's coffers.

The various land-use and building-permit fees for the hotel totaled $265,493.19, according to an invoice from the town to the developer.

The hotel construction project has an estimated value of slightly more than $10 million, which was used to figure most fees. The building-permit fee was $88,703.75. A special-improvement fee was $76,488. The plan-review fee was $57,657.44, and the Willits impact fee, dedicated to road improvements in the Willits area, was $38,244. An energy fee of $400 and a $4,000 construction bond rounded out the charge.

The special-use fee is assessed to pay for the development's equitable share of the cost of accounting, planning, management, administration and government, according to the town code.

“Willits has more than offset any losses we’ve had in the Midland corridor.”
Town Manager Mike Scanlon

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In addition to that financial burst from fees, the town of Basalt also is reaping sales tax revenue at a record pace, according to the Finance Department's latest report.

The town collected about $3.16 million from January through September. That reflects sales from December through August.

That is an increase of $77,992, or 2.5 percent, from the same period in 2013. Last year was the first to top $4 million in sales tax revenue in Basalt. This year appears poised to eclipse that mark.

This year also is running at a healthy clip higher than 2008, the last year before the recession stung Basalt's economy. Sales tax revenue through September 2008 was $2,912,453. This year's sales tax revenue are running $251,547, or 8 percent, higher than 2008, the Finance Department's report showed.

Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon said he expects building fee revenue to remain high and sales tax collections to continue to rise for roughly the next five years. Mariner Real Estate Management, the owner and developer of Willits Town Center, anticipates constructing one building per year, he noted. That means a steady revenue stream for the town via building fees. It also means more businesses will be added.

New businesses, such as Whole Foods Market, and expanded businesses have fueled the growth of sales tax revenue, according to Scanlon. Nearly all the new and expanded businesses are located at Willits Town Center.

"Willits has more than offset any losses we've had in the Midland corridor," Scanlon said, referring to Basalt's historic main street.

He believes Basalt's sales tax revenue is sustainable, in large part because it is dominated by retail food sales by the town's two supermarkets.

"It's mostly built on things that people need," Scanlon said.

The town will use the extra revenue for street repairs, capital improvements and to build its reserves, he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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