City explores forming open space board |

City explores forming open space board

Aspen Times Staff Report

Aspen will be looking to some citizen advisors when it comes to spending the city’s new open space funds, but the final say on the expenditures will likely rest with the City Council.

Jeff Woods, the city’s parks director, is researching how open space and parks advisory boards work in other parts of the state and country, according to Mayor Rachel Richards. She said she envisions a board that offers input on property acquisitions, but that also reviews the maintenance and improvements needed in Aspen’s parks and open spaces.

“Reviewing acquisitions will be part of their role rather than their sole function,” she said.

The half-cent open space sales tax approved by Aspen voters last month is expected to generate about $2 million annually, starting in 2001. The new tax boosts the proceeds of an existing tax used to purchase open space within and adjacent to the city. The money will give the city the ability to borrow up to $38 million for open space purchases, according to city Finance Director Tabatha Miller.

The city has already discussed pooling some of its money with Pitkin County, which has its own open space program, to purchase parcels targeted by both entities. The city, however, may not have the kind of powerful Open Space Board that oversees the county program, Richards said.

Pitkin County open space funds cannot be used without the approval of both the Open Space Board and county commissioners.

“I think the council is looking at an advisory board – not a decision-making body with veto power,” Richards said. A final decision on the board’s authority has yet to be made, she added.

The advisory board is likely to represent a mix of open space and recreation interests, though the city’s initial focus will be acquiring new parcels.

“We gave Jeff Woods the direction that we want to preserve as much as possible of the funding source for new acquisitions,” the mayor said.

Woods will work with Dale Will, director of the county open space program. The city and county are looking at a joint agreement that will allow Will to devote some of his time in negotiations and property acquisition to the city.

“There just seemed to be no reason to duplicate those efforts,” Richards said.

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