City mulls Bass Park question |

City mulls Bass Park question

Sarah S. Chung

While the Aspen City Council remains united in its plan to present a new ballot question on Bass Park to voters, the final language is by no means a done deal.

At a work session Tuesday, the council agreed that the future of Bass Park should again be put before voters. But a day after that determination, members were divided on how the question should read.

One councilman says the proposed question doesn’t go far enough, while another contends it goes too far.

As currently proposed, the ballot question would ask for a new .3 percent sales tax over 10 years in order to keep Bass Park a park.

If it passes, $12.1 million would be raised for open space purchases. If the question is rejected, affordable housing would be built on the parcel, since it was originally purchased with $3.3 million of housing money and $100,000 of city parks and open space funds.

The problem Councilman Tony Hershey has with the proposed question is that it doesn’t simply ask voters if they want housing or open space at Bass Park, located at Hopkins and Monarch. Since it would only take $4.6 million to pay back the housing program with interest, there’s $7.5 million that skews the question, Hershey contends.

“I’d like a much more straightforward question,” Hershey said. “I think the current one could confuse people who are in favor of housing at Bass Park but also support open space in general.”

But Councilman Jim Markalunas wants to expand the scope of the question even further.

“I think it’s a good concept to create a fund to allow the city to save parcels of open space,” said Markalunas, who backs doubling the duration of the proposed tax to 20 years in order to eventually raise $24.2 million. “A wise planner doesn’t just plan day-to-day. He looks to the future.”

Aspen Mayor Rachel Richards calls the current proposal “a jumping-off point” to future discussions. Her reason for proposing funding beyond what’s needed for Bass Park, she said, is to give open space advocates a chance to preserve similar parcels elsewhere.

“To take a piecemeal approach is to ignore the fact that within months of the election, people would be at City Hall asking to save another little parcel,” Richards said. “But if someone wants housing on Bass Park and also supports open space, they should vote `no’ to see the issue brought back later.”

Hershey, however, says the more direct the question, the more likely the city is to get a clear mandate from voters. Four options for the park on last November’s ballot all failed.

“I’m concerned that if people are confused, what happened last time could happen again,” Hershey said.

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