City prepares to ask voters what to do with Bass Park |

City prepares to ask voters what to do with Bass Park

The controversial purchase of the property known as Bass Park in downtown Aspen is headed for an electoral decision of some sort.

The City Council tonight will take an initial look at ballot language asking voters what they think should be done with the property. The question is slated for the Nov. 2 election.

The choices, as outlined in a memo to the council from Finance Director Tabatha Miller, are: to keep it as a park and pay for it with a tax hike; use part of it for affordable housing and part for a park; or sell it to private developers and use the money for some other project.

The purchase of the park first came up in January, when the council announced plans to buy the park and ask voters to authorize a tax hike to fund the purchase. As an interim measure, the park was purchased using $3.34 million from the city’s housing/day-care fund, and $100,000 from the parks fund.

Since the purchase in April, the options for using the park have fueled a political controversy among those who believe it should be kept as “urban open space” to relieve the density of buildings at the center of town, and those who believe an 18,000-square-foot park is of little use and that the land should be used for much-needed affordable housing.

Proponents of using the entire parcel for housing have pointed out that there are two much larger downtown parks – Wagner and Paepcke – each within a block or so of Bass Park.

City staffers, acting at the direction of the council, have estimated that it would cost roughly $1.9 million to build 18 affordable housing units on about one-half of the land at Bass Park.

Finance Director Miller has included in the council packet a breakdown of “Bass Park purchase options.” Looking at different increases in either the city’s property tax rate or sales taxes, Miller’s memo shows how the purchase price could be paid off in as few as three years to as many as 20 years.

As of yet, there is no wording in the proposed ballot language that would give voters the option of endorsing use of the entire park for housing, though city officials said last week that the all-housing option might be added.

The ballot language is being considered for first reading at tonight’s meeting. A public hearing is scheduled Aug. 9, in order to meet the deadline for getting a question on the ballot this fall.

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