City voters on Bass Park: No, no, no, no
The Aspen City Council, looking to the voters for input on what to do with Bass Park, didn’t get much help.
Voters turned down all four options presented on Tuesday’s ballot, leaving the council to decide the park’s fate or ask again for direction during a future election.
By varying degrees, voters don’t want to sell the park, don’t want to keep it as a park, don’t want to develop affordable housing on the parcel, and also don’t want to put affordable housing on half the property and leave the rest as a park.
“Since the electorate didn’t seem to have a strong opinion, I guess it’s up to the council to make the decision,” said Councilman Jim Markalunas.
But other council members haven’t given up on giving voters a chance to steer the city on what to do with the property.
“If there’s not a clear direction on Bass Park, maybe we didn’t do a good enough job of educating the public,” said Councilman Tony Hershey.
A confusing array of questions regarding the park, which were not grouped together on the ballot due to state tax laws, probably didn’t help, conceded Mayor Rachel Richards.
“The council should take some responsibility for a poorly worded set of questions,” she said.
Legally, if the city doesn’t hold another election on the park, the council can do anything but sell the property outright. Because the park was purchased with public money, the city can only sell the land with voter approval under state law.
“It’s very expensive land to be a park and the public seems to have not wanted to pay for it,” Richards noted.
The city bought the 18,000-square-foot parcel at the corner of Hopkins and Monarch from the Bass family for $3.4 million.
In yesterday’s voting, the Bass Park option that garnered the least opposition in terms of “no” votes was the one to retain the parcel as a park, with 43 percent of the vote in favor of keeping the park and 57 percent against it.
On the half-housing, half-park option, 32 percent voted “yes” and 68 percent said “no.” Converting the land to housing won support from 33 percent, while 67 percent of those voting on the question said “no.” Only 23 percent of the votes cast favored selling the property outright, while 77 percent opposed it.
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