Decision looms for Basalt on trailer park |

Decision looms for Basalt on trailer park

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT The Basalt town governments proposal to boost property taxes to buy a flood-imperiled trailer park for $5 million has failed to attract a champion of the issue. While the election is only about a month away, April 1, no citizens committee has emerged to promote the purchase of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. The bonding company the town is working with on the deal eventually will try to build awareness of the proposed purchase. The town government is in a sticky spot on the issue. Colorado law prevents local governments from spending public funds to promote a specific outcome. The town cant really do a lot, Town Manager Bill Efting said. We cant spend town money. Members of the Town Council can campaign as individuals. Councilman Chris Seldin said he will campaign for the issue closer to the election, and it is his understanding that all the board members will support the purchase. I dont think its going to be an orphan issue, Seldin said. Mayor Leroy Duroux said there is a faction of Basalt residents who scoff at the idea that the Pan and Fork and an adjacent neighborhood, the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park, are in danger of flooding. The lifelong valley resident said he has seen the power of the Roaring Fork River and witnessed the damage it can do. Duroux said he has no doubt that town consultants were correct in advising that the residents of the trailer parks be relocated. Both trailer parks are protected from the river by makeshift levees.Relocation of families The town has a contract to buy the Pan and Fork from Renee Ritchies RNR Ltd. Its contingent on voter approval of the ballot question. The town will seek voter approval to issue general obligation bonds, which would be repaid through a property tax increase. The Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park isnt part of the ballot question. Its fate remains uncertain. If the April 1 measure passes, the town governments goal is to eventually relocate the 37 families and individual households at the Pan and Fork. The town initially will hire a property manager to operate the trailer park. As replacement housing becomes available, residents will be offered a place to relocate. No one is going to be put out in the cold if this wins election, Efting said. Finding replacement housing for all 37 households could take three to 10 years, he said. The towns ultimate goal is to remove the trailer houses and preserve land closest to the river as a park. The portion of the site closest to Two Rivers Road will be redeveloped, likely as a mix of commercial and residential uses. That project will help the town recoup the cost of buying the property. Seldin said the redevelopment could provide housing used to relocate trailer park residents.Bond company will campaign The heavy snowpack this winter could help build awareness of the issue, although peak runoff is expected at least two months after the election. A consultant for the town released a study in 2000 that said the mobile home parks could be swamped by a major flood. A peer review confirmed the concern. Town officials fear the loss of homes is the main threat. A flash flood that would endanger lives isnt viewed as a large possibility. The relocation of the trailer parks is viewed as a key first step in a broader plan to reduce the flood risk in Basalt. But because the acquisition of the Pan and Fork is a costly step, the council wanted direction. We definitely wanted to get it out to voters, Duroux said. It was too big of a decision for the board. The bond company the town is working with will emerge in March as a player in the campaign. Steve Jeffers of Stifel Nicolaus & Co. said his firm will produce brochures that promote approval of the ballot question. By eliminating the mobile home park, we eliminate the flood issue, he said. The cost of the campaign will be paid out of the bond companys pockets and wont be passed on to Basalt residents, Jeffers said. The company got involved in campaigns after the Colorado constitution was changed through the TABOR Amendment, limiting the growth of government, was approved in 1992. Jeffers said the campaign on the Basalt issue has been quiet by design, thus far. His firm never bothers campaigning more than one month before an election. People arent focusing on a campaign, he said. The best timing, according to Jeffers, is a couple of weeks before the election.

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