Developers want out of open-space plan | AspenTimes.com
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Developers want out of open-space plan

Two of Basalt’s biggest development companies failed this week to remove their properties from a special district that may be formed to buy and preserve open space.

Caddis Fly Partners LLC, the developer of the Riverwalk project in Basalt, and Basalt Trade Associates claimed their holdings should be exempt from a property tax if voters approve the proposed Roaring Fork Open Space, Park and Recreation District. The district appears headed toward the November ballot.

Basalt Trade Associates owns numerous developed and undeveloped projects in the midvalley. One of its highest-profile projects is Willits, the commercial and residential subdivision upvalley from the El Jebel City Market.

Basalt Trade Associates partner Paul Adams wrote to the Eagle County commissioners that the firm’s property should be excluded from the new open-space district because it is already “subject” to taxes for parks and recreational facilities as a member of the Mid Valley Metropolitan District.

He claimed that owners of commercial property and vacant land are unfairly burdened by the proposed tax. They pay three times the rate of residential property owners in the formula established in Colorado.

“As you are aware, commercial properties and vacant land bear the lion’s share of the proposed tax while residential users basically get a free ride,” Adams wrote. The users of the parks and recreational space should pay for it, he said.

In addition, subjecting commercial properties to new taxes will only result in higher rental and sales rates for businesses, Adams noted.

Caddis Fly Partners manager Frieda Wallison asked for an exemption because the firm has offered an easement for park land to the town of Basalt. Wallison’s letter to the Eagle County commissioners said that since her company had granted rights in land and agreed to maintain the roughly 13,500 square feet along the Fryingpan River, it should be excluded from the open-space taxing district.

“Further taxation of the property for the same general purpose would be unduly burdensome,” she wrote.

In addition to the development firms, four owners of homes or vacant residential lots sought exemption.

All six requests were denied Tuesday by the commissioners. They concluded that providing exemptions “would not be in the best interests of the district,” said County Manager Jack Instad.

The commissioners also gave the open-space district a key approval it needed to make the November ballot. The commissioners voted 3-0 to approve the proposed service plan for the district.

Organizers will now try to gain the same approval from the Garfield County commissioners in a public hearing Aug. 23, at 10:30 a.m. If those commissioners sign off, the service plan will advance to a Garfield County District Judge for certification for the ballot, said Bob Schultz, a member of the open-space district’s steering committee.

A judge’s approval would send the proposal to the Nov. 7 ballot for the Roaring Fork Valley portions of Garfield and Eagle counties. If approved, property in the Roaring Fork RE-1 school district from West Glenwood Springs to the Pitkin-Eagle county line in Basalt would be taxed to raise revenues to buy open space and create trails.

The district would avoid developing playgrounds and athletic fields, according to organizers. It’s entirely unrelated to the recreation work being contemplated at the Mt. Sopris Tree Farm.

A different taxing district for facilities at the tree farm could end up on the 2001 ballot.


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