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GarCo voters to decide on open space

Donna Daniels

This time the voters will decide.

Fresh from taking stinging criticism from constituents over denial of a ballot question on the formation of a rural transportation authority, the Garfield County Commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday to allow voters to decide whether to form the Roaring Fork Open Space, Parks and Recreation District. Larry McCown of Rifle cast the dissenting vote. John Martin and Walt Stowe of Glenwood Springs voted in favor.

Voters will be asked to approve the formation of the district and a levy of 2.5 mills, as well as $10 million in bonds and electing a five-member board of directors and exemption from the fund-raising and spending limits of the TABOR amendment.

The money would buy open space, park land, trail corridors and conservation easements. The land would be used for hiking, fishing access and picnics.

The commissioners also agreed to foot the bill for the election if the district vote passes.

The final vote came after a technical glitch, however. On a motion by Commissioner Stowe, the board voted to approve the service plan for the proposed district, then moved to vote on exempting certain properties in the district from taxation.

But the county’s consulting attorney, Blake Jordan, explained by speaker-phone from Denver that the exemption question had to be settled first.

So the commissioners rescinded the initial vote, then voted to exempt five properties from the district because they had already donated open space land to the county. In all, 70 property owners wrote to the county commissioners requesting exemption from the district.

Those properties included land in downtown Glenwood Springs owned by former County Commissioner Marian Smith and her brothers, Arbey and Gordon Duffy, and lots in the Rock Creek subdivision in Carbondale.

Stowe then repeated his original motion and it passed again, 2-1, with McCown again voting no.

Tuesday’s was the second public hearing on the open space district proposal and came at the 11th hour for the steering committee for Open Space 2000, which was required to send the ballot language to the secretary of state today, Sept. 13.

All three commissioners balked at not being included in the planning process for open space acquisition. Those decisions will be up to an elected board of directors. John Martin said the district plan was rushed through and he didn’t have the time to thoroughly study it.

About 20 citizens showed up at Tuesday’s hearing, most of whom were in favor of the open space district.

“I support the people’s right to vote on these issues,” said Bill Evans of Glenwood Springs, who is a candidate for county commissioner and is running against John Martin. The fact that an elected office is at stake influenced the vote, he added. “Today’s vote shows the importance of the political process. This is an election year.”


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