Basalt, developer of Tree Farm settle the bill for Willits pedestrian underpass
OTHER COUNCIL ACTION
In other Basalt Town Council action on Tuesday night:
• The board voted 4-1 to suspend its tobacco tax for the remainder of the year starting April 1 to avoid violating Colorado’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights legislation that limits government revenues. TABOR requires government to estimate revenues that will be generated in the first full year of a new tax. Basalt voters approved the cigarette and tobacco tax in 2018 and this year is the first full year of collections. The town estimated the tax would generate $29,000 over the course of the year. It is hauling in significantly more, according to Town attorney Jeff Conklin. To rectify the situation, the town will suspend the tax and resume on Jan. 1, 2020. The voter approval doesn’t restrict revenues from the special tax beyond the first year.
Councilman Auden Schendler opposed the council’s direction. He said TABOR is creating a bureaucratic mess that will be confusing when the tax is suspended for three-fourths of this year and then reinstituted in 2020.
“This is another example of why TABOR is bad policy. It pisses me off. It’s lame,” Schendler said.
• The council, acting as the liquor-licensing agency, voted 5-0 to approve liquor licenses for Butch’s Lobster Shack and CC’s Café, two existing businesses. Butch Darden, operator of the seafood shack that operates only during summers, said he will expand his deck this year and serve alcohol. CC’s is adding liquor as a supplement to its coffee shop.
The town of Basalt and Tree Farm developer Ace Lane put bad blood aside and reached a deal last week that allows him to split an $857,505 payment due for his share of a pedestrian underpass of Highway 82 at Willits.
Lane must pay half when he cranks up development later this year, but either he can defer payment of the other half until he opens his first commercial development or in five years, whichever comes first. Lane wanted to defer half of the payment because of his high cost of getting the project started.
Lane’s approval for the Tree Farm project from Eagle County required him to pay for his share of the pedestrian underpass in full. Eagle County required Basalt’s consent to alter the payment schedule because the town covered most of Lane’s cost.
The pedestrian underpass was completed years ago and is in use. The town, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Willits Town Center chipped in funds and the Tree Farm pledged funds.
Lane has approvals to build as many as 514,000 square feet of development on his property on the north side of Highway 82, across from Whole Foods. The plan includes 340 residences and as many as 134,500 square feet of commercial development. About 60,550 square feet of the commercial development is slated to be a hotel or lodge.
Basalt actively opposed the Tree Farm project during Eagle County’s review. Town officials contended the project is too high density for an unincorporated area and that commercial uses would compete with those located in the town and eat away Basalt’s tax revenue.
Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt also has acted as a private citizen to oppose the project through a committee called Save Mid Valley. The group is litigating to overturn Eagle County’s approvals for the Tree Farm.
Lane’s team has criticized the opposition from the town and Whitsitt through the process, but the dispute didn’t play into the discussion of the underpass payment. Town Council passed the measure 6-0 Tuesday night with little discussion. Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer wasn’t present for the vote.
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