City of Aspen supports tax increases, oil and gas restrictions

The Aspen Jewish Community Center open for voting during the last election.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Aspen City Council on Monday night officially backed a state amendment limiting oil and gas development, and two local tax increase measures that support the regional bus system and health and human services.

Ballot Measure 1A asks Pitkin County voters to renew the existing property tax that supports the Healthy Community Fund.

The question also asks voters to increase the tax by $750,000 annually, up to just over $3 million and extending it by nine years.

In a resolution passed by council, it states that the fund supports 55,000 people from Aspen to Parachute, improving access to health care, preventing and treating substance abuse, diminishing the impacts of mental illness, and optimizing the quality of life for residents and workers in Pitkin County.

Council also supports Ballot Question 7A, a property tax that would fund the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority for the next 20 years.

It is being asked in nine different jurisdictions, which are all served by RFTA.

The city’s resolution states that without the approval of 7A, “RFTA will likely be forced to reduce regional services by up to 20 percent in just a few years in order to replace its aging buses.”

The resolution also acknowledges that Aspen is a primary job generator for the region and benefits “significantly from RFTA.”

On the state amendment front, council members said they believe it’s important to weigh in on issues that could affect local communities.

They support the passage of Proposition 112, which requires 2,500-foot setbacks on oil and gas fracking developments near schools, hospitals, homes and drinking water sources.

The resolution passed summarizes the risks and detrimental impacts that fracking has on human health.

It cites the flow line-related explosion in Firestone that killed two men and injured a woman in their home in 2017 and the fact that Colorado has experienced at least a dozen reported fires and explosions at oil and gas sites. The average evacuation distance for a U.S. well blowout is 0.8 miles, according to the resolution passed by council.

It also states that there were 619 spills in the state last year — 93,000 gallons of oil into the soil, groundwater and streams and 506,000 gallons of produced water spilled, including direct flows into waterways.

“Colorado is an arid state and drinking water sources must be protected,” the resolution reads.

Council also passed a resolution opposing Amendment 74. It’s a ballot question that asks Colorado voters this fall to amend the state Constitution that requires local governments to compensate a property owner if a law or regulation reduces the fair-market value of his or her land.

Last month, council members discussed impacts the amendment would have on local governments’ ability to legislate.

Monday night’s resolution was more pointed. It states that “governments would be vulnerable to lawsuits for almost every decision to regulate or not regulate.”

And that could cost billions of dollars to Colorado. Similar measures in Oregon and Washington cost state agencies and local governments $7.5 billion the first six years they were in effect.

Ballots will be mailed Oct. 15 and early voting begins Oct. 22. Election Day is Nov. 6.

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