Midvalley recreation backers feel time is right | AspenTimes.com

Midvalley recreation backers feel time is right

Promoters of a midvalley recreation district are willing to bet this fall that voters will approve a $5.1 million bond issuance despite tougher economic times.

After more than a decade of debate, residents of the Basalt and El Jebel areas will finally get to decide Nov. 5 what sports and recreational facilities should be built at the former Mount Sopris Tree Farm in El Jebel. The proposed district would be formally known as the Crown Mountain Community Park and Recreation District.

After all the studies, public hearings, design charettes and bickering, promoters of the plan felt it was best to ask voters now for full funding for everything currently envisioned on the 128-acre site, said Mark Fuller, a consultant helping plan the ballot proposal.

But even some supporters of the district caution that a $5.1 million plan might be too much for the public to swallow at this time. Basalt Town Councilman Jon Fox-Rubin said he is worried voters may be leery of passing a property tax to pay that size of bond.

He noted that voters within the same boundary barely approved a property tax increase for the Basalt and Rural Fire District this spring and that Pitkin County voters overwhelmingly rejected a tax question earlier this month.

“Messages have been sent recently,” Fox-Rubin said.

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He stressed that he wants to see the district approved, but fears it is in jeopardy at the proposed financing amount. “I just think the scale might be off a little,” Fox-Rubin said.

Fuller said the Crown Mountain park planning committee considered different alternatives. “It’s certainly something we’ve struggled with,” he said.

Ultimately, the committee decided it wouldn’t be wise to pursue funding it knew would be inadequate for the full plan, then come back at a future date for more funds. The cost of developing facilities will only climb, he said.

The committee also rejected trying to pare down the plan and provide a “half-assed” park and recreational facility, Fuller said.

Under the current proposal, voters get a “first-class” facility without paying a property tax hike that would force anyone out of the valley, according to Fuller.

Planning committee co-chair Laurie Soliday said enough must be included in the recreation district proposal to make it attractive to a wide range of voters. Scaling back the plan might have also risked rejection on election day, she said.

“I don’t feel like we’re doing too much, too soon,” she said.

The proposed mil levy of 2.5 per $1,000 of valuation would cover repayment of the $5.1 million bond plus operational and maintenance costs of the proposed recreational and sports facilities, according to the district’s service plan.

A home with an actual property value of $300,000 would pay an additional $75.64 per year in property taxes. The proposed district has the same boundaries as the Basalt fire district ? from the Eagle-Garfield county line to the Old Snowmass area.

In return for the tax hike, district residents would receive facilities that include two baseball fields; two soccer fields and soccer practice areas; two basketball courts; two tennis courts; a BMX bike track; a skateboard park; and two volleyball courts.

The site development plan also calls for the development of various nonsporting park facilities like trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, lawn and garden areas and a dog park.

More information about the specific plan is available at the organizing committee’s Web site: crownmountainparkandrecdist.org.

A public forum to discuss the plan will also be held Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. at the El Jebel Community Center.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]