No on midvalley recreation center
October 28, 2009
A lot of well-intentioned people support the effort to plan and eventually build a new indoor recreation center in El Jebel, but the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District Referendum 4A is a bad idea.
On its face, the measure is inexpensive and fairly benign: Proponents are seeking a one-year mill levy increase of 0.36 mills (an addition to the existing 1 mill), which would mean an additional $14.50 for a $500,000 property – for one year only. This won’t burden most local property owners.
Furthermore, the measure would merely trigger a planning effort to define the size, shape, cost and parameters of a new center to serve families in the Crown Mountain district, which includes Old Snowmass, Basalt, Emma, El Jebel and neighboring areas. No ground would be broken, no dozers deployed. (The planning effort would include the rest of the so-called Tree Farm property, where Crown Mountain Park is located, but the driving force behind the effort has been the rec center.)
So, taken by itself, Referendum 4A isn’t a huge deal. It will likely lead, however, to a second ballot measure, perhaps in November 2010, seeking a whole lot more money to build and operate a facility that would mimic and compete with existing rec centers in Aspen, Snowmass Village, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. One recent letter-writer called this an “arms race,” and we’re inclined to agree.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the notion of a recreation center to serve midvalley families, but it is highly dubious and even wasteful to have five such centers located in a 40-mile-long valley with a total population on the order of a small Front Range city. Every one of the existing centers operates at a deficit, requiring taxpayer subsidy, and we’re going to add another one?
This mountain valley is blessed with natural beauty and recreational opportunities that have made it world famous. There are four other public rec centers nearby, not to mention numerous health clubs, fitness centers and gyms.
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We don’t need to increase taxes in order to plan a new rec center – especially when the Crown Mountain district, like so many other taxing districts, can expect a revenue windfall thanks to this year’s huge property tax valuations.
Vote No on Question 4A.