`No’ votes at polls could put housing all over Bass Park | AspenTimes.com

`No’ votes at polls could put housing all over Bass Park

Sarah S. Chung

Voters will be asked to decide the fate of Bass Park in November, but they won’t be asked whether the entire property should be used for affordable housing.

A preliminary version of the ballot language will give voters three options: leaving the property as a park; putting affordable housing on half of it; or selling the $3.5 million parcel and using the money elsewhere.

If voters decide they want Bass Park to remain as open space, they’ll have to tax themselves to make it happen. There’s not enough money in the open-space fund to pay for the property, said Mayor Rachel Richards. That means voters would have to approve a .21 percent sales tax to keep it a full park, or a .105 percent tax for half a park.

The 18,000-square-foot park at Monarch and Hopkins was purchased with affordable housing funds. So putting housing on the entire parcel would be a “default option” if all three questions fail at the polls, said Richards.

But that’s not good enough for Councilman Tom McCabe.

“I’d like it to be 100 percent affordable housing – that’s my preference,” McCabe said. “I suspect there are quite a few who feel the same way and I want to make sure they don’t miss that opportunity. … I suppose the language could be crafted to be more specific and I’ll do what I can to make that happen.”

Each of the council members appears to have their own opinions on the best use of the land.

“To me, 50 percent is the best way to preserve the best elements of the park while putting in housing at an appropriate scale,” Richards said. “It just might make a very happy marriage.”

None of the council members seems happy about the option of selling off the land. But considering the price tag for a relatively small parcel of land, the council can’t help but wonder whether the money could be better spent somewhere else.

“The single least favored outcome would be for the site to become a free-market second home,” Richards said. “But $3.5 million for 18,000 square feet is very hard to justify when we bought the entire Burlingame ranch, over 200 acres, for $2.6 million, or Cozy Point for $2.4, which is also over 200 acres.

“However, we wanted to give people a chance to say this is something so dear to our hearts we’re willing to pay for it.”

For residents unhappy with all the options presented so far, there’s “plenty of time to kick this around before [the ballot] gets our final blessing,” said McCabe.

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