Pitkin County voters like water and land swap, reject roads | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County voters like water and land swap, reject roads

Jeanne McGovernThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

PITKIN COUNTY Pitkin County voters shot down a proposed tax hike for roads, while approving a tax increase for rivers. A third referendum, calling for a three-way land swap, won by a landslide. Unofficial results from the Pitkin County Clerk & Recorders Office showed Referendum 1A (Dedicated Sales Tax for Healthy River and Streams Fund) passing 5,621 to 3,402; Referendum 1B (Dedicated Funding for County Roads) was defeated 4,635 to 4,349; and Referendum 1C (Save Open Space Ryan Parcel Exchange) winning 6,896 to 1,786.As approved, Referendum 1A will raise the countys sales tax rate by one-tenth of 1 percent, or one penny for every $100 purchased, to keep local lakes, rivers and streams healthy and clean.Specifically, the referendum will increase the countys sales tax rate to 3.6 percent. The new tax will put the town of Snowmass Village at a combined tax rate of 10 percent. In Aspen, the new water fund tax will take the aggregate sales tax up to 8.6 percent.Referendum 1B would have dedicated funds for county roads over the next 20 years by increasing the property tax rate by two mills, which officials estimate to be approximately $16 per year for every $100,000 of residential property value.The referendum was placed on the ballot by county commissioners, who said that current spending roughly $1.9 million per year out of the general fund is not sufficient. A consultant estimated the county needs to spend between $5 million and $8 million per year to keep the roads in good shape, according to public works director Brian Pettet. The vote, while close with a 286-vote margin, is not subject to a recount under Colorado law.Referendum 1C will pave the way for a three-way land swap known as the Ryan Parcel Exchange, which has been on the countys wish list for roughly 20 years. The complicated series of land swaps ultimately means a 35-acre parcel in the upper Castle Creek Valley, known as the Ryan parcel, will be turned over to the U.S. Forest Service, as will two 10-acre mining claim in-holdings currently owned by the county. In turn, the county will take title of a 40-acre tract spanning the Crystal River, 12 old mining claims within the Smuggler Mountain Open Space, and the 8.4-acre Means Cabin site, also known as the Wildwood parcel. The Means Cabin site, which is situated at the entrance of the Difficult Campground area just east of Aspen, will then be sold to a private developer for slightly more than $2 million; as part of that deal, the county will get a trail easement to complete the East of Aspen Trail and fishing access to the Roaring Fork River.Voter approval was needed because county open space funds were used to buy the Ryan parcel in the 1990s, and the countys charter required voter approval before any land bought with open space money can be sold or otherwise transferred out of public ownership.jmcgovern@aspentimes.com

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