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Renewal of RETT to be on ballot

Aspen Times Staff Report

Aspen will ask its voters to renew the embattled real estate transfer tax that funds affordable housing in the May election.

The City Council agreed Wednesday to put reauthorization of the tax on the ballot, despite a lawsuit that threatens some of the revenues generated by the 1 percent tax on real estate sales.

“You’d probably be considering this question whether you had the lawsuit or not,” said City Attorney John Worcester.

The existing tax expires in 2004. The council is looking at long-range housing plans, though, and needs to know the tax revenues will be available beyond 2004, Worcester said.

Seeking the reauthorization now would give the city time to propose it a second time to voters in the event it fails at the polls this spring, added Mayor Rachel Richards.

The council is also considering placing a question on the May ballot that would ask voters to clarify the intent of both the city’s RETT ordinances. Council members discussed the matter briefly in closed session Wednesday but came to no conclusion, according to Worcester.

The ambiguous wording of the RETT ordinances has led to a lawsuit claiming the city has the authority to assess real estate transfer taxes based only on the value of land, and not improvements on properties.

The city contends that it has always been the intent of the voters that both land and improvements should be subject to the taxes.


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