Snowmass council endorses Thompson Divide Coalition efforts | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass council endorses Thompson Divide Coalition efforts

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun
Aspen, CO Colorado

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – The Snowmass Town Council voted unanimously Monday to send a letter to Sen. Michael Bennet endorsing the efforts of the Thompson Divide Coalition, which seeks to protect lands in the divide from oil and gas development.

Elected officials in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, as well as Pitkin, Garfield and Gunnison counties, have given their support to the coalition. The coalition’s mission is twofold: One is to get legislation passed to prevent future leasing of lands for oil and gas drilling; the other is to purchase and retire existing leases.

Coalition Executive Director Zane Kessler said the nonprofit organization was not asking for financial support from the council nor asking for legislative action.

“I don’t think we’re asking anyone to join the coalition,” Kessler said. “I think we’re asking for an endorsement of the coalition’s efforts.”

Haber and Councilwoman Markey Butler both expressed a desire to add more detail to the letter and update it as the issue develops.

The council also directed staff on how to write an advisory question about a town plastic-bag policy, which would be included in the upcoming November election. The direction was to keep it very simple and broad, such as simply asking whether residents would support some kind of policy on one-use bags or not.

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Councilman John Wilkinson still did not support drafting the question, saying he wanted the council to write an ordinance and go to the voters with that.

“This was the tactic of getting direct feedback from the voters of Snowmass Village,” Haber said, pointing out that the council agreed on July 23 that holding a special election in May would be too costly and that there was not enough time to create an ordinance for November’s election. The deadline to put a question on the ballot is Sept. 6.

Town staff will present the council with the ballot question and a resolution to go forward with it at its Aug. 20 meeting.

Council members also discussed inviting the Aspen Education Foundation to present information about its proposal to add a county sales tax supporting the Aspen School District.

During the time allotted for public non-agenda items, Snowmass businessman and resident Reed Lewis asked the council to consider lowering the sales tax in town, particularly if the county sales tax is added.

“It’s pretty embarrassing to have to tell our guests and our residents that we have the second-highest sales tax rate in the country,” Lewis said.

He suggested lowering the marketing fund tax, which is 2.5 percent.

“I have a feeling if we lower it, it will kind of balance itself out,” he said.

Mayor Bill Boineau said he thought the council should discuss that with the marketing board.

“I think you first want to focus in and have some input on this sales tax being considered for the school district,” Town Manager Russ Forrest said.

Forrest said during his report that he assumed if Snowmass Village was going to be included in a tax increase, then the Town Council would want to be involved in the discussion.

“We don’t know a lot about what’s being proposed,” Haber said in support of inviting the foundation to speak to the council.

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com

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