Snowmass: No to new town hall
Snowmass Village residents rejected the town’s proposal to spend $8.5 million to build a new town hall, making it the only tax measure to fail in the upper valley Tuesday.Voters approved two other Snowmass Village referendums. Referendum 2A, which passed 459-291, will transfer lodging taxation power to the town and give the government a significantly larger tax base once Base Village is built. Referendum 2C will increase the town’s debt by $3.1 million to pay for a new recreation center; it passed by 310 votes.About 750 town residents turned out to vote Tuesday.The defeat of referendum 2B by 137 votes was disappointing to Snowmass Village Mayor Doug Mercatoris. “I was supportive of all three issues, and I’m very excited that two out of three of them passed,” he said.Mercatoris said he would continue to work on building a new town hall, predicting that residents will see a similar question on next year’s ballot. “We’ll come up with a different solution or we’ll ask the voters again a year from now,” he said. “I assume [voters] felt they didn’t have enough information.”Mel Blumenthal, who lives in Snowmass Village and Los Angeles, wrote a letter published in Saturday’s Aspen Times that said there is growing distrust of the Town Council. He was not surprised voters rejected 2B.”I [thought] the loose ends that are still out there on town hall would cause the community to think it’s not ready yet,” he said.Those loose ends include what will happen with the $240,000 that the town pays in rent each year for the cluster of offices that currently serve as town hall. In his letter, Blumenthal said it could turn into a slush fund for future councils.The plan rejected Tuesday would have required have cost a total of $15.4 million, paid back over 22 years with property taxes currently collected by the town. Blumenthal pointed out that the current council did not consider using the rent money to pay down the debt that will be incurred by a new hall.Blumenthal said many others in Snowmass Village feel the same as he does. “My big concern is that there appears to be on this council a real void of leadership. They do nothing to try to build a consensus in the community for these very important project.”Mercatoris denied that 2B’s defeat was residents expressing their displeasure with the Town Council.”The citizens obviously trusted our judgment on two out of three [issues]. I don’t think [2B’s failure] is a reflection on me or the Town Council,” he said.He acknowledged that the views of Blumenthal and others likely influenced voters. But he said Blumenthal’s statements are not accurate.The $240,000 in annual lease payments will not be turned into a slush fund once the town owns its own town hall, Mercatoris said. He said he doesn’t know what the money will be used for.”That will be the decision of the future Town Council. We can make recommendations,” he said. “Maybe politically if we had made a recommendation that that money be used to reduce debt service, it would’ve been more palpable to the voters today. But we didn’t make that resolution.”Leaving the rent money in the hands of future councils is exactly the wrong path, Blumenthal said. The best thing to do is devote those funds toward the new town hall and its debt, he said.Mercatoris called the passage of the marketing tax and recreation center measures “extremely positive.” Blumenthal concurred, saying those referendums were critical to the town.The membership of the Snowmass Village Resort Association last week voted overwhelmingly to dissolve if 2A, the marketing measure, passed. But the vote will have to be done again because it did not draw two-thirds of the membership.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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