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Survey: Support mixed for rec center

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

A recent survey of households within the Crown Mountain Parks and Recreation District shows mixed support for raising property taxes to build the proposed Mid Valley Recreation Center.

On the question of whether the district should move forward with the 63,000-square-foot project, 42 percent of the 541 households that responded to the survey said “no,” while 40 percent indicated “yes.” Twelve percent suggested that the district’s plans seem reasonable but that certain issues need to be ironed out.

Another question sought to determine the level of support for a property tax increase to finance construction of the center. Half of the respondents checked “definitely no” or “probably no,” while 46 percent chose “definitely yes” or “probably yes.”

And when asked if the district should sell public bonds to raise money for the project, the indication was similar, with 51 percent saying “definitely no” and “probably no.” Forty-six percent marked “definitely yes” or “probably yes.”

The survey was conducted in May with 3,185 questionnaires mailed throughout the district, which covers portions of Eagle and Pitkin counties, including El Jebel, Basalt, Willits, Emma, Thomasville and parts of Missouri Heights and Old Snowmass. The results are markedly different compared with those from a similar survey in 2010 in which 64 percent expressed “significant support” for a midvalley rec center.

Early this month, the district’s board voted to put two items on the November ballot that will ask voters to authorize the initiative. The district wants two separate property tax increases to support construction and operations of a rec center on Crown Mountain Park property, which lies south of the main El Jebel intersection at Highway 82, just west of the Basalt town boundary.

Eagle County commissioners gave conceptual approval to the plans last year; final approval has yet to be granted. The building would contain three indoor swimming areas — a lap pool, a recreation pool and a “lazy river” — as well as a multipurpose gym for basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer and floor hockey. It would cost an estimated $25 million or slightly less, according to official estimates.

It also would house cardiovascular-exercise machines and free weights, an indoor walking track, party and conference spaces and a zero-gravity area for aerial-performance training.

One property tax question will call for a 5-mill levy to back up the construction bond. The second question will ask for an additional 2.5 mills for annual operations and maintenance costs. The total tax impact would be about $60 per year on each $100,000 of a home’s assessed value. Thus, the tab for a home with a $500,000 value would be about $300 per year, according to the district.

Mark Fuller, a planning consultant who has assisted the district’s rec-center efforts for several years, pointed out the light response rate of 17 percent connected with the most recent survey. He also said the results were weighted toward households without children because families with kids have less time to respond to multi-part surveys.

“The fact that we got as much support as we did — given the fact that the majority of respondents were people without kids — made us think that when we actually go to the ballot, the folks most likely to benefit from something like this are likely to support it,” he said.

In other words, families with children are underrepresented in the survey, he said.

“The fact that the survey was as close as it was, was encouraging to us,” Fuller said. “Our advisers who helped us put the survey together told us that in their experience, people who are against this kind of issue are far more likely to respond to a survey to express their disapproval. We think there’s an excellent chance we can turn the numbers around after we do some education.”

Friends of Crown Mountain, a nonprofit support organization that has been dormant, is being restarted with the goal of taking on the campaign work necessary to pass the two tax requests, he said.

Though there are rec centers in Aspen and Glenwood Springs, many midvalley residents want their own facility, offiicals have said. Looking at the rec district as a whole, residents of areas closest to the park have generally shown more support for the project than those farther away, Fuller said.

“If you live in Old Snowmass, driving to Aspen for indoor recreation at the Aspen Recreation Center is not a big deal,” he said. “If you live in Blue Lake, it is.”

More information about the project is available at http://www.midvalleyreccenter.com.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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