Voters are facing full ballot this fall | AspenTimes.com

Voters are facing full ballot this fall

John Colson

Aspen voters may well be looking at eight ballot questions on city issues when they go the polls on Nov. 2.The City Council went over the list Monday night.Two of the eight questions are expected to be about the proposed light-rail system into town.A citizens’ initiative petition drive faced a deadline of this morning, according to the city clerk’s office, to put a question on the ballot asking voters to authorize the issuance of $20 million in bonded indebtedness toward the cost of building a light-rail system from the Pitkin County Airport to the center of town.A second transit-related question, this one coming from the City Council, will ask voters to authorize the same amount of money for a “dedicated busway” along the rail right of way, should the voters turn down the rail system itself.The remaining six questions will deal with a variety of topics, ranging from the sale of a city-owned lot for private development to a request to use excess tax revenues for numerous beautification projects.As discussed by the City Council on Monday, those other questions will be: Question No. 1: Should the city be authorized to sell off a 37-acre portion of the Burlingame Ranch lands, located next to the West Buttermilk subdivision, for private development? The city bought the entire ranch in 1997 for $2.6 million, to be used both for affordable housing and the conservation of open spaces. The sale of the 37-acre parcel was proposed as a way to pay back the city’s affordable housing fund for at least part of the purchase price. Question No. 2, required by the so-called Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment to the state constitution, asks voters to authorize the city to hang onto $158,275 in excess tax proceeds from 1998, and use the money to accomplish a variety of civic improvement projects in neighborhoods around town. The projects would be over and above the city’s existing pedestrian improvements plans, and the affected neighborhoods will be consulted regarding the projects. Question No. 3 asks residents of a proposed Smuggler Area Undergrounding Improvement District whether they approve of the district’s formation to bury electric and telecommunication service lines in the neighborhood. The cost of the project will be shared by the utility companies (Holy Cross Electric Association, U S West/Qwest Communications and AT&T) and the homeowners within the district. A public hearing on the proposed district will be held on Aug. 30. Questions 4-6 are all related to the city’s recent purchase of Bass Park for $3.4 million. The questions ask whether citizens want the city to pay for the purchase with a sales tax hike and leave it as a park; fill half of the 18,000-square-foot park with affordable housing, and leave half of it as park, again paying for the park with a sales tax hike; sell the property to a private developer; or use all of the property for affordable housing. Details regarding the Bass Park questions are still to be ironed out. Question No. 7 asks whether voters want to amend the city charter to require that any land purchased by the city with money from the Open Space Fund, if it is sold or converted to other uses, be replaced with land of “equivalent value.” Passage of this charter amendment would bring the city into line with Pitkin County’s existing open-space replacement law. Some suggested corrections and changes were discussed by the City Council Monday, and the city attorney’s office was directed to incorporate those changes into the ballot language.The ballot questions will once again be on the agenda at the council’s regular meeting on Aug. 23.


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