No more calls, folks. We have a winner!
September 27, 2006
Welcome to the latest installment in our continuing series on Stupid Government Tricks (in which I suggest that our local governments are really kind of dumb … instead of, you know, evil).Today’s episode: The Basalt Town Council – are they really dumb enough to think we’re dumb enough for them to slip this sleazy one past us?I’m talking about the council’s demand that it be allowed to control development in El Jebel, across the highway from City Market.A little history: Back about 10 years ago, El Jebel – once a semi-rural intersection, now a flourishing population center – was looking to incorporate and become a town. A lot of people lived there; a lot of development was under way. People who lived there wanted to be able to control their future. It seemed reasonable.Meanwhile, City Market had abandoned downtown Basalt and moved to El Jebel, into a spot that, at the time, was several miles outside the Basalt town limits.That made Basalt desperate. Sales tax revenue from City Market had long been one of the town’s main sources of income.Eager to hang onto the loot from City Market, Basalt pulled some quick legal moves to block El Jebel’s incorporation. Then the town annexed a long, skinny stretch of land reaching several miles downvalley. That new territory was mostly just Highway 82, but it let the town grab City Market, plus the Willits project and a few other commercial developments along the way.In the process, the Basalt council was very careful to exclude most of the surrounding residential neighborhoods. They did that so the town wouldn’t have to provide any services to the people who lived there. Basalt wanted the tax money from City Market, not the responsibility of taking care of the people who shopped at the market and paid those taxes.Let’s be clear: Basalt didn’t annex that territory in order to limit development or control development in any way. It didn’t do it for any decent reason at all. It was a flat-out grab for cash.Now, a decade later, a new development has been proposed across the highway from City Market. And that project is outside the new, extended Basalt town limits.Basalt thinks that’s awful. The Town Council wants Eagle County to let Basalt run the show, and, one assumes, reject the project.Basalt screams that development should occur within the defined city limits. It’s hoping that everyone forgets that 1.) the only reason anything in that neighborhood is inside the town limits is because Basalt made a reckless, greedy grab for land; and, 2.) the only reason the new development is outside the limits is that Basalt carefully excluded any potential residential development.Back then, it looked as if the lucrative commercial development would be limited to the City Market plaza, and Willits. (Yes, Willits does have a lot of residential units, but it also plans a significant commercial section.)But now, the proposed development across the highway is hoping to have its own supermarket – which would compete with City Market … and maybe even reduce Basalt’s tax revenue.OK, it’s a complicated mess, but here’s the bottom line: Basalt has been shortsighted, arrogant and greedy. It’s made a complete mess of the midvalley, grabbing for cash and abandoning any responsibility for planning – or for the people who live in the neighborhood.Now Basalt is screaming about the mess it created, because things aren’t working out the way council members thought it would.And they’re stupid enough to hope no one will notice.If the town had any class, it would de-annex City Market and let El Jebel form a real city and control its own future.Instead, Basalt just wants power and money and doesn’t really give a damn about the impact on any of the people who live and work in the area.Good work, guys. You win this week’s Stupid Government Tricks Award.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.