Solve flood problem before approving 2A
October 11, 2006
In the upcoming November election the town of Basalt is asking voters to approve a 1 percent sales-tax increase to fund additional parks, trails and open space. On balance this would seem a noble request. Most of us would be happy to have more of these, and taxation is the common means to pay for them.Some background facts and conditions, however, suggest that approving this ballot question is not so much “doing the right thing” as one might first believe. In fact, this approval sends the wrong message to town staff and the council.Five years ago, at about the time the river master plan was near completion, Basalt voters approved a mill levy increase to pay off debt for a $3 million bond issue earmarked specifically for acquisition of parks and open space, flood control and implementation of the river master plan. Those funds have been used appropriately to purchase lands and construct parks: specifically, the Levenson parcel, Confluence parcel (Frying Pan/Roaring Fork) and parcels A, B & C (Storey property); construction of Old Pond Park; and, to a small degree, the purchase of the Midland addition next to the post office.The referendum required that lands not appropriate for the above purposes be sold and the proceeds used to acquire other lands or reduce debt. The Levenson parcel, between the new park and Two Rivers Road, could generate potentially as much as $1.5 – $2 million if sold for development.But alas, there is a hitch. This property is in the flood zone, as determined by studies in conjunction with the river master plan and cannot be developed until the condition is mitigated.The Pan & Fork mobile home park is another parcel “on hold,” so to speak, because of similar conditions. About half the property will be suitable for a riverside park and the other half most likely for commercial or mixed-use development. This infill in the town’s commercial core would provide additional tax base to increase town revenues.Since a large portion of the developable land is in the flood zone, no serious buyer has pursued to completion any kind of purchase contract, for good reason.This condition is substantially the same for the Roaring Fork mobile home park and a few parcels on Southside.The point is this: There is a huge inventory of land assets in Basalt that, when flood control is complete, will be available for parks and open space as well as increased tax revenues. Very little has been done by staff or council to address the flood-mitigation problems they have known about for a long time.The Army Corp of Engineers, who could help, has shown no inclination to do so, and a year or two has been wasted waiting for it to come on board. The town, by its own admission, has virtually no funds to pursue other solutions, most likely a public/private source of funding.Additional sales-tax revenues can be earmarked to engineer more cost-effective mitigation solutions as well as pay consultants to find and set up appropriate long-term funding. The town needs to get after it!So before the voters give the town council an estimated additional $1 million in annual revenues for open space and parks acquisition, it should demonstrate that it is prepared to address and eventually solve the flood-zone problems. It will need funds to do this, and some of these additional revenues requested ought to be used.Say no November 7 on ballot question 2A and yes when the ballot question is rewritten to provide for not only open-space acquisition but also, most definitely, flood-control solutions.Charlie Cole is a resident of Basalt.
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