Endorsement: Vote ‘yes’ on Pan and Fork bond | AspenTimes.com

Endorsement: Vote ‘yes’ on Pan and Fork bond

Basalt is seeking permission from voters in the Nov. 5 election to issue $5 million in bonds to accelerate a project that is already underway — the redevelopment of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park area.

While there are problems with the way this project came together and — in fact — some lingering issues to be resolved, the question deserves voters' support.

Approval will reduce the time required to complete the project by as much as three years and by countless dollars. The town is undertaking the $2 million first phase with existing funds. It wants to issue the $5 million in bonds to complete the project in one shot rather than saving up sales tax revenue and advancing as it accumulates funds.

The bonds will be repaid through existing revenue from a sales tax dedicated to parks, open space and trails. Town Manager Mike Scanlon has done a convincing job of showing the bonds can be paid using existing sales tax revenue. State law requires that the ballot question inform voters that the indebtedness might require an increase in property taxes. Scanlon said he firmly believes that won't be necessary.

Voters will end up with a public park on about 2.5 acres along the Roaring Fork River when the work is finished.

Elected officials and upper management at Basalt Town Hall say they are implementing a plan that residents came up with over countless meetings between 1999 and 2002. The River Master Plan laid out ways to ease the flood threat of the Roaring Fork River and restore it to a more natural condition. Studies performed for the town by outside consultants as part of that plan showed the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park is at risk of flooding. Most Basalt officials felt they had an obligation to get residents out of harm's way.

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The displacement of the residents of the 35 trailers has stirred controversy. Critics contend it's a heartless eviction of low-income residents. We believe the town has acted with considerably more compassion than the average landlord.

Contrary to some misinformation, the town and its nonprofit partner in ownership of the Pan and Fork were never obligated to find replacement housing for the specific residents displaced. A prior town ordinance only required replacing the units that are torn down for new development.

Our only gripe about this ballot question is that Basalt took somewhat of a "ready, fire, aim" approach. It would have been better to ask voters to fund a project after planning was completed. Right now, voters don't know if the remaining 2.5 acres at the Pan and Fork site will end up as a hotel or an expansion of the park. That property is owned by another entity, the nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Co. Basalt officials say they will defer to residents' wishes on what occurs on that part of the site, but we feel that should have been resolved prior to the vote.

Nevertheless, vote "yes"on Question 2B.