Letter: A wise choice for Basalt | AspenTimes.com

Letter: A wise choice for Basalt

This year, Basalt residents get to help decide not only who will be the next leader of the free world but also whether the town should purchase the remaining 2.3 acres of land on the Pan and Fork parcel. The first ballot initiative, 2F, asks voters if the town should fund the purchase of the land and the second initiative, 2G, asks if once purchased the town should fund the design and construction of a park.

I hope residents vote “yes” on both initiatives and believe that 10 years down the road, they’ll be glad they did. The value of the land either for park space or development is obvious. It’s the only large parcel in existence next to the river and close to the town’s core. So the question becomes: Is it worth the money and is having the land in the town’s control a good idea?

Financially, this is a good time to buy the parcel and likely the only opportunity. The asking price for the parcel is now $2.9 million, interest rates are at historically low levels, and two open space programs, Pitkin County Open Space and Eagle County Open Space, have pledged to help with the purchase by contributing $400,000 each. The low interest rates (set not to exceed 3 percent on the bond and likely to be floated at closer to 2 percent) along with the support from the open space programs is analogous to getting 25 percent off of a piece of land with excellent financing conditions.

So what does this mean to an individual property owner? According to the town’s financial consultant, Bruce Kimmel, financing 2F and 2G would extend the current bond mill levy an extra three years beyond its scheduled expiration. For a person owning a $500,000 house (close to the median household value in Basalt) that would mean three extra years of paying about $150 per year. That’s about the price of three lift tickets over three years.

The initiatives allow for 1 acre of the 2.3 acres to be developed, which is almost half of the land.

Done right, done with good design and the many strong ideas already developed by residents and professionals, the entire park space could change the landscape and profile of Basalt dramatically and for the better. It’s well known by economists and municipal planners that towns and cities that look ahead and develop their public spaces carefully fare much better in every way than towns that don’t plan or do things completely piecemeal. In the language of urban planning, the term used is “amenity rich” which describes making a place attractive, fit for use and interesting.

With the many talented people of Basalt — architects, business people, artists, scientists, etc. — it’s hard to imagine that we couldn’t develop that space into a something that could become the town’s pride and treasure. Voting “yes” on initiatives 2F and 2G is the first step on that path.

Mark Harvey


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