Explaining Basalt’s pending purchase

Explaining Basalt’s pending purchase

In a letter to the editor, Basalt resident Paul Noto requested an explanation as to why the Town Council Finance Committee is exploring purchasing 2.3 acres of land on the Pan and Fork parcel from the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. (“Basalt Town Council shuns its constituency,” Sept. 21, The Aspen Times).

Speaking as one member of the committee only, the short answer is to get development of the parcel for both park and other uses moving after years of debate. Owning the land allows maximizing the possible uses and puts the town in direct negotiations with a developer, instead of through the intermediary of the RFCDC.

Noto asserts that the council is circumventing a recent vote that narrowly defeated a bond issue to purchase the property. He claims that the majority of voters said “no” to a town purchase using debt.

In fact, a slight majority of voters said “no” to the significant tax increase required to pay for the bonds. The bonds were just the financing mechanism, had the tax item passed. The crux of the election was the tax increase, not bonding to buy the land. Opposition public comment and PR pieces made the anti-tax issue crystal clear.

The flip side is that so many voters were willing to pay up with a tax increase, the majority of citizens supporting more parkland during the public meetings and scientific surveys indicating wide public desire for more parkland. Those factors show that the tax was the rub, not the desire for more riverfront park.

Acquisition of the land using debt, but no tax increase, respects last fall’s vote while moving development of the riverfront forward.

As one of the three Town Council members who comprise the Finance Committee, I have made my position clear, supporting some commercial development as well as increased parkland. I support reasonable development for a hotel and a restaurant and retail on the portion of the parcel reserved for development.

Jim DeFancia is also working on a development proposal for a condo-hotel, restaurant and retail on the land. I welcome such a proposal and hope that he formally submits it to the town so that it can go through the approval process.

Hopefully this piece provides one answer by one finance committee member about why the committee is looking at debt to purchase the remaining Pan and Fork parcel.

Bernie Grauer

Basalt Town Council