Letter: PAC influence in the Basalt election

I am concerned that misleading information about the Pan and Fork property is having an undue influence in the upcoming Basalt election for mayor and City Council.

One faction in the debate favors slightly more park and 20,000 square feet less development than the plans recently presented by the Planning and Zoning commission, while the opposing side favors as much as 20,000 square feet more than the Planning and Zoning proposal. Both claim their vision will boost vitality for the downtown area.

The less development side, supported by incumbent Mayor Jacque Whitsitt and council candidates Jenn Riffle and Katie Schwoerer, feel that the space adjoining the river park space is best suited to Basalt-scaled public amenities such as restaurant, retail and other mixed-use development with limited parking impact. They also support the recommendation that the town should obtain full control of the property by purchasing the remaining land currently owned by the Community Development Corp.

The pro-development people are backing Rick Stevens, Hershel Ross and Leroy Duroux, who have a voting history of consistent support for developer proposals and subsidies. The large development option currently includes 55 condo hotel units requiring large town subsidies for parking. This option also envisions direct purchase and control of the development parcel by Lowe Enterprises or another developer.

The election is critical not only for the Pan and Fork but also for the future development issues that the town must deal with in a balanced and fact-based way. This is why it is necessary to examine a key theme in the pro-developer campaign literature. A clear implication that “skyrocketing” taxes and a “$10 million deficit ($6,250 per Basalt household)” will result from limiting development on the Community Development Corp. property has been made in a widely distributed campaign postcard.

To begin with, that $10 million figure was plucked from an early consultant’s report that does not address the current proposal and further assumed large net losses over 16 years for an event center scenario that was never actually proposed.

Second, converting a scary $10 million balance sheet number from years in the future to a current lump sum household tax burden is completely misleading. The town’s general fund is supported primarily by sales tax revenue, which has been very robust since the economic recovery. This is why the town of Basalt’s share of the total property tax levy is only 10 percent.

Third, the town stands to benefit from millions of dollars of support from Eagle and Pitkin County open space funds if it acts to purchase additional park property. This would be in addition to the sales proceeds and tax revenue from future appropriately scaled and purposed commercial development.

Finally, if the net cost of purchasing the Community Development Corp. property exceeds the funds that will be available, any new bonding would have to be approved by a public vote.

That pro-development candidates have allowed misleading statements to be promulgated by supporters seems to indicate an inattention to basic financial facts.

I am supporting Jacque Whitsitt, Jenn Riffle and Katie Schwoerer in the upcoming election in the hopes of installing a more collaborative council and one that is responsive to the desires of the electorate.

Doug MacDonald