Letter: Vote with logic in Basalt
I am writing to discuss the importance of the election in Basalt, specifically the mayoral race and two open seats for Town Council. A great example is the pending economic boondoggle called the river park.
The history of the park is very interesting. The area in dispute was originally the Pan and Fork trailer park, which was located in a dangerous floodplain/flood way. The river master plan had long identified it as a future park with a commercial component. In 2013, the town of Basalt residents voted in a $5 million bond issue for park and river improvements.
The representation during the debates of the $5 million bond was that our property taxes would not increase because the money would be offset by the sale of commercial property reimbursement from the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp., the private entity that purchased the trailer court in public partnership with Basalt. This “no tax increase” pledge has been violated; instead, the park mill levy has actually doubled.
The $5 million from the bond issue was spent for park and river improvements. We will have a fantastic river park as a result of excellent design and work over the previous two years.
The Community Development Corp. made a number of financial commitments to the town of Basalt, including being responsible for the cost of relocating the Pan and Fork residents, which it failed to do. Instead, the town of Basalt was forced to do the relocations at a cost of $542,038. In addition, the Community Development Corp. was supposed to pay its proportionate share for the park improvements. Those costs are $2 million. In total, the Community Development Corp. is to pay $2.54 million in reimbursement. In return for that consideration, the Community Development Corp. would have the ability to sell developable commercial land, plus the town of Basalt turned over all the rent revenue, totaling almost $1 million, from the couple of years that the trailer park operated. The $1 million in rent was not applied to improvements or other Community Development Corp. commitments to Basalt. Instead, the $1 million disappeared and has not been accounted for.
Existing Mayor Jaque Whitsitt and her “all park” group submitted two petitions requiring Basalt to purchase all the remaining commercial zoned land for $3 million. And there is no mention that the town is owed $2.54 million for improvements. In total, her proposal would increase Basalt’s parkland debt to $9 million instead of the $2.4 million commitment to the residents. The projections by Basalt’s Finance Department are that the “all park” proposal would cause Basalt to be in the red.
This Whitsitt proposal of non-fiscal responsibility underscores the reason to vote with logic. For that reason, I urge your vote for Rick Stevens for mayor. For Town Council, my recommendation is Leroy Duroux, who served with distinction as a Basalt town councilman and mayor for more than two decades. I also advocate Auden Schendler for Town Council because of his sustainability focus for the town operations and its land-use decisions.
Former Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission member
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