KAJX

Basalt Council turns down sharing tax dollars with Willits

Jan 13, 2016

Looking south from the busier part of Willits Town Center. Buildings are already approved for the left and right side of East Valley Road, behind each fence.
Credit Elise Thatcher

Basalt’s Town Council has decided against sharing up to $5 million in sales tax dollars with the developer at Willits Town Center. Mariner Real Estate Management asked for that financing in order to attract more business tenants.

 

The idea was that subsidizing rents could bring in more businesses and in turn generate more sales taxes for the Town of Basalt. “I really believe that development should pay it’s own way,” said City Council member Gary Tennenbaum during the meeting. Many who made public comments echoed that sentiment, as did the majority of the Council.

Willits has struggled to fill all of its commercial space, and faces a more than $10 million gap in financing the project. Council also didn’t support allowing Mariner to require new Willits business tenants to charge more in sales taxes.

Council did approve allowing Willits to build about 90,000 more square feet. Council member Rob Leavitt said that seemed fair, “because even though we can add 60,000 square feet in commercial, and it might not get filled, I’m quite certain that our 15 or 16 units for affordable housing [for] teachers will get filled.”

Afterwards, resident Katie Schwoerer said she hopes Mariner will end up not being able to build out the 90,000 square feet anyway. “Willits has a significant amount of approved and unbuilt square footage,” she said. “Let’s get that built out, then come back.” A representative of Mariner said Tuesday night that without the tax dollars, “what happens next is undetermined but we’re going to try our best.”

Council also heard comments about a petition to put a tax question on the spring Basalt ballot. Hundreds of signatures have been gathered in favor of purchasing the Pan and Fork property for $3 million.