Basalt: Mid-Valley Recreation Center Fails; Fix the Fork Question Passes

Nov 6, 2013

Question 2B in Basalt asked voters to free up money to "fix" the Roaring Fork River in downtown. The measure passed.
Credit Marci Krivonen

Arguably the most contentious ballot issues in the Roaring Fork Valley, were in Basalt. Voters there decided on two issues. Question 2B’s focus was on whether to free up money to restore the Roaring Fork River and fund the removal of residents of a flood-prone trailer park. Voters approved that measure. A separate set of questions asked voters to fund a recreation center at Crown Mountain Park. That ballot measure failed. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.

At a mid-valley eatery, members of the group Friends of the Crown Mountain Recreation Center, are anxiously tracking election results. A computer is squeezed between plates of pizza but the food’s getting little attention.

The group gathered supports questions 4C and 4D. The measure asked for a property tax increase to fund construction and ongoing maintenance on a new 63,000 square foot recreation center, complete with two pools, a basketball court and more. Taxpayers in the sprawling Crown Mountain Recreation District would have been tapped and, the amounts varied. A homeowner with a $500,000 property would have paid more than $300 more each year in taxes, and possibly more. That’s according to the Pitkin County assessor.

Supporters blame the failure of the measure on an anti-tax sentiment and misinformation. Bill Reynolds is chair of the Crown Mountain District Board.

"It’s disappointing to see because there’s no doubt that we’re lacking recreational facilities in the Mid-Valley, we’ve dealt with mediocre facilities for quite some time," he says.

"The people voted and it’s very clear the rec center is not the right thing for our community," says Katie Schweorer. 

She organized a group against the initiative and says her taxes would have jumped 10 percent.

"I think an overwhelming majority voted not because the structure of 63,000 square feet was outrageously large, the two taxes were also exceptionally large."

Still, supporters of the rec center want to bring the issue back, possibly in another election.

Across town at a private home, the group supporting a separate measure was more upbeat.

Friends of the Fork raised money to help get Question 2B passed and, it worked. A majority of voters in Basalt approved the measure, according to unofficial results. Supporter Kathleen Cole says passage of the measure will help bring vitality to downtown.

"I just think the future of Basalt is right in front of us and we can motor on and it’ll just be our next chapter," she says.

The initiative asked voters to approve $5 million worth of bonds. The money will help pay for improvements to the Roaring Fork River in downtown. It’ll move along a project already in progress that’s moving trailer park residents out of a flood zone. A public park is slated to replace the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park.

Basalt government officials say the measure will not hit taxpayers’ pocketbooks because the Town calculates it’ll raise enough money to pay back the debt through a combination of dollars from its general fund and a local space and trails sales tax. In an October interview, Town Manager Mike Scanlon said property taxes will not go up.

"Our property taxes will remain the same. We have enough resources on hand and enough resources that we can collect over the next two or three years to pretty much ensure there won't be any tax increase," says Scanlon.

Those opposed to the measure said local government hadn’t included the public enough in planning for the massive project. The informal group also disagreed with how the project displaced residents and eliminated affordable housing.

The issues garnered a fair amount of attention leading up to yesterday’s election. Signs dotted yards throughout the rural area and people holding signs campaigned in high-profile areas in the days leading up to the election.