The town of Basalt has gotten a lot of attention in the Roaring Fork Valley for considering sharing sales taxes with a developer. At least two other mountain communities in Colorado have done something similar. But, there’s a key difference.
Basalt is looking at sharing up to five million dollars in sales tax revenue with the developer of Willits Town Center. If approved, it would last for fifteen years at the most. A somewhat similar arrangement has been in place in Summit County, where the Town of Silverthorne has worked to attract businesses. Starting in 2001, Silverthorne shared tax dollars with Target, Lowe’s, and Silverthorne’s Hampton Inn and Suites.
In 2012, the town modified the program so smaller businesses could participate, like a chain sandwich store and more recently, the local Baker’s Brewery which opened in March 2015.
Silverthorne’s Town Manager calls the tax sharing program a valuable economic tool, in part because some of the businesses have, quote, "given new life to some long-standing vacant commercial spaces."
But a key difference here is Silverthorne's tax sharing program is with individual businesses in different parts of town, rather than with a developer who’s building in one area, from the ground up. The Basalt proposal would put sales tax dollars towards helping Kansas-based developer Mariner Real Estate Management. The goal is to close the gap between the company’s anticipated costs at Willits Town Center and not enough rent coming in from tenants.
In Pagosa Springs, town officials have decided to share sales taxes with an independent grocer, to support having a local grocery store fill a large vacant building downtown. That arrangement started in 2015 and is to continue for five years.
Mariner Real Estate Management is also asking for a sales and property tax subsidy in the town of Lee’s Summit, Missouri. According to local newspaper reports, City Council members there approved on Wednesday, December 23rd. The idea is to put that money towards restoring historic buildings.
Basalt’s Town Council will consider the Willits Town Center proposal again in January.