HomeNews Council tapping bottom of 2013 open space fund for new project
Council tapping bottom of 2013 open space fund for new project
Written by Mark Reaman
Wednesday, 08 May 2013
A key piece of the Slate River puzzle that offers a bit of everything
The Crested Butte Town Council is willing to stretch its open space fund to help purchase a prime piece of real estate up Slate River Road about two miles from town.
At the Monday, May 6 council meeting, the Crested Butte Land Trust (CBLT) asked for a $200,000 contribution to help pay for the parcel and the council agreed to make the donation, even though current commitments have tapped out the fund at this point. The fund is generated from a real estate transfer tax (RETT) on property sales in Crested Butte. While the cash isn’t currently in the fund, the council is betting that summer real estate sales will replenish the pool of money by the end of this year or that the CBLT can carry a loan if need be until more funds are generated in 2014. It was just last month that town finance director Lois Rozman presented the council with a memo warning them of the state of the RETT fund. She informed them that the open space monies stood at $681,664 but the town had a $759,000 commitment to the Trust for Public Land to pay off the last of the Kochevar parcels. She noted that through February, the town has collected $56,000 in RETT funds compared to $62,500 through February 2012. But based on the 2013 budget, if the anticipated revenues come in, Rozman said, the RETT open space fund could have a balance of about $200,000 after paying off the Kochevar parcel. At the time, Rozman said, “If you commit $50,000 you are probably okay, but $500,000 is probably going out on a limb.” But the council was confident they would have the money for the Land Trust and this particular project. CBLT executive director Ann Johnston told the council that given its proximity to other land already protected from development and its close location to town, the piece was a great project. “I am really excited about the project,” she said. “It does a lot. It will continue to allow grazing for a local rancher, it has great views of Paradise Divide, it is wildlife habitat and the recreational component is big as well.” While the current landowner wants the deal kept under the radar until an appraisal is completed, Johnston said the 100-acre parcel has been a priority for the CBLT and the town since the early 1990s. “This parcel serves as an ecological bridge to two other town-funded projects, the 322-acre Kochevar Open Space and the 120-acre Gunsight Bridge projects,” a Land Trust memo outlines. “This landscape connectivity enhances the conservation values of all of this community’s preservation efforts in the upper Slate River valley.” Johnston said she has a funding commitment from the Gunnison Valley Land Preservation Board and an application into the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) to fund half of the approximate $900,000 sale, which is currently under contract. Getting the town on board would add to funding momentum as she approaches other potential donors. “You are on the hook for phase 3 of the Kochevar parcel for about $750,000 that is due at the end of the year to the Trust for Public Land,” a cautious Rozman reminded the council Monday. “So you really can’t commit money to them tonight. My projected ending fund balance at the end of 2013 for that fund is about $200,000, but we are currently under budget.” Mayor Aaron Huckstep reminded everyone that the fund contained another $100,000 in a contingency line item set aside to protect conservation easements held by the town. “The council wants to help fund this project but to what extent we can is a little up in the air,” Huckstep explained to Johnston. “I think having $100,000 contingency is heavy,” said Councilman Jim Schmidt. “I’m comfortable committing $200,000 toward this project. We can say we intend to commit the money to this project as it comes in after our current obligations.” “I agree with Jim,” added Councilperson Shaun Matusewicz. “If you look at the parcel, it is a high priority and just two-and-a-half miles from town. It will alter the entire trail system out there for the better. We can make it happen.” The rest of the council agreed with the intent to commit $200,000 toward the project. Town attorney John Belkin will draw up documents stating the council’s commitment to the project.