Busy ballot looms this spring for Gypsum voters | VailDaily.com

Busy ballot looms this spring for Gypsum voters

April 7 election may feature three town board contests and six ballot questions

This spring Gypsum plans to ask its voters if they support an $80,000 contribution to the effort to preserve the Sweetwater Lake Resort.
Special to the Daily

GYPSUM — The town of Gypsum’s 2020 municipal election should feature a busy ballot.

Voters in the community will elect three members of the Gypsum Town Council on April 7, and it remains to be seen if it will be a contested vote. Nomination petitions are now available for the three- to four-year terms and are due by 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27.

With the election already planned for April 7, this week the Gypsum Town Council gave initial approval to a proposal for six ballot questions. One of the questions is a spending issue; the other five are revisions to the town’s home rule charter.

Sweetwater Lake

In November, the Gypsum Town Council pledged $20,000 to the Save the Lake campaign, which is working to raise money to purchase the popular Sweetwater Lake Resort. In April, the town will ask voters if they support donating an additional $80,000 to the effort.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust is shepherding local preservation effort for the Sweetwater Lake deal. The price tag for the 488-acre property is in excess of $9 million. There are dual fundraising efforts currently underway for purchase. The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, is working with the White River National Forest to request a significant amount of the purchase price from the National Land and Water Conservation Fund. Additionally, there is a $3.5 million local fundraising campaign spearheaded by the land trust that would provide matching funds to spur the federal request.

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When the Denver-based group that owns the property agreed to give preservation a chance, and the Conservation Fund secured a contract to purchase the property from the sellers amid competing bids from private developers. A partnership consisting of the Conservation Fund, the Eagle Valley Land Trust, the U.S. Forest Service and community partners has the collective goal to prevent the private development of Sweetwater Lake Resort. Eventually, the property would be sold to the Forest Service and integrated into the surrounding White River National Forest.

As part of their fundraising push, representatives from the Eagle Valley Land Trust note that for decades, Sweetwater Lake Resort functioned as a quasi-public amenity. However, after a development proposal to build more than 240 homes and an 80-room hotel and golf course at the site failed, an investor group took over ownership and shut down access to the lake and cabins and listed the property for sale.

The town of Eagle pledged $10,000 toward the project in 2020, and according to the land trust, more than $700,000 has been donated toward the preservation.

Charter changes

The other five ballot issues deal with changes to Gypsum’s home rule charter.

“The town has a 38-year-old charter. It is older than your town manager,” said Gypsum town attorney Bob Cole. “It has served you well.”

But changes in the community and advancements in technology are prompting the suggested charter changes, Cole said.

Here’s a rundown of the five proposed changes:

  • Election timelines: Colorado HB15-1130 changed the timelines for filing nomination petitions, and this change would reflect the state law.
  • Initiative and referendum processes: This change would clarify the rules for the processes and reflect state regulation.
  • Powers and duties of the mayor: “Back in 1982, Gypsum had one or two employees and the mayor, and they ran everything,” Cole said. “The way your charter is written, the mayor has the power to come in and run the show, but that hasn’t happened recently.” Gypsum now operates in a more conventional manner, with the mayor and town council making policy and the town manager implementing their actions. The charter change reflects that practice, Cole said.
  • Hard copy or electronic copies of ordinances: This change allows the town to provide ordinance copies both electronically or by hard copy.
  • Posting and publication: This change would designate the town’s website as the official location for any posting or publication of notices and documents. Currently, the Eagle Valley Enterprise and the Vail Daily are the town’s official publication venue.

The Town Council unanimously passed the ballot question ordinance on first reading, and the issue will come back before the council at its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 28, for final approval.

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