Open space tax a dead heat |

Open space tax a dead heat

Cliff Thompson

Unofficial results show Eagle County voters turned down a measure to fund acquisition of open space with property taxes by two votes.

This time the vote was excruciatingly close, 5,454 to 5,456, with a voter turnout of 59 percent. That thin a margin will force a recount.

Seven years ago, a similar proposal was defeated by a vote margin of 58 percent to 42 percent.

The issue of open space has competed with a variety of tax increases from nearly all levels of government, but has gained favor as development has spread.

“It was a tough call,” said Edwards resident Don Cohen outside the poling place. “The people involved with it are highly responsible. It’s one of those things that’s good for you, but you just don’t want to do it.”

“It’s difficult,” said Rick Pirog. “For so naive a plan, you need to define more precisely what to do with those kinds of dollars.”

But Lauren Anderson of Edwards was of a different opinion: “I’m absolutely for it,” she said. “But it’s probably too late.”

The tax would add $14 per $100,000 of assessed valuation on residential properties and is expected to raise $2.9 million annually.

Getting the proposal in front of voters this year took a concerted volunteer effort that began two years ago. At the suggestion of the county commissioners, open space volunteers attempted to create a special district that overlapped the county boundaries.

But that strategy failed because it required approval of each district with an existing recreation authority. Several of those had tax increases of their own and didn’t agree with the open space plan.

So the group again approached the commissioners, who agreed last summer to put the measure before the voters.

Summit, Pitkin and Routt counties already have tax-funded open space programs.

Organizers believe they can leverage the funds raised by the taxes with matching grants from the state’s lottery-funded Greater Outdoors Colorado funds.

One of the organizations that would also have participated was the Eagle Valley Land Trust, an organization that aims to protect key pieces of land, with either outright purchases or conservation easements that preserve land and existing uses.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext 450, or

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