Measure 1B: Summit County votes to continue tax to fund open space, wildfire mitigation, more

A small log cabin is one of the few pieces of development on the Doig Homestead property north of Silverthorne. Summit County's Open Space & Trails Department bought the 273-acre parcel for $2 million in October 2016.
Kevin Fixler /

FRISCO — Summit County voters on Tuesday gave the thumbs-up to ballot Measure 1B, which will renew a tax on property owners to finance the county’s fund for the acquisition and preservation of open space, natural areas and trails. The tax also will fund trail construction and maintenance, workforce housing, wildfire mitigation and other public programs and services.

Posed to voters for the first time in 11 years, the tax was approved with 78% of the vote with 8,523 ballots counted just before midnight. That number is 18% more support than the tax received in 2008, when it got 60% of the vote.

The approved measure extends the current 3.062 mills property tax rate. The 3.062 mill levy rate would cost taxpayers $21.89 per $100,000 of residential assessed property value and $88.80 per $100,000 of commercial value.

The taxpayer money will be allocated annually to the Summit County Open Space Fund beginning Jan. 1, 2022.

“We certainly appreciate the ongoing support from the community of 1B and other open space trail networks,” county Open Space and Trails Director Brian Lorch said shortly after early results rolled in. “I feel we have a track record that really helped people see why open space and trails are so important for our community, and I think it’s really exciting that the voters turned out and voted for it.”

Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson said last month that the measure went to voters two years before the existing measure is scheduled to sunset because it aids the county’s advanced financial planning and budgeting. Davidson also said the county believes the tax is still needed to fund critical projects and to maintain paved pathway systems and improvements to public facilities.

Together with its partners, the county manages more than 100 trailheads and local trail portals. The county also has about 85 miles of natural-surface trails within its jurisdiction, many of which connect to trail networks in towns and on U.S. Forest Service land. The county constructed and maintains more than 38 miles of recreation paths as part of the county’s 55-mile paved pathway system.

Summit County voters first approved open space funding in 1993. Since then, the county has used the funds to protect more than 17,300 acres of open space through land acquisitions, conservation easements, access easements and partnerships with other agencies. Since 1995, the county has completed more than 300 property acquisitions and worked with more than 200 landowners to preserve the properties. Since 1993, the county says every $1 of open space funding has protected $3 worth of land.

The mill levy also funds workforce housing and wildfire mitigation programs, such as the Summit County Chipping Program, the Community Wildfire Protection Plan Grant Program and Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program, which financially assists neighborhoods, homeowner associations and subdivisions that work with a local wildfire mitigation expert to develop fuel-reduction plans.

“There’s always more requests for amenities and ways to serve the community in those spaces,” Lorch said, “and we’ll be looking at how to prioritize all those.”

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