Sides face off on Keystone Parkway improvement plan
summit daily news
As election day approaches, Keystone residents continue to debate a controversial ballot proposal that would implement a new tax to be used to redevelop a corridor of Highway 6 known as the Keystone Parkway.
Proponents of the Public Improvement District (PID) proposal say the project will bring much needed renovations to the corridor’s aging medians while conserving water, improving safety and adding year-round appeal to the area. Opponents call the proposal a poorly timed and unnecessary beautification that will spend tax dollars primarily on areas controlled by Vail Resorts and the Colorado Department of Transportation.
On the November ballot, Keystone voters will be asked first whether a PID should be organized and then whether that PID should have the authority to levy and spend a property tax for the construction and maintenance of improvements on and around Highway 6.
The project would include rocks and local vegetation to replace the grass on the median, a new irrigation system, median lighting and maintenance and a facelift for the Keystone stoplight and intersection. The PID will be managed by a county-selected advisory board, which will likely have five members and two alternates.
A key point of disagreement between the supporters and opponents of the proposal is over the “beautification” label often put on the project.
“It’s not a beautification project,” said Matt Walsh, chair of the group Citizens for Keystone Parkway PID. “Really, we’re trying to create a public improvement district, and public improvement encompasses a broad spectrum of concepts. The project addresses safety along Highway 6 by creating more of a neighborhood feel, adding lighting to the medians. Water conservation is huge.”
But opponents say despite claims the proposal will mean broad improvements, no concrete evidence of the impacts or benefits of the PID have been presented.
“We’ve yet to see any distribution of a description of the specific improvements,” said opponent Jerry James, of Citizens Against Beautification Tax. “They talk about fencing, they talk about eliminating grass in the medians and some sort of beautification of the stoplight there by the Keystone Lodge, but I think taxpayers are entitled to a much more detailed description of where the money’s going.”
The tax, which was cut in half from the original proposal during negotiations between the two sides, is a 2 mill levy that will bring in $3.4 million over the next 10 years. Opponents note that the sum works out to about $1 million per mile of road to be improved, while supporters respond that the funds will cover both the construction and ongoing maintenance of the improvements. Vail Resorts, which currently maintains the area, would pay about 12 percent of the cost of the project.
Another argument against the proposal is timing. With the economy still unstable, opponents of the PID say it is not the right time to impose new taxes on residents. But the measure’s supporters say Keystone needs to invest in the community in order to keep up with other towns in the county.
SDN reporter Caddie Nath can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or at email@example.com
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