Things are grim in open space land.
Or at least in the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks department’s pocket book, which is filled almost entirely by sales tax revenues. And sales in Boulder are down.
Already, the city has walked away from three land deals totaling 1,000 acres (see post below). Now, the city is talking about raising cash for open space by charging those who live outside the Boulder Bubble for using Boulder’s trails.
While the city has spent $208 million to purchase more than 45,000 acres of open space in and around Boulder since it began a systematic buy-up of land in the late 1960s, it still has more than 5,800 acres left in its master plan — at an estimated cost of about $100 million.
Among the suggestions for creating more revenue to fund those remaining purchases is to begin charging a fee for non-Boulder County residents who use certain city-owned trails.
City Councilwoman Lisa Morzel said she routinely sees people drive to Boulder’s open space to use its amenities, but never stop in the city to spend money on food or retail purchases. Sales tax on such items, she said, largely make up the budget for open space programs. Read more
Boulder has pulled the plug on four land deals that would have added 1,000 acres of open space to the the green doughnut of public property that surrounds the city.
Boulder made history in 1967 when residents voted to tax themselves to buy open space land — a first for the United States. Forty-two years later, the city owns more than 45,000 acres, and citizens are still taxing themselves.
Boulderites have given the city permission to go another $38 million into debt to buy more land, but grim sales tax revenues, a finicky bond market and ridiculously high land prices have acted together to grind the acquisitions program to a halt.
With no improvement in sales tax revenues this summer, the city let the contract on one property expire and put negotiations for three others on hold, meaning 1,000 acres of land remained in private hands instead of becoming public open space, according to a city memo on open space issues.
Ann Goodhart, division manager for real estate services for Open Space and Mountain Parks, said very few properties are on the market now, and those that are, are over-priced, in the city’s view.
“Sellers have not adjusted their expectations to reflect market conditions,” Goodhart said. Read more