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Our View: Bayfield boom needs 1% sales tax increase for parks

Vote ‘yes’ on Ballot Issue 2A to match recreation, population

“Great towns have great parks,” said Bayfield Mayor Ashleigh Tarkington in her pitch for Ballot Issue 2A to increase the town’s sales tax by 1% through December 2043.

Can’t argue with that. With Bayfield’s growth rate steadily climbing skyward, we encourage a “yes” vote on Nov. 7. If passed, the measure would raise an additional estimated $600,000 in the first year.

More tax revenue puts Bayfield on track to grow and enhance its parks, right alongside its population, as enrollment in the town’s sports program continually builds. It would get Bayfield in the game for matching Great Outdoors Colorado funds, too.

Flexibility to pay for maintenance staff as well as referees is also part of the plan.

The 1% increase would bring the town’s tax rate to 4%, with the total, including state and county taxes, to 8.9%. By comparison, Durango’s total sales tax rate is 8.4%.

Ballot Issue 2A language says tax revenue is “solely for parks, culture and heritage,” which gives the town room to accommodate what residents have said they want. Top recommendations from a community survey include upgraded vehicle access, ADA improvements, river access and trail connectivity, and improvements to accommodate more sports, as reported in The Durango Herald on Oct. 20.

Given the choice, we’d rather see any bump up in tax rates sunset within about 10 years, rather than 20. But keeping this beefed-up income stream through December 2043 complements a basic equation for smart, staggered, sustained growth.

Ballot Issue 2A is timely as Bayfield stretches beyond a label as bedroom community to Durango, coming into its own as a family-oriented town with celebrations (an exceptional Fourth of July party) and a lot of competitive sporting events. If Ballot Issue 2A were to pass, expect more places to play.

New tax revenues would be spent within this breakdown:

  • 40% on expanding Joe Stephenson Park and amenities, developing a park south of Schiller Street and creating recreational access to the Los Pinos.
  • 40% on maintaining parks and trails.
  • 5% on equestrian and livestock arena improvements.
  • 15% on assisting with costs of cultural and community events, enhancing services at the Pine River Senior Center, and supplementing youth and adult recreation costs.

Significantly lower-priced homes add to Bayfield’s attraction. During the second quarter of 2023, the median price of an in-town Bayfield home was $511,450. In Durango, it’s $640,000.

Also, Bayfield opted into Proposition 123, which funds housing programs. Increasing existing affordable housing units by 3% a year is the requirement. So far, the baseline commitment is 14 units over the next three years. On Oct. 6, Bayfield Town Manager Katie Sickles told the Herald that Prop 123 will assist in constructing almost 100 units.

“We don’t see growth slowing down,” Tarkington said. “Everything is coming this way.”

Might as well embrace the boom. Bayfield has already annexed 300 acres. Varied housing inventory is in the works, including:

  • Pine River Commons, a 66-unit townhomes project aiming to provide affordable housing to the area workforce, broke ground on Oct. 3.
  • MarLin Village, a tiny home community with an eventual 14 units.
  • Orchard Subdivision, a mix of multifamily and single dwellings.
  • Clover 7, 54 lots, almost built-out.
  • Mustang Crossing, 88 units when completed. First phase is 19 units.
  • Cinnamon Heights, with 30 lots purchased by the town to be deed-restricted, affordable.
  • Bayfield East, a subdivision with residential and commercial properties that may include a grocery.

That’s quite the upcoming tax base.

Pine River Valley’s newest homeowners will live under starry skies in this (now) sparse, suburban community. More amenities mean more reasons to stick around Bayfield, making this historic, agricultural town more self-sufficient, feeding its local tax revenue.

Ballot Issue 2A will manifest a lot of what Bayfield folks said they want. Vote “yes.”