election

Natasha Hennessy stands beneath the Colorado flag after casting her vote on Election Day. (Photo by Bria Light/Telluride Daily Planet)

The Town of Telluride now has a short-term rental tax as voters approved Ballot Issue 300 on 56 percent of the ballots, according to complete but unofficial results Tuesday night.

The new 2.5 percent tax will feed into the town’s Affordable Housing Fund, pushing the total tax on short-term rentals from 12.65 percent to 15.15 percent; it will not affect hotel rooms.

Local Pepper Raper, who along with fellow Telluriders Elena Levin and Hayley Nenadal successfully petitioned to get the issue on this year’s ballot, said the process has been “an emotional roller coaster.”

“Honestly, I’m sure every campaign is like this, and I don’t have a lot of political experience doing this, but you have those high days when you’re like, ‘Yes, we got this,’ and then you’ve got low days when you’re like ‘Is anybody going to vote for this?’ It’s definitely been a roller coaster ride,” she said.

While 300 opponents have been vocal leading up to Election Day, Raper said she knew there was enough support in town to pass this, though she was concerned that those affected by the lack of affordable housing may not be around to reap its benefits.

“I was afraid that most of those people had already moved or were already forced out of town,” she said. “Even from last year when we started this process with Town Council, I knew a lot of people who were for it, but had bought a house in Norwood, moved to Ridgway or completely left the area.

“When we were doing the petition, I had so many people who I talked to on the street say, ‘I am so glad you are doing this.’”

With the victory, Raper added, “this is just the starting point,” as she is looking forward to working with other parties in creating more affordable housing options moving forward. 

“I’m really proud of the Telluride community for choosing to put affordable housing first,” she said. “I really think that now that we have a dedicated revenue stream, now is when we can get everybody together. Now is when we can bring businesses and other communities to collaborate to find the creative solutions that are going to work.”

BALLOT ISSUE 6A

Wilkinson Public Library Executive Director Sarah Landeryou said voters showed “overwhelming support” in passing Ballot Issue 6A — a .75 mill levy increase — by 73 percent, according to complete but unofficial results. 

6A supporters, who gathered at La Cocina to await results, were in high spirits when the tallies came in just before 8 p.m.

“We are so grateful to the voters and all the people who worked on getting this passed,” said MJ Schillaci, a library board trustee. “Seventy-three percent is huge. … It’s huge. We have to take good care of their money, and we will do that.”

The mill levy will equate to an additional $5.36 per $100,000 of a property’s assessed value. The increased revenue will help the library maintain services, Landeryou said.

“This will just insure our future,” she said, before adding, “First off, we want to thank the community and all our supporters for believing in the value of a library. The vote really is a reflection of the community and the values that we have.”

The library district has been receiving less state funding due to a pair of Colorado Constitution amendments, 1982’s Gallagher Amendment and 1992’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The two force down the residential assessment rate, which along with a property’s value and mill levy, are used to calculate the property taxes that largely fund special districts.

In a previous interview with the Daily Planet, Landeryou explained the district budgeted for $2.15 million in property tax revenue in 2019, which was less than 2009’s budget of $2.18 million.

Board of Trustees Vice President Jennifer Hubbard said she had a good feeling that 6A would be approved, given her positive interactions with community members leading up to the election.

“I’m not surprised, and at the same time, I couldn’t be more ecstatic,” she said. “ … Honestly, what a great place because of all the people who work there and make it that place for Telluride. I call it our student learning center. … We’re so lucky that we have our library to keep us connected.”

BALLOT ISSUE 2A

The wastewater treatment plant will get a much-needed facelift after Town of Telluride Ballot Issue 2A received over 80 percent of the vote, according to complete but unofficial results. The issue asked voters to authorize a $7.4 million bond debt, which will go towards upgrading the current plant, as state regulatory standards are changed and the current facility is reaching it’s limit.

The current plant is 30 years old, and it shows, Telluride Director of Public Works Paul Ruud said in a previous interview with Daily Planet.

“The wastewater treatment plant has three main challenges at this time; it is relatively old; the plant is occasionally at, or near capacity; and the regulatory environment is becoming more strict over time,” he reiterated in an email to the Planet. “Given the anticipated onset of new nutrient regulations (primarily nitrogen and phosphorous) that are anticipated to kick in around 2027, the treatment plant will need to have new technology installed starting in 2023-24. 

“The Wastewater Treatment Plant Master Plan that was finished a few years ago identified the steps needed to get us to the installation of that new technology.” The approval of 2A “will assist us with implementing the plant improvements identified by the master plan that will allow us to get to that substantial rebuild.”

The plant serves customers in Telluride, Mountain Village, Hillside, Eider Creek and Lawson Hill.