Clean-energy improvement districts cropping up on Nov. ski county ballots

Voters in both Pitkin and Eagle counties – homes to Aspen and Vail ski areas, respectively – will be asked to approve special clean-energy improvement districts Nov. 3, nudging the two increasingly progressive ski towns ever closer to total Boulder-ization.

According to the Vail Daily, Boulder County is the only other Colorado county with such a program currently in place, and in its first year, projects ranging from solar panels to better insulation to more energy-efficient windows have been paid for by allowing homeowners to borrow against a fund and then repay loans through additional property taxes.

In Boulder County, 440 projects have been approved, the Daily reported, and the county has sold $6.6 million in bonds to pay for those loans, which ranged between $3,000 and $50,000. The improvements then stay with the home, meaning any new buyer has to repay the loan through additional property taxes over the next 15 to 20 years.

Pitkin County wants voters to approve $7 million in bonding for a similar clean-energy district, which would be entirely voluntary and only repaid by participants, not taxpayers at large. The idea is to allow the area’s middle-class residents to make energy efficiency improvements they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Company’s director of environmental affairs, told the Aspen Times that company employees will serve as a get-out-the-vote force of volunteers to disseminate information and urge a yes vote Nov. 3.

The SkiCo, as it’s known locally, is once again stepping into the political arena to push an environmental agenda because county employees can’t actively campaign for the new district. In the past, Aspen Skiing has backed green candidates in local rural electric co-op elections and pushed for climate-change legislation and policies in Colorado and nationally.

Gunnison County voters will also be asked to approve a similar taxing district, according to the Times.

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