Boulder County recently approved the purchase of a conservation easement for about 400 acres near Nederland for $1.5 million. The Colorado State Forest Service will contribute an additional $4.9 million to fund the 3,000 acres of the same ranch which lie in Gilpin County.
Though the taxpayer money is being given to “conserve” the ranch, in fact it will be used by the land’s new owners to develop it. Though they are selling the right to build up to 88 new homes in the future, they may use the money to fund commercial ventures such as a fishing shop, bed and breakfast, 14 residential structures, an “environmental education facility” and commercial skiing.
Essentially, the historic ranch will be transformed into a commercial town using taxpayer money.
For decades, Tolland – once known as Mammoth – has remained virtually unchanged. Once a railroad town, the historic houses and natural landscape were preserved. The only commercial activity was cattle grazing in the summer months. A limited number of people rented and maintained the existing structures of the land, while caretakers protected the land’s ecosystem.
Though Gilpin County will not be providing money to the easement, they will continue to tax the land as an agricultural property, though no agricultural activities currently or will in the future take place there. In so doing, Gilpin County will relinquish about $70,000 in property taxes. Property taxes fund schools, and not even horse ranches are eligible for such a tax rate.
The question at this point isn’t how much taxpayers must give up to preserve the land. It’s whether taxpayer money should fund private development and commercial activities. The land doesn’t benefit. The taxpayers will not benefit in either Boulder County (where only a small fraction of the land is) or Gilpin County (where they are electing not to tax the land at the appropriate rate). So why are the Tolls being given so much by our government?