Editor’s note: Five candidates are running for three open seats on the Basalt Town Council in the April 1 election. Coverage by The Aspen Times this week will focus on major issues in the town.
Today’s question: Basalt has embarked on an extensive downtown planning project to gauge community vision for Pan and Fork, Lions Park and the Clark’s building. What’s your vision for those areas?
Bernie Grauer: The town needs to lead by example, actively promoting immediate development on the Pan and Fork and Lions Park. I believe the former Clark’s Market building could support greater vitality, but realistically, private ownership makes it a long-range process. Since the town owns Lions Park and the land under the Town Hall, I support transferring those existing uses elsewhere. Then it should sell the land for development into a hotel, or residential. The proceeds from the sale could be used to purchase the two acres of developable land on the Pan and Fork from the nonprofit. The sale would put the town in control of its own future, instead of having to accept massive buildings on the riverfront. This would preserve the downtown’s charming small-town character. The mass, size and scale of the proposed Rocky Mountain Institute building sets the bar for riverfront development.
Mark Kittle: A revitalization of the downtown core is a crucial component of the future of Basalt. Living here for over 50 years, I have come to realize that the post office and the grocery store have always been the primary areas of community interaction, and, I believe, still are. The vitality of downtown, in my opinion, is highly dependent upon the current grocery-store site, which is in dire need of some help. I think this site would be a great location for a grocery chain such as Trader Joe’s or something similar. Just as Whole Foods has energized the west side of town, a progressive business such as this would bring back some of the original vitality to the downtown core. As far as the Town Hall site is concerned, it too needs some careful thought and consideration, as the structures are now over 30 years old. However, that being said, we need to take one project at a time with Pan and Fork as our highest priority, followed by the rehabilitation of the core area.
Jeff Orsulak: This is an exciting moment for Basalt and is one of the many reasons I chose to run for Town Council. For the first time, the town of Basalt is taking a proactive role in planning what we are and want to become. For far too long we have planned through reaction, which is just defending and survival — the opposite of prospering and thriving.
Through my experience designing successful communities in the Roaring Fork Valley, I’ve learned the most important question is not what is my vision but what is our vision. A town that thrives is a town whose inhabitants have participated in its vision making, a town where everyone feels they are a part of the community and a town where everyone recognizes they are integral in its successes. As a council member, I look forward to bringing my skills as a designer and planner to the process and to the community to help as we decide what our town will be. Basalt’s vision is our vision, our future, our town.
Gary Tennenbaum: This is a very exciting planning effort started by the town. I feel the town needs to find more ways for residents of Basalt and the surrounding area and visitors to engage in the process. Great ideas have started to flow, and I really believe that we have to make the downtown an amazing attraction to drive people into the downtown. Showcasing our rivers, providing open spaces and parks, access for fishing and boating, and a great trail system will get more visitors into town and that will drive demand for businesses to thrive. We have amazing talent in Basalt and should be encouraging and seeking out those residents and businesses to help plan for the future. We are at a critical time, and we need to listen to all ideas and make sure that when the plan is complete it has a vision we all can be proud of and is feasible to implement.
Richard Duddy: I applaud the effort to pre-define what the citizens want in downtown. This is key to any citizen-backed development. In fact it’s called zoning. The developers prefer it to the “approve each project” method that we have used. It is my opinion that not much can happen without the private sector. We may be able to use taxes to buy some more properties if the voters want to, but a redevelopment of downtown — that we all love — will take the private sector. The downtown planning effort should first deal with the cars. In my experience with planners, architects and developers, people are easier to design for than the cars, traffic and parking. Second, access to the rivers is key. Third, revitalizing downtown should focus on more beds and visitors — more people and the businesses will make more money.