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August 30, 2013
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Relocating residents could cost Basalt $1 million

Basalt town government estimates it will spend up to $1 million to relocate residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park, Town Manager Mike Scanlon said Thursday.

The town has started the relocation process with the owners or renters of 11 of the mobile homes, he said. The Town Council on Tuesday approved the expenditure of $237,000 to work with an estimated 40 residents of those residences.

The Pan and Fork, located just west of downtown, has 38 spaces for trailers. One is vacant. Two other trailers have been abandoned. Scanlon and town Finance Director Judi Tippetts are working on settlement packages with the residents of 11 trailers in the first round of the relocation effort.

The residents are getting a financial settlement based on how long they have lived in their residences, the size of their family and whether they own or rent. For the first 11 units, payments range from $16,000 to $22,000 per unit, Scanlon said.

The aid also comes in helping the residents line up alternative housing, he said. In many cases the financial payment for the town is helping with the down payment on another mobile home or a deposit on an apartment, according to Scanlon. The Garfield County Housing Authority, which oversees Basalt’s rental housing, is assisting the town in helping the Pan and Fork residents search for alternatives.

“With the exception of one or two (of the initial 11 units), we’re helping them find other units,” Scanlon said. “We’re like a relocation agency at this moment.”

No two deals are the same for occupants of the residences. In some cases, they have found alternative housing and just want a check from the town. In other cases, the occupants need the town’s assistance in filling out loan applications.

In each case, all occupants will receive assistance, Scanlon said. For example, if the owner of a trailer lives there but also rents to four other people, all will be offered some type of assistance, he said.

“They’re all over the board,” he said of the needs of the residents. “I wish I could say they’re cookie-cutter, but they’re not.”

In a meeting Thursday afternoon with the Eagle County commissioners, Scanlon said there are an estimated 124 to 128 residents of the Pan and Fork. The relocation expense of $1 million will be partially refundable when the site is sold to a private developer. The town owns the land where 18 of the mobile homes are located. That property will be redeveloped as a park along the Roaring Fork River.

The nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. owns the land where 19 mobile homes are located. That land is eyed for redevelopment. When it is sold, the town will be reimbursed for relocating those residents, according to Scanlon’s plan.

The mobile-home park is in the flood plain and imperiled, in theory, by a big event. The town’s goal is to make river alterations to ease the flood risk, increase the height of the dirt on the portion closest to Two Rivers Road and make the site attractive to a developer.

The town will ask voters in November to approve an issuance of $5 million in bonds to undertake the river improvements and other infrastructure projects. The relocation funds are coming from the town’s general coffers and aren’t directly tied to the election.

Scanlon acknowledged Thursday that he hears from some constituents who question why the Pan and Fork residents are receiving any aid from the town. In Colorado, landlords can give tenants 60 days notice to vacate the property. Scanlon contends there is a moral obligation to help them relocate.

“On Day 61, what do I do with them?” he asked. “Do I start tearing them down with them in it?”

Other critics question if the town is doing enough to help people that are losing their long-time homes.

The town and its partner also had a legal obligation to help the residents relocate. Until this month, the town’s land-use code required that 100 percent of affordable free-market units be replaced during redevelopment. The requirement, approved about 15 years ago, had a flaw because it replaced units but didn’t require assisting the actual people being displaced, according to town officials. A substitute replacement housing regulation will require that 45 percent of the residents being displaced be given aid with new housing.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Aug 30, 2013 01:06PM Published Aug 30, 2013 03:20AM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.