Petition submitted to buy Pan and Fork property in Basalt | AspenTimes.com

Petition submitted to buy Pan and Fork property in Basalt

The political pressure was ratcheted up on the Basalt Town Council on Tuesday night over the Pan and Fork site.

A citizens' group submitted a petition to the Town Council asking the town to buy 2.3 acres along Two Rivers Road owned by the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. The proposed price is $3 million.

Another goal is to force a public vote to incur debt on the purchase. The petition calls for the town to leave 1.8 acres open for a park. Development, including a possible hotel, would be limited to the remaining half acre.

Cathy Click, a leader of the citizens' committee, said 349 registered voters in Basalt signed the petition in just over a week.

"It was almost effortless," said Mark Harvey, another leader of the committee.

The council members didn't react to the petition. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said there will be debate about how to proceed at a future meeting. That meeting hasn't been scheduled.

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The citizens' group is asking Town Clerk Pam Schilling to certify the signatures on the petition and have the council discuss how to proceed at its Jan. 26 meeting.

"The petition isn't perfect. It doesn't answer every question," Harvey said. However, the group feels its approach is "reasonable," particularly since the town government hasn't demonstrated it can solve the Pan and Fork issue, he said.

"If it's not reasonable, people can reject it in the spring," Harvey said.

The town's analysis will be the key in how the issue moves forward. Town Attorney Tom Smith and Schilling have taken the position that the petitions aren't legally binding because of the way it was structured. They contend an initiative cannot force the town to enter into a contract to purchase property or name a specific purchase amount.

The wording of both this petition and one before it were officially rejected.

David Myler, the attorney for the citizens' group, contests that opinion. He wrote a letter to the town Monday that said their position is if they collect enough signatures, the petition must be submitted to the council, even if staff thinks the petition is invalid.

The citizens' group is led by Click, Harvey, businessman Bel Carpenter, former Basalt council members Katie Schwoerer, Pete McBride and Jon Fox-Rubin, and midvalley activists Greg Shugars and Doug MacDonald.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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