Guest column: Basalt Town Council should put the park question to the voters
January 26, 2016
As two of the organizers of the Friends of the Basalt River Park group, which has been in existence for nearly a year now, we are writing to urge our Town Council to forward the two ordinances proposed by the Pan & Fork Park Citizens Committee to the electorate.
There are a number of reasons to do this, first and foremost being that more than 400 registered Basalt voters have requested that they do so. That is a big number when you consider that only 473 ballots were cast in the 2014 Basalt election.
Including Facebook followers and previous petition signers, The Friends of a Basalt River Park group has over 700 supporters. It grew over the last year as people realized that they do not want a large condominium development blocking access to the river. If private condos are built next to the river, most people who purchase such dwellings might understandably wish to treat the park like private property.
Many of us pushed back because we feared the worst case scenario, where a massive and inappropriate development would be approved on the park, driven by short term financial fears. As we looked at the property we also began to see the possibilities for the community. More and more people joined our group because they could imagine an amphitheater or perhaps an arts center, or simply because they were thrilled by the idea that people could get together for celebrations in a beautiful location.
As we've talked with people over the last year, the vast majority are comfortable with the idea of dedicating the majority of the parcel toward park uses, and utilizing a smaller portion for public commercial uses such as a restaurant, brew pub, retail or something else of that nature. We urge the Town Council to forward this question to the voters. It is an important matter that deserves to be decided by the people who live, work, and play in Basalt, and who pay taxes there too! We are confident the citizens of Basalt will support this idea with their votes.
Many people who live nearby, outside the town boundaries, also feel the same way. They support the idea that the Citizens Committee has presented to the community and like the language of the initiative. These are our friends and neighbors and they feel they have a vested interest too.
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This is an important moment in Basalt history. Think about it. A group of our fellow town citizens put an enormous amount of time and effort and thought into crafting a reasonable and viable solution for a problem that has been vexing the community. They and other volunteers then went out door-to-door and presented people with the idea and gathered signatures from 412 people who said they are registered voters.
The Citizens Committee has come up with a real question for the community to debate and voters to decide on: Should we as a community buy the Pan & Fork parcel along Two Rivers Road and allow a mix of uses that includes a great addition to the park and an area that can be developed with commercial or civic-oriented uses?
The Council now has before it a citizen-crafted Ordinance that is ready for adoption. It would have Basalt buy the 2.3-acre parcel for $3 million, (the same price offered by Lowe Enterprises), and commit 1.3 acres to park uses in perpetuity. The remaining acre, closest to the RMI building would be available for up to a half acre of commercial development. No big condominium developments would be allowed. Whatever portion of that acre that is not developed would be turned into public spaces, whether for access or park uses.
The Citizens Committee has also drawn up a funding question that gives the Town the ability to purchase the land through bonds and the taxing authority to pay them off.
To our Town Council we say this: Please show the courage and leadership to put these questions to a vote of the people. Use the powers you have to let the voters decide.
Jae Gregory and Doug MacDonald are longtime Basalt residents. They have been actively involved in the efforts over the last 11 months to create a great town park on the Pan & Fork parcel.