Letter: Choose river park over development
October 9, 2016
One thing that is overlooked consistently by the opponents of questions 2F and 2G is that Basalt does not own the land that they say will be a park. That property is currently owned by a nonprofit organization, the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. Their status under the Internal Revenue Service allows great flexibility with the land, from park uses to full development with commercial and residential uses.
Do we really want another wall of buildings blocking access and views to the river, like we have with the development on the other side of the Midland Avenue bridge? I know that I and many others would be heartbroken to see this last, best chance for a world-class river park lost to condominiums and offices. If we don't act now to buy the park, I fear that this is what will happen.
Question 2F authorizes the town to pay $2.9 million for 2.3 acres of riverfront property. As a community, we are very likely to get significant support from the open space programs of Eagle and Pitkin counties. This would greatly diminish the actual cost to taxpayers.
Question 2G gives our community the resources, as much as $4 million, to create whatever kind of park we can imagine. The rendering that has been passed around is one version of what can happen, based on the hard work of the citizen Public Open Space and Trails committee. It is one good idea for a riverfront park. I'm sure as a community we'll come up with many others.
Additionally, 1 acre of the 2.3-acre parcel is reserved for development with commercial or public uses. We could sell the land to a developer or to a nonprofit, as we did for the Rocky Mountain Institute Innovation Center. This would further reduce the cost to taxpayers. Or we can use it for other community purposes. The point is we would have full control of the outcome, versus the current situation where we have very little control.
By passing these questions, we will shift the conversation about what to do with this land from the hypothetical to reality. We can stop squabbling about a piece of land we don't own, take control of a magnificent riverfront parcel and start taking real action to create a mix of accessible and useful park and development that will revitalize our downtown and ensure river access for generations to come.
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