An art of the deal awaits in Basalt | AspenTimes.com

An art of the deal awaits in Basalt

The existing 3,477-square-foot Art Base building is owned by the town of Basalt. Rent charged to Art Basalt is $1 per year. It is a beautiful, timeless building with 22-foot soaring ceilings and located on the historic Lions Park.

Of the 3,477 square feet, the town planning department uses about 1,088 square feet, and the balance of about 2,389 square feet plus the amazing outdoor deck and spacious surrounding yards of Lions Park is home to Art Base.

Things are snug. Moving the town planning office out of the building should give this very worthy nonprofit the space it deserves. Lease Art Base the full building. The town could add a 2,000-square-foot addition onto its existing administrative offices and enlarge the council venue for about $1 million.

My best estimates conclude that the Lowe Enterprises proposal includes some $20 million to $25 million in "embedded" potential taxpayer subsidies for something that would diminish the public park feel. It would put luxury camouflaged condos that the proposed developer calls a "condo hotel" in the location where 33 low-income trailers were removed a few years ago. It takes from the average Jane and Joe — compared to what they should have.

Lowe Enterprises should never have been granted a unilateral option to buy the land; it has been running for over two and a half years. Basalt and the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. are essentially joint-venture partners. We have been told a good part of the $7.5 million the town invested in the Pan and Fork of taxpayer money back in 2014, 2015, and 2016 was invested in the property held in title by the RFCDC. Members of the RFCDC did watch significant taxpayer-funded improvements being installed on the parcel they hold title to. A formal request for proposals process should have been used to award any option that significant taxpayer money is invested in. The RFCDC has unilaterally been granting the property right of successive options, without the town participating in that granting process.

The RFCDC should work with Basalt to structure a workable purchase arrangement for $2.9 million for the entire parcel. Put this unworkable and unfair situation behind. Reserve a piece of the parcel that might include a space for Art Base and other non-profits to build their buildings after they have raised funds for themselves in the future. Basalt would get its optimal event sized River Park and still have room for some limited public serving commercial, all possible without additional tax payer subsidies other than committing some of the already flowing Parks Open Space and Trails 1 percent sales tax.

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Doing this should save taxpayers about $20 million. Doing this will make the River Park Basalt's darling cash cow event venue — and the envy of Aspen and Snowmass. Doing this will have the citizens of Basalt thanking the members of the RFCDC and the Basalt Town Council forever and ever and ever. Cheers!

Mark Kwiecienski

Basalt