Moving Basalt out of its rut | AspenTimes.com

Moving Basalt out of its rut

I must be considered one of the deceitful, cronies from the big city that misled the voters to "narrowly" defeat the bond issues to purchase and then landscape the Pan and Fork property in Basalt.

The more than $14 million requested between the two bonds was probably going to be repaid out of thin air or paid in part by entities that would have wanted to control the future destiny of that space by limiting future changes to its use. Those of us Basaltines — who worked tirelessly for years to help forge a plan for the potential uses for that parcel of land — acted with enthusiasm, openness and sincerity on behalf of what we all considered to be a joint effort.

This was not a back-room group of self-serving individuals but involved many hundreds of our neighbors including school children. Thankfully, we have individuals living in Basalt who have the background and credentials who were willing to participate in that exciting time and lend their expertise to the process.

I suppose one could argue that our nearly 5 acres of open park space (including the park on the opposite side of the river) that we as a town already own represents one of the most unique riverfront/natural habitat accesses anywhere in the state. The question might be posed that "what more will the additional 1.3 acres on the corner of Midland and Two Rivers Road add to the space? What routine activities might occur there that require the extra space and would the additional investment of $1 million be the best use of that money — regardless of where it came from."

There is the question as to whether our Town Council is the best choice to manage the future of that property. Have they, as a group, demonstrated any unique capabilities that we as the electorate would be willing to turn over our $7.75 million investment plus the additional $2.9 million requested to complete the purchase from the Commercial Development Corp.? Should we have some expectation that our investment would lead to a return? How might "some appropriate mix of public-serving commercial" ever come close providing that return? Appropriate in whose eyes? What's public-serving commercial anyway? Who might design and build such a facility? How might it be integrated into our town's commercial core?

The recent proposal from the developer included not only dedicating 1 acre of the commercial space to open space, but also providing the foundational structure for a new and expanded Art Base. What could be a more appropriate means of supporting our "arts and culture" assertion defining our town than by welcoming that offer? Would it be the perfect venue to not only integrate this area into our commercial core, but also create a picture-perfect transition to the adjacent resort hotel and shops that he wishes to build? As for "public-serving commercial," what could be more so than a facility that would welcome visitors, provide facilities for retreats and conventions and in doing so broaden our tax base and support our businesses considerably? Old Town Basalt continues to look to its "golden goose" or geese in order to fund a dream that is not shared by at least half of its citizens and certainly not by its business owners. Are there multiple developers standing by just waiting to butt heads with the Basalt Town Council? I can't imagine!

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So as a 12-year resident of Basalt, the owner of a small business/practice, an avid outdoorsman and supporter of our town, I would ask you to answer these questions for yourself. This is not and has never been just about money and where it might come from, but how to move our town out of the rut that it finds itself in. We're just trying to find that balance and sense of promise and vitality that was present in 2005 when my wife and I dropped our bags down in Basalt and became permanent residents.

Steve Chase

Basalt

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