156-unit housing proposal in Basalt on hold while traffic mitigation explored | AspenTimes.com

156-unit housing proposal in Basalt on hold while traffic mitigation explored

The Stott's Mill property is being eyed for a 156-residence subdivision. The site is currently a cow pasture and old saw mill.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times |

For the developer of a proposed Basalt housing complex, it’s starting to feel like deja vu all over again with a lengthy town government review. For some members of the Town Council, the extra time is necessary to make sure the Southside neighborhood isn’t overwhelmed with additional traffic.

The Town Council delayed a critical vote Tuesday night on the Stott’s Mill project so its staff and developer Briston Peterson could spend more time discussing traffic mitigation.

Peterson, representing MSP1 LLC, has committed to contributing $165,000 to a “mini-roundabout” at Basalt Avenue and Cody Lane estimated to cost about $500,000. However, a traffic consultant for the town said Tuesday night the mini-roundabout likely will be inadequate to effectively deal with the existing traffic and additional vehicle trips generated by Stott’s Mill in the long run.

Peterson’s development group received approvals for a 110-unit project in 2009 after a lengthy review by the town. However, by the time the review came through, the Great Recession hit and the project was placed in mothballs. The development team resurrected it last year and added multi-family units.

“In my opinion, you either go to the bathroom or get off the pot.” — Councilman Mark Kittle

New proposal for 156 units

The new proposal is for 60 single-family homes and 96 multi-family residences on 18 acres on the east side of Southside Drive, near Basalt High School.

The project is being touted as affordable and attainable. There will be 20 multi-family units and 10 homes sold under affordable-housing guidelines. High-density and small lot sizes are designed to make the free-market units attainable for some workers in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The neighborhood currently has 60 single-family homes and 24 multi-family residences. Stott’s Mill would add between 300 and 400 residents, according to town planning staff estimates.

A handful of Southside residents appeared at Tuesday’s meeting to express concerns, primarily around density and traffic generation.

Greg Smith credited the project’s affordable housing but said that growth just leads to more growth.

“I’m concerned that we feel we can solve the problem by just building more,” he said.

Another resident said Stott’s Mill is one of at least three projects being contemplated in the Southside area. Once they are built, it will be a “disaster” entering and exiting on Basalt Avenue, the lone ingress and egress to the neighborhood, he said.

Traffic congestion is expected to improve after the pedestrian underpass project at Basalt Avenue and Highway 82 is completed. Traffic won’t be stopped for pedestrians, and an extra lane will be added on Basalt Avenue for traffic turning east onto Highway 82 from the Southside area.

However, questions remain about whether the existing network can adequately handle the traffic.

‘Get off the pot’

Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer raised questions about the traffic and numerous other issues Tuesday night, sparking the ire of Councilman Mark Kittle.

“You know what, I feel sorry for these guys,” Kittle said. He said all of the questions should have been aired earlier in the review. It’s time for closure on the project, one way or another, he said in a colorful way.

“In my opinion, you either go to the bathroom or get off the pot,” Kittle said.

Schwoerer said she is hearing from Southside residents who are bringing their concerns to her as an elected official.

“I feel I have to reflect (the issues) that come to me,” Schwoerer said.

As the council hashed out issues, the majority said they support the project. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said she preferred sticking to the 110 units that are already approved. Peterson quickly said he would pull his proposal if forced to stick to 110 units. It is no longer economically feasible, he said.

Councilman Bernie Grauer said he felt the site was appropriate for high-density development since it is in the town’s urban growth boundary, an area targeted for growth. And with growth comes more traffic congestion, he said.

But Grauer was with the rest of the council calling for a postponement of a vote until traffic mitigation can be discussed more thoroughly. The board voted 6-0 to continue the review Feb. 14.