An identity crisis on the south side of Basalt | AspenTimes.com
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An identity crisis on the south side of Basalt

BASALT – Basalt is experiencing a bit of an identity crisis on the south side of town.

Businesses on the south side of Highway 82 want their area identified as Basalt Business Center on new signs that the town government and Basalt Chamber of Commerce are erecting along Highway 82.

But the Town Council majority isn’t sure that’s such a great idea. They voted Tuesday night to delay placement of the “Basalt Business Center” portion of the signs until the wording is discussed more thoroughly.

Councilwoman Anne Freedman said she was concerned that “Basalt Business Center” signs would befuddle strangers to the area. They will pull off the highway expecting restaurants, shops and perhaps even lodging. Instead, they will find automotive service businesses, a handful of retail outlets and some light industry.

“Won’t it be confusing?” Freedman asked.

“It’s terribly confusing, and inaccurate,” responded Councilwoman Karin Teague. She expressed concern that identifying that area of town as Basalt Business Center ignores the commonly referred-to name of Southside.

But Basalt planning director Susan Philp said business owners in the neighborhood feel strongly that their area should reflect how it is platted on title documents, which is Basalt Business Center. A committee working on the sign project was merely honoring the desires of the businesses, she said.

“This was not taken lightly,” added Town Manager Bill Kane, referring to the name proposal. “These are the folks that make their living over there.”

The Chamber of Commerce formed the Highway 82 or Bust Committee in 2011 because leadership didn’t feel the existing signs on the highway effectively direct motorists into town.

“They feel that the signs are confusing, cluttered and unwelcoming, and that the lack of signs in key locations leads to anxiety because visitors are not sure where they are going,” stated a memo from Philp to the Town Council. “Equally important, the committee felt that there were no visual clues that there is a charming town worth visiting behind all the highway commercial buildings at the Basalt Avenue highway entrance.”

In July, the council helped pay for the first phase of new signs, which mark Basalt’s boundaries and direct people into town. The $42,000 second phase includes signs that alert people to the Willits/Orchard Plaza section of town and historic downtown Basalt. On the bottom of the large signs directing attention to downtown, the committee suggested placing 96-inch-by-20-inch supplemental signs touting the Basalt Business Center to the south.

Freedman insisted that adding “Basalt Business Center” to the mix will make Basalt even more confusing. “This is downtown, there’s Willits, and that’s Southside,” she said.

Councilman Pete McBride agreed that he had never heard of Basalt Business Center as a formal name until the council discussion.

“Such identity issues,” McBride said.

Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt didn’t want to take action on the supplemental sign wording until other businesses in Basalt were given a chance to comment.

“I think we need to be a little outreachy on this,” she said.

Councilman Glenn Rappaport said the business owners should get to call their area what they want.

“I support this now,” he said. To alleviate concerns about confusion, he said the town should approach the business owners and see if they would accept “Basalt Business Park” instead of “Basalt Business Center.” If so, he wanted to move forward with the signs.

Whitsitt said that would ease her concerns, but other businesses should still be given a chance to comment.

“I want to make sure Basalt downtown is not negatively affected,” she said.

Teague said residents of the Southside residential neighborhood should also be given a chance to weigh in, since it’s a directional sign to their part of town.

After fiddling with the wording of a resolution and one failed motion, the council voted 5-2 to approve the phase two signs without the supplements to Basalt Business Center. Mayor Leroy Duroux joined Rappaport in opposing a delay with the signs. The rest of the council voted to invite the south-side business owners, other business owners and Southside subdivision residents to discuss the issue at a later meeting.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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