Basalt approves 110-unit affordable housing project
BASALT – One of first major development projects to earn approval since the recession slammed the Roaring Fork Valley cleared a final hurdle in Basalt on Tuesday night.
The Town Council voted 5-0 to grant a “second reading” of final approval for the 110-home Stott’s Mill project.
The project site is along South Side Drive, the route to Basalt High School. The application was in the “preapplication” process with town staff or under review for about five years, according to Briston Peterson, a partner in MSP 1 Development Group, which will build the project. He once complained that Basalt’s review process was more like a moratorium.
Despite some intense debates, the project ultimately won approval from the council because it adds a considerable amount of affordable housing to town.
Stott’s Mill features 33 deed-restricted, price-capped residences; 15 units with appreciation caps that must be sold to full-time local residents; 53 units without caps that must be sold to full-time locals; two units for the downvalley school district; and seven free-market units.
It will include a 3,300-square-foot daycare facility and 4.5 acres of parks.
While the approval provides a glimmer of positive economic news after a recession-plagued 2009, Peterson warned it might be a while before he and his partners proceed with construction. He convinced the council to extend the town’s normal vesting of development rights from three to five years because the economy is so crummy. The developers have the right to return to the council and seek a five-year extension if the economy and lending picture don’t improve.
“Market conditions need to dramatically change before we pull the trigger and commit to any physical infrastructure work,” Peterson said.
He and his partners are particularly concerned that the working folks of the Roaring Fork Valley won’t be able to secure loans to buy Stott’s Mill houses until the lending community loosens its regulations.
“We need to see evidence of demand for new housing product in the market. This will all take time and patience,” Peterson said. “We will position our team to have [the] product designed, priced and ready to build when the markets align.”
The council granted the final approval Tuesday night without much comment. Dry, technical aspects of development were all that was left for the council to ponder. Council members congratulated Peterson and said they would welcome the addition of the affordable housing.
Development wasn’t at a complete standstill in Basalt when the recession struck in fall 2008. The fire department got approval to add employee housing at its Basalt station. An industrial building with affordable housing units was approved at 237 Park Avenue, but ground hasn’t been broken.
Several major projects are in the pipeline, noted town Planning Director Susan Philp.
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Local fire officials in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties are heightening their fire concerns, and starting this week Stage 1 fire restrictions will be enacted. Stage 1 means no campfires in undeveloped sites, no fireworks and no smoking outside unless it’s in an area cleared of all combustible materials.