Basalt begins review of major proposal
Aspen, CO Colorado
BASALT ” Basalt officials on Tuesday night began review of a project that could add 171,000 square feet of offices, light industry and mini-storage space as well as 40 residences along the road to the high school.
The project, called the Basalt Design District, has been in the works since the mid-1990s but was delayed for a variety of reasons. Now that it is in the review pipeline, it has some attributes that could speed its approval.
The project is on nine acres within Basalt’s urban growth boundary. That’s important because Town Council recently decided it will not consider expanding that area.
The application is also largely compliant with Basalt’s new land- use master plan, according to the planning staff. The site is designated for industrial uses.
The site is in Pitkin County, so it would require annexation into Basalt. County zoning would allow one home on the site.
The owner of the property, Basalt Design Group Inc., includes longtime midvalley developers Clay Crossland and Paul Adams, along with Michael Lipkin. They negotiated a deal with a previous Town Council that allows them to meet most of their affordable housing obligations by giving the town 1.35 acres. That deal was negotiated during an exchange of land unrelated to the Basalt Design District. Details of that “pre-annexation agreement” were fuzzy during the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission’s review Tuesday.
Planning commission member Brian Davies noted that the new master plan would require that 50 percent of all residences on property annexed be affordable housing. Instead, the town’s previous agreement means it will receive 1.35 acres for housing that the town government isn’t in a position to build.
Planning commission chairman Bill Maron said the board needs to consult with town attorney Tom Smith to see if the earlier contract is binding.
“We have to know what we can ask for and what we can’t,” Maron said. “Somebody else set it up for us.”
The guts of the project were straightforward: The Basalt Design District proposes mixing 40 free-market residences on the upper floors of buildings that feature 20,000 square feet of offices and 70,000 square feet of light industrial businesses. The project also would address Americans’ ever-growing need to store their stuff somewhere by providing 80,840 square feet of mini- storage space. The project would be along Southside Drive, south of Big O Tires and existing mini-storge Crossland and Adams developed.
The new master plan contemplates 33 rather than 40 housing units mixed with the other uses. The planning staff recommended turning the seven excess units into affordable housing. Planning commission members concurred but left negotiations for another meeting.
Planning commission members also urged the applicants to use exteriors other than the brick that’s become so prevalent in Basalt.
“I’m kind of getting sick of the brick buildings,” Davies said.
Maron agreed and said he has faith that Lipkin- Warner Design and Planning, the project architects, will come up with a suitable design that isn’t a “slash-and-burn strip mall.”
Maron concluded the discussion by sounding an alarm about Basalt’s pace of growth. The new master plan contemplated slow growth. However, it’s not even a month old, and Basalt is contemplating two major projects: the Basalt Design District and the Willits Town Center addition.
“It’s really not what I expected ” this much, this fast,” he said.
Maron said he wasn’t proposing a delay for the Basalt Design District. Instead, he wants town officials to look at the big picture on development and not review projects piecemeal.
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The Aspen City Council directed staff to move forward with the Burlingame early childhood education center, but decided it needs more information on the affordable housing units that are part of the schematic design at a work session Monday.