Basalt can plan for land use, but can it preserve character? |

Basalt can plan for land use, but can it preserve character?

Basalt will have a fancy new master plan along with a bunch of complicated rules within the next four weeks. But town officials acknowledge all that planning won’t amount to a hill of beans if it can’t accomplish what matters most – preserving community.

The two-year planning effort has concentrated on land-use matters. Everything from the big-picture issue of how much the town boundary should expand to the minutiae of what should be built on specific property has been dissected.

Town Manager Tom Baker pointed out Monday night that creating a vision of the “social desires of the community” was equally important to coming up with a blueprint for physical characteristics.

“One of the outcomes the Town is striving for is social: to create a diversity of people, both residents and workers,” Baker wrote in a memo to the Town Council. “Clearly, the intent is to keep Basalt from becoming stratified to the point that the Town loses its ability to function as a community.”

Various council members voiced horror stories of how the upper valley has lost its sense of community and become a model of what Basalt must avoid.

Aspen had the same goals of community preservation that Basalt has, but somewhere, something went awry, noted Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt. Basalt might be well served in figuring out what happened in Aspen, she said.

Midvalley native and Councilman Leroy Duroux said Aspen seemed to have all the pieces of the puzzle in place to preserve community, such trails, playing fields, arts and cultural organizations. But “it forgot about the people,” Duroux said.

The types of folks who formed the backbone of the community were forgotten when it came to issues like affordable housing.

“When that part of the town left, that’s when the social capital left,” he said.

Councilman Steve Solomon said an Aspen pitfall was letting one issue become the entire focus of its social agenda. The upper valley has centered on, and in many ways been paralyzed over, the employee-housing debate.

Mayor Rick Stevens said examples abound that Basalt’s social fabric still exists. It’s displayed daily in events ranging from parents skipping out of work for an hour to watch a kids baseball game, family gatherings at the pool, the revival of River Days and the Fryingpan River corridor cleanup.

“There’s a lot going on, we just don’t recognize it,” he said.

The board wholeheartedly agreed with Baker that in the last weeks of master planning for Basalt’s future, more emphasis must be placed on tools to preserve the character.

That’s the easy part. Now the real work begins, board members agreed.

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