Basalt candidates focus on mobile home park residents |

Basalt candidates focus on mobile home park residents

Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final day of coverage of the Basalt Town Council race. Six candidates are vying for three seats.

Today’s question is: Should it be a town government priority to relocate residents of the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park, and Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park?

The town election is Tuesday, April 6, although some Basalt residents have already received mail-in ballots. The polling place at Town Hall is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mail ballots must be received by Town Hall – whether mailed or dropped off in person – by 7 p.m. election night.

I’m not sure it is the top priority because it is such a large issue without an easy solution. I think it should be a topic of other discussions since issues are interconnected. As an example, a discussion about vitality would include keeping the residents of the trailer parks in town.

The town government should continue to look for creative options for these parcels. It seems like the right thing to do. However, as we remember, our citizens voted against acquiring the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park a few years ago, so we do not own the land.

Relocation is challenging for many reasons:

1. We have not been able to come up with a plan that guarantees that any or all of the current residents would actually relocate into what would be provided.

2. There is always the possibility that there may be undocumented workers living in the existing trailer park, and any applying for town-sponsored housing would require them to produce documentation that they may not have.

3. There are questions about jurisdiction; for instance: If a new location for these residents were to be outside of the town boundary or outside of the Urban Growth Boundary, Basalt may not have legal control of that site. How would this play out?

My guess is the current residents of the Roaring Fork and Pan and Fork Mobile Home Parks have no desire to be “relocated”; that while flooding may pose a risk to property it’s unlikely to pose a risk to life (with all the means we have for anticipating and preparing for high water); that the economic resources required to move and house these residents aren’t currently available; and that the public will, for all the reasons listed above, is not there to make it happen.

That being said, I have not been privy to all the recommendations and information made available to the current council on this subject, and would enter office with an open mind on the matter.

The citizens defeated a measure to fund a bond issue to buy the Pan and Fork and gradually relocate the residents. It’s unlikely that another bond issue would be approved in the current economic climate. The town can’t condemn the parks and move the tenants who are in danger from river flooding because it doesn’t have the money to pay the owners.

Realistically there is only one chance to clear the parks and develop them. The town has to reduce the number of replacement units required of a developer. Currently, 100 percent of the units have to be replaced with affordable housing. This is unrealistic, and no one will undertake redevelopment as long as this requirement is in place. If the requirement is reduced so that a park developer is subject to the same affordable housing rules as any other developer, the town could require that the residents in the greatest danger be moved first. The town might also consider letting a developer buy some already-approved affordable housing outside the parks. These units would then be offered for sale to park residents.

Until the parks are developed, the town needs to adopt regulations to ensure that all trailer parks meet certain standards. Currently, the Pan and Fork is at the very least unsightly, and in all probability, an unsafe and unhealthy place to live.

This is a very complex issue. Both trailer parks were quickly constructed in the 1960s to house workers and builders of the Reservoir Dam. Now, the sites house many families. Even though the location and age of the infrastructure might pose safety threats to their inhabitants, relocation would seem to be an impossibility. Even if the tenants were able and willing to relocate, it might require approval of a viable parcel outside of our Urban Growth Boundary. On the current Roaring Fork River Master Plan, both sites are depicted as areas of concern and mitigation. I do believe it should be a priority to address these areas and to research possible funding from state levels.

According to the voters in the town of Basalt and several old-time residents: no. Apparently, in 1957 the Roaring Fork River hit the underside of the Snowmass bridge and the trailer parks were unscathed. FEMA, however, does not care about anecdotal evidence and will eventually force the town to take action. If the voters are not willing to pay for a relocation of the trailer parks, then the only action the town can reasonably take would be to try to set up a program to help the residents with flood insurance and the financing issues that arise from living in a flood plain. The town needs these trailer parks, as they are our most affordable housing, as is the case anywhere else (except, of course, Aspen’s Smuggler Trailer Court) in the nation.

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