Basalt candidates on land-use regulations
Editor’s note: This is the fourth day of coverage of the Basalt Town Council race. Six candidates are vying for three seats.
Today’s question is: The council has adopted new land-use regulations in the past four years which create tough new growth quotas, determine where growth can occur and set new, tougher affordable housing requirements. Do you support those steps or are they too onerous?
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 think it’s important to understand that the present dearth of construction and jobs is not due to anything the town has done. There are currently more than 483 approved, but unbuilt, dwelling units, plus additional tens of thousands of square feet of unbuilt office, warehouse and public facility units as well as 54 lodge rooms. In addition, the Eagle County planning department foresees another 5,683 units in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Clearly the town isn’t preventing construction. It’s the lack of available financing that’s the problem. Many projects could break ground tomorrow if there were enough of a market to convince investors to finance them. Once the economy begins to recover, we should see considerable building in Basalt. More people will be employed, and our stores and service providers should then see an increase in business.
When they are built, the units already approved would greatly increase the town’s population. Living in a narrow valley as we do, we could find our air polluted, our water in short supply, our schools overcrowded and our traffic worse than ever. At that time the town will need the controls the current Town Council enacted if it is to remain a viable, livable place.
I feel that the town needs to reassess their approach to growth control and affordable housing. We should definitely not go down the same road that the city of Aspen has. An urban growth boundary should be used as a guide, not a line in the sand. Drastically restricting growth has the unintended consequence of driving property prices up and forcing development into areas that are not as heavily regulated. Remember that just outside the town limits is an entire county keen on approving developments. Affordable housing in Aspen has helped keep some residents in town, yes, but it has also spawned a separate governmental department with staff that need salaries and residents who cannot afford to move from affordable housing into the free market if they want to. Our town can neither afford to warehouse our residents in the same way nor can we afford to manage such a program.
It’s not as much about growth anymore as it is about creating and preserving a town where families want to stay and thrive. I learned recently that almost one-third of the town’s budget historically comes from new construction permit fees and taxes. Without any new construction because of these occasionally cost-prohibitive housing requirements, we may need to find another source of income to cover this portion of the budget. I support a practical and responsible approach to finding a balance between any new construction and protecting affordable housing without losing sight of the middle class.
I support them.
While I agree with ideas such as the setting of growth quotas and creating tight urban growth boundaries, I believe that affordable housing requirements require constant monitoring, and even modification as conditions change. The council should continuously evaluate whether existing regulations are producing the desired results.
A review of development proposals over the last 10 years would suggest that existing regulations are discouraging people from building new projects. Whether this is desirable or not remains open for ongoing community discussion.
In addition, the integrity of the regulations is paramount. We should continue to clarify/refine our land-use regulations so that applicants do not spend years in the review process only to be turned away, for reasons that should be made clearer at the outset.
I support the land-use regulations adopted by the prior council. When Basalt emerges from the current recession and development pressures rekindle, the new code will ensure that Basalt does not become the sprawling, overcrowded mess that some other (unnamed) Eagle County towns to the north have become. Rather, the new code will allow Basalt to grow in the right places and at a manageable pace.
I would emphasize that as an owner of a local firm (Harry Teague Architects) connected with development, I am comfortable that these regulations strike the right balance between good business, healthy development, and preserving Basalt’s small-town, community character, which is why most of us have chosen to live here.
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