Basalt candidates Q&A: How can Basalt avoid a downtown parking problem?
Editor’s note: Basalt has two candidates running for mayor and six candidates running for three council seats in the April 5 election. The Aspen Times quizzed the candidates on five top issues. Their answers will run through Friday with the order rotating.
Aspen Times: What should Basalt do to avoid a downtown parking problem in the future, and how would you pay for your solution?
Auden Schendler: The parking fix doesn’t have to be a DIA type structure. It can be done with a few locations that have 30 or so spaces, maybe including a small elevated garage. We should also integrate parking into new development (Clark’s, Pan and Fork) putting it underground if possible, but then working with developers to creatively finance it through bonds or allowance of free-market units. With limited footprints available, solutions will probably be integrated with other uses and rolled out incrementally. An urban redevelopment project around 7-Eleven along Two Rivers Road might be an opportunity, for example. This gets back to the need for a bigger town vision.
Katie Schwoerer: One easy step in the right direction will be continued efforts to create more walking and biking connections throughout downtown with clear signage. The completion of the Southside underpass (a funded project) will reduce car traffic between this area and the downtown. We should also embrace the ambitious Two Rivers Greenway master plan (a pedestrian corridor along Two Rivers Road) that would connect the Willits area with downtown. These are all exciting options that get people away from a car-centric lifestyle. They are goals I believe Basalt should champion. To fund these worthwhile efforts we can look to Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, Great Outdoors Colorado and our 1 percent open space sales tax.
Leroy Duroux: Parking problems may be a good thing as it means there are people in town. Parking has to be addressed with each redevelopment proposal as it relates to the total solution. It may be determined that parking structure is needed. The problem is, because of ground water levels, the structure would have to go up. Our total downtown area is relatively small so using footprint for parking is counterproductive. Whatever the solution it will be expensive and the town would have to have many partners to fund the project. A collector bus system might be a solution for locals visiting downtown.
Rob Leavitt: First, we need to give people more options besides driving: better, safer bike trails and more bike racks; WE-cycle, which, because of funding from this council, is coming this summer; improved and better connected walking paths that are fun and interesting like the 7-Eleven bridge; public transportation and maybe someday a connector bus in Basalt; and finally more parking. A parking garage on Lions Park and/or Clarks Market will be necessary for guests, residents and employees who currently park in the downtown spots. I believe we must explore the possibility of selling Merino Park or part of Lions Park to help finance some of these improvements.
Jennifer Riffle: Good parking policies exhibit the following traits; cost effective, fair to all modes of transportation and all income levels, easy to administer, green and a political winner. Some options; enforcing time limits, metered parking, incentives to employees to utilize mass transit, allowing privately owned lots to monetize or permit their parking. Basalt can zone parking benefit districts which a nonprofit manages parking revenue for the benefit of the community. We can create community buy-in by allowing residents and/or businesses to develop and vote on projects funded by parking revenues. I will encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.
Herschel Ross: Downtown parking problems would accelerate with the development of the (Basalt Center Circle) properties. I believe in working with developers to address such problems rather than treating them all like villains. We’ve researched the price differences in surface vs underground vs above ground structured parking to prepare for that development. (Town Manager Mike Scanlon), as usual, is already ahead on this and has a plan to apply for an urban renewal designation that would allow the town to play a bigger role in creating parking without raising taxes above new revenues.
Rick Stevens: There are multiple issues to be addressed as it relates to parking. The first step is to continue to focus on land-use approvals that provide solutions to less cars on the road.
Jacque Whitsitt: Having a “parking problem” is a clear indicator of how successful our downtown really is. When a new, young council is elected, we will get to work with developers to re-envision the Clark’s Market property. New housing, commercial space and parking in this part of town will be the perfect way to revitalize our core. With innovative design, downtown residents can walk or bicycle to work and RFTA stops. Basalt will happily partner with a developer for an innovative, solution-based project with old town design. We can ensure public as well as private parking solutions to accommodate all our needs.
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Basalt mayoral candidates Bill Kane and Rob Leavitt said at a Feb. 10 forum they endorsed the town government’s $1.34 million expenditure to expand a riverfront park. Candidate and councilman Bill Infante said not so fast and provided an alternative view.