Basalt candidates Q&A: How much development would you support for the Pan and Fork site? |

Basalt candidates Q&A: How much development would you support for the Pan and Fork site?

Jennifer Riffle

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 is the maximum amount of development you would allow on the Pan and Fork property owned by Roaring Fork Development Corp. and what specific uses would you support?

Mayoral race

Rick Stevens: I voted to support Resolution 9. The process has been set in motion to plan the downtown core utilizing the Planning and Zoning Commission, POST Committee, etc. Citizens can engage at any point along the way. As a seated councilor and candidate, it would be inappropriate to say specifically how much square footage or what type of uses, as it is a discussion that will be held at the right time and with the feedback from all sides. To state my position now would be unfair to the process. The information you have asked for can only be determined based upon a site-specific land-use application, which must meet code and be acceptable by the community and majority of council.

Jacque Whitsitt: I think it is imperative that Basalt join with our open space and trails partners to buy the park parcel from the owner in order to control our destiny. We can accomplish this without creating debt or increasing property taxes. I support the petitioners’ goal of keeping the footprint of development small and leaving space for events and active recreation. The current developer has made it clear that he must have high-end residential to make his project work. There is passionate support for a restaurant, events and recreation on the river and little support for residential. The park will connect Old Town with all of Basalt via trails and waterways. It is the cornerstone of our future.

Council race

Jennifer Riffle: With this developable legacy parcel, our town can invest toward a model of sustainable community. A sustainable community is economically, environmentally and socially healthy and resilient. It meets challenges through integrated solutions rather than through fragmented approaches meeting one of those goals at the expense of the others. Coordinating long-term planning and zoning for Lions Park, recycling center and Clark’s is necessary to align zoning or stating uses/maximum amount of development of the Pan and Fork. I do not support high-end residential at this time. Currently, I support minimum footprint, maximizing river views, minimizing fenced-in private areas and a two-story height restriction reflecting the historic building on Midland Avenue.

Herschel Ross: You’ve hit it on the head by asking about the uses. Picking an arbitrary number doesn’t address what we want that property to become to help Basalt. I believe we need a small, upscale, boutique hotel with up to 40 rooms to support the Rocky Mountain Institute in bringing its great conferences to Basalt. I think bringing Bookworm or whatever it’s called to a very small building in the complex with the institute and River Conservancy would be a good move. Other than that, just enough development to support the park and give reason for people to come there, such as a place to rent fishing poles in the summer and rent cross-country skis (and lay down a track) in the winter. All of the examples of other river towns we studied had small cafes, frozen yogurt shops, etc., along their parks. Only after design would we know how many square feet that would take.

Auden Schendler: Shouldn’t we start with: what uses are appropriate for this space? And then: what size, scope and scale work best? Note that you could “bung it up,” as my son says, by putting a small amount of square footage on a large acreage or a huge building on a small footprint. But to play the game: Most people think 50,000 square feet is about right, give or take. I would support retail, office, commercial, bar/restaurant/cafe, even a small hotel. And sometimes to make these projects work, you need a few free-market residential units. I won’t oppose that but the property shouldn’t be all condos or housing.

Katie Schwoerer: Over the past several months, the commercial square footage on the parcel has been reduced from 150,000 to 55,000. This is progress and a reflection of the majority’s vision of the parcel. I support an active river park, a place for families, kayakers, the arts, concerts and general year-round recreation. I support limited development closer to the Rocky Mountain Institute portion of the park. I envision a park that stimulates sustainable economic activity for the downtown. I want a thorough investigation of the financial numbers; the so-called sunk costs, the appraised and market value, the intrinsic value and the long term economic contribution of a vibrant river park. The town’s analyses to date haven’t accounted for any open space funding sources.

Leroy Duroux: I think square footage may be the wrong approach to determining the amount of development that should occur on the Pan and Fork property. Design, pedestrian connections, gathering places, view coridors, connectivity to the remainder of downtown, uses and economic benefits should be the criteria used to determine the amount of development. I have heard for years from downtown businesses the need for people in downtown, so I would say a hotel or lodge, retail, restaurant and limited housing would be appropriate. I see a need for entry-level housing in this area, which might allow for the millennial generation a chance to become viable citizens in our community.

Rob Leavitt: I picture a vibrant, interesting and fun park with attractions for people of all ages, from water features to public art, embracing the river, the surrounding views and the environment. Appropriately-sized and scaled development next to the Rocky Mountain Institute must activate the park, provide good jobs and complement, not cannibalize, commerce in the downtown core. I prefer something in the neighborhood of 50,000 square feet. But more important than the actual square footage is what the buildings look like, how they reflect our old-town charm, and the types of activities. I would support retail, food and beverage, commercial or nonprofit uses. Condos along the river are not my first choice for the land, but I understand that they may be needed by a developer to make the finances work.

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