Basalt candidates Q&A: Willits
One of the bigger controversies facing the Town Council last year was over a proposal by the Willits developers. The review of the Whole Foods Market initially was tied to a request for more residences in the Willits core. Ultimately, the requests were separated. How would you have voted on Whole Foods as a stand-alone project, and how do you feel about more residences in the Willits core? Garret BrandtI would have voted to allow Whole Foods to come to Basalt. Whole Foods was listed at No. 5 on Fortunes 100 Best Companies to work for in 2007. This will be a positive addition to our town, together with the build-out of Willits Town Center. As for additional residences in the Willits core, without a specific proposal, its too difficult to know if they would benefit the community. As a general principal, more residences in a place like the Willits core is preferred to residences in areas that encourage sprawl. The Willits core has existing infrastructure, so would not be taking up open space. But more residences just for the sake of more is not in the best interest of Basalt. Brian DillardExcellent ploy by the developer too bad for Basalt. Again, we dont need to be the valleys grocer; we already have two options. I was opposed to the parking issues, but in favor of lower- to moderate-priced housing solutions when the projects were tied together. Whole Foods will bring, say, 150 jobs. Where will they live? The developer has not even paid his way with the employees he will generate; I would have voted no when separated. I would have been open to more residences, if they were the right options for Basalt. I would have been very open to the developer building long-term rental apartment solutions in that space. I would not have been open to more $1-million-dollar condos. What I also fear is the traffic impact on West Basalt, especially the Willits neighborhood and East Valley Road.Pete McBrideFor me, this issue was not about whether we like Whole Foods. Whole Foods offers a great organic food service, no doubt. The issue was how the project was presented. Misinformation, at times, appeared to cloud the process. Was the town told everything or not? I strongly believe that honest developments that keep the communitys interest in mind can be just as successful or more so than those that only look at profit margins. I would have voted against the extra residential units, not only because of the misinformation during the proposal, but because I feel Willits traffic issue is already a concern. With time, I fear it could get worse because of Whole Foods regional lure. Working with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) to create a shuttle service to better connect East and West Basalt will be critical in the future. As a stand-alone project, I would have voted for it but fought harder for a scaled down, more compact version that complies better with a small-town feel. I have seen many smaller sized Whole Foods across the country, which are just as efficient and well supplied. Katie SchwoererI think that the majority of Basalt residents are excited for Whole Foods, and, like them, I support expanded organic grocery options. Having said that, I am concerned that Whole Foods will bring increased traffic to our community. The Willits/Whole Foods traffic impact study presented to the council did not fully address the impact of the stores regional appeal; thus, the developers traffic mitigation plans, in my view, will not effectively alleviate the increased level of traffic. As a Willits resident, I know just how bad the traffic in our neighborhood is already. Doing whatever we can to ensure that matters do not get worse will be a high priority for me, if elected. With regard for the request for 150,000 square feet of additional residential growth at Willits, the developer failed to substantiate its claim that this growth was needed, and the community opposed the request by more than 10 to 1. The prior council was right to deny the application in these circumstances.Rick StevensWhole Foods will be an asset to the Roaring Fork Valley community. The fact it is in Basalt does not matter so much. After all, we all travel to Glenwood to shop and to Aspen to ski increasing traffic and congestion and a demand for employees along the way. It is our responsibility to make the best of a Whole Foods opportunity and to allow others to come here to purchase goods. As to increased density I believe the current council said they would welcome increased density in the urban growth boundary to avoid sprawl. The method used in Willits might not have been the best, but I certainly do not condone name-calling and finding a person guilty before a fair hearing as a means of being heard.Jacque WhitsittI would have voted no on the residential piece of the Willits application unless the project was smaller, price-deed restricted and included a believable traffic mitigation and public infrastructure plan. The question of Whole Foods should have been more about increasing the allowed square footage of a single store than it was about the store itself. As it turns out, Whole Foods can and has built smaller, community-oriented stores in other locations. We could have approved a small-town Whole Foods at Willits that would have fit our neighborhood and community much better. I was and am against the big box approval it was unnecessary and is likely to draw traffic from not only our valley, but the Eagle Valley and the western Interstate 70 corridor. The towns own traffic consultant told me that generic grocery store numbers were used to evaluate the traffic rather than taking into account the regional big-box traffic that we are likely to see. Ask the residents who live in or near Willits about the current traffic generated at the main commercial entrance and Valley Road at Willits. The results of this approval will be felt deeply by the midvalley portion of Basalt and Eagle County.
Pitkin County’s elected officials are looking to a citizen group to make recommendations on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit impacts from growth and development.