Basalt condemns tree farm process
Basalt officials unleashed a barrage of new allegations Tuesday against Eagle County in the Mount Sopris Tree Farm fight, which flares up as often as road rage on Highway 82.
Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens denounced Eagle County for allegedly boiling a plot to get quick approval for a county office building at the tree farm, while all but abandoning plans for parks and recreational facilities.
The tree farm is a 128-acre parcel behind the El Jebel Amoco station that Eagle and Pitkin counties acquired early this decade. They acquired the property in a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service to preserve open space and provide land for an office building.
Eagle County has decided that in December it will apply for a special -use permit for its office building while sending the recreation plan through a more detailed Planned Unit Development process.
In those different processes, the office building could conceivably be approved by April while the recreation plan review could take a full year.
Stevens accused Eagle County of ignoring commitments to treat its application for the office building like any other development request.
He claimed that Eagle County is “backpedaling” from commitments to honor a community planning process for parks and recreation facilities that was sponsored by Basalt last winter.
The mayor temporarily stepped down from his duties during Tuesday night’s meeting so he could apply as a town citizen to be the Basalt-appointed member on a county task force on the tree farm. Stevens said direct involvement by himself or another council member was the only chance he saw to forcefully convey the town’s positions. He said it was also a way to keep an eye on Eagle County.
In a speech that would have done Knute Rockne proud, Stevens proclaimed it was time for Basalt to take a strong stand on the issue and force Eagle County officials to listen to the desires of midvalley residents.
“Government has got to get over the `they own the building, they own the land,’ ” Stevens said. “They don’t.”
Referring to the planning process that could expedite the office building, Stevens said, “It’s totally ass backwards. If somebody can tell me how to go about it, tell me what it is. I haven’t been able to figure it out for six years.”
When told of the meeting Wednesday, Eagle County manager Jack Ingstad said it sounded like it was time the two governments had a direct conversation. He said the county isn’t trying to fast-track its building and only decided on separate but concurrent processes for the office building and recreational facilities after consulting with its appointed tree farm task force.
“The intent is not to push anyone out of the process,” he said.
Ingstad acknowledged the county has set deadlines for the task force and its consultants so the years of planning for the tree farm can be wrapped up.
But even if the planning somehow progresses without further conflict, the construction of the office building probably won’t occur in 2000, he said.
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