Basalt council, citizens engage in key growth debate tonight |

Basalt council, citizens engage in key growth debate tonight

BASALT This is the big one, Basalt.While listening to lengthy presentations and speaking in public are about as fun as a colonoscopy for most people, the Basalt town government is holding a meeting tonight, and the stakes are high. The outcome will influence how the town grows over the next five or so years.The town government is trying to rally people of all political persuasions, from no-growthers to developers, to listen and give their opinions.”It’s definitely an opportunity for everybody to have a voice,” said Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux. “What’s at stake is, people in the community need to speak up and tell the elected officials which direction they would like to see the town go.”The Town Council and planning commission are holding a joint meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Basalt Town Hall to determine where an urban growth boundary should be drawn. That boundary is where the town believes development is appropriate; it is an important part of the town’s land-use master plan.”The council is committed to following the master plan; therefore, what the master plan says is going to have a tremendous impact on how the community grows and evolves over the next six years,” said Councilman Chris Seldin.The boundary has turned into a line in the sand for the majority of the council: Development proposals inside the boundary get reviewed; proposals outside the line get turned away.The Roaring Fork Club’s expansion proposal went nowhere with the board because it was outside that urban growth boundary. The same fate befell the Sopris Chase project on the downvalley side of Basalt High School. The developers of both projects withdrew their applications so the town government could determine during the master plan process if the sites should be inside or outside the urban growth boundary.Duroux noted that now is a perfect time to determine whether such sites should be an official part of the town since there are no pending applications.The discussions about the urban growth boundary will likely reveal some different philosophies on how Basalt should grow. Some fear too much growth threatens Basalt’s small-town character. They want to preserve open space on the outskirts of town, as well as a rural buffer.Others fear restricting development will send housing prices soaring and turn Basalt into another resort for the mega-wealthy.Draft language in an update of the town’s land-use master plan notes that soaring rents and sale prices are already driving people of low and moderate incomes out of town. And the people who can afford the prices bring different expectations.”A key threat to lifestyle, which many area residents have come to love, is the incremental change in value,” said the draft master plan that consultant Tim Malloy prepared. “Many of the new residents in the area come from urban areas in search of a better quality of life. Some of these new residents bring with them values and expectations based on their previous life experiences.”Seldin is among a contingent of the council that opposes expanding the town’s urban growth boundary. He said the town can accommodate all the growth it wants without expanding the urban growth boundary for at least five years.The draft update of the town master plan shows 438 approved but unbuilt residences, and residences allowed by zoning, within Basalt. That would boost the town’s population by an estimated 1,121.Duroux said the town has limited potential to expand its urban growth boundary, in large part because of geography. “I don’t see how much bigger the town can really get,” he said.The Grange family placed a conservation easement on its 246-acre ranch, just downvalley from Big O Tires. That permanently snuffs the development potential on their ranch and maintains their right to run a cattle operation.Duroux said he “seriously doubts” the Cerise ranch, on the southeast side of town, will ever be developed. That leaves only a few large parcels available for the town’s growth. They include the Meyer Ranch adjacent to the Elk Run subdivision, the Sopris Chase site by the high school, Ace Lane’s property in El Jebel/West Basalt and Ted Guy’s land in unincorporated Eagle County off of Willits Lane.Duroux said clamping down too much on growth threatens to send housing prices soaring even higher. He wants to use whatever tools are available to encourage the most beneficial types of development.”Is the growth that’s going to occur going to enable the middle class to remain in Basalt and continue to be productive?” Duroux asked.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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