Basalt council finds growth potential ‘staggering’ in proposed master plan |

Basalt council finds growth potential ‘staggering’ in proposed master plan

Basalt Mountain looms over the town of Basalt as the sun starts to set Tuesday. The town is working on a master plan update to plot future growth and the vision to get there.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

Basalt Town Council members said Tuesday night they find growth projections for the town “staggering” under scenarios in a proposed master plan.

They made it clear during a first glance there are a lot of refinements that will be required to the plan, which essentially serves as a blueprint for the town’s future and guidance for developers.

“We got really good feedback from the community about growth but when you start adding up those numbers, that potentially can be grown, it’s staggering and I’m not going to support that,” Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said. “I didn’t support it in 2007, to have that much, and I’m not going to support it now.”

Town consultants, staff and the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission have been working since April on an update to the 2007 master plan. The process involved assessing the number of existing residences, the number that can be built under existing zoning or that are already approved, and projections on undeveloped, unplanned property. The consultants held public meetings and asked residents to offer advice on the density they would like to see on key parcels.

“I didn’t support it in 2007, to have that much, and I’m not going to support it now.” — Councilman Gary Tennenbaum

Basalt has 1,754 existing units. Under the draft master plan, the total number of units could range from 3,197 under a “lower density” option and 3,521 under a “max density” option. The planning commission recommended a middle scenario.

“The growth numbers are kind of staggering,” Councilman Ryan Slack said.

Councilman Bill Infante said the council needs plenty of time in future meetings to work through issues with the planning commission and consultants.

“It isn’t enough (time on Tuesday) for me to defend this product that proposes a doubling of the number of housing units in our town, and we as council are going to have to defend this master plan, which is proposing a very significant increase even under the modest density formula,” Infante said.

Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer said a doubling of residential units would result in a tripling or more of Basalt’s population. The town needs to look at the implications for schools, streets and services, she said.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said the analysis should include the impact on Highway 82.

“There are already problems in the midvalley and we’re going to make it worse,” she said.

Whitsitt suggested the master plan might not be completed by the time the municipal election is held on April 7 and several seats potentially turn over. She will be off the board because of term limits. Three council seats also are up for grabs.

“We’ve got a lot left to go,” Whitsitt said of the master plan process.

Tennenbaum also sounded the alarm about midvalley growth.

“I am worried about what we’re going to see in the midvalley,” he said. “Willits is not done. The Tree Farm (Ace Lane’s project) is just getting going. That whole area is going to get much larger, more crowded, much more dense.”

Before the council started its deliberations, planning commission member Rob Leavitt expressed dissatisfaction at how the master plan process was going. He contended people who attended open houses were given a choice of selecting density or sprawl on key parcels. Density will win every time because no one likes sprawl, he said.

Leavitt said it was a false choice. The process should have given people a chance to support less density.

“I can’t support the plan as it is because I don’t think we asked the right questions,” he said.

Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle said concern about the density of future development is valid. In addition, she said, the proposed master plan lacks the aspirational vision that everyone wanted at the start of the process. The aspirational aspect, she said, is what made their “faces light up” at the start.

The council, planning commission, consultants and staff will meet in future meetings to try to capture that magic.