Basalt council inches toward Pan & Fork plan but can’t settle on development
The Basalt Town Council informally agreed Tuesday night on how much of the Pan and Fork site should be kept as park, but settling on the amount of development remained elusive.
In a work session, the council agreed slightly less than half of the 2.3 acres owned by the nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. should be acquired and left as open space. The portion of the nonprofit’s property that is closest to the new Rocky Mountain Institute Innovation Center is appropriate for development, the council agreed. But how much development and the uses weren’t resolved.
The town government scheduled only 60 minutes to discuss the biggest issue on its plate. The board was unable to hash out the development quandary before it had to end the work session and start its regular meeting. Town Manager Mike Scanlon said after the meeting that the Pan and Fork issue will come back before the board in December.
The council member’s opinions on development ran the gamut. Councilman Bernie Grauer said 75,000 square feet — the highest end of what the town is considering — was too big and out of character with Basalt. The low end of the scale, 35,000 square feet, is probably too little, he said. He suggested the town consider allowing about 55,000 square feet of development. Councilman Mark Kittle concurred.
Part of their reasoning was that by allowing 55,000 square feet, the town could recoup some of the funds it has already invested to bring the site out of the floodplain and make it developable.
Mayor Jacque Whitsitt countered by saying the process cannot be driven solely by “number crunching.” There has to be a vision involved as well, she said. She has been an advocate for limiting developing and devoting as much of the site as possible as a park, though she didn’t identify a square footage at the meeting.
The town already owns the half of the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site that is closest to the Roaring Fork River. It’s creating a park on its half.
The Community Development Corp. owns the half of the property adjacent to Two Rivers Road. The fate of that property has been a controversial debate throughout 2015.
Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said he wants to see how redevelopment of the former Clark’s Market site, now the ReStore, plays out before deciding the fate of the Pan and Fork.
“I’m not ready to make decisions on the square footage,” he said.
Councilman Rick Stevens said the council is facing significant financial pressure to invest in a wide range of projects and maintain reserve funds. It cannot afford to sink significantly more money into the property or delay recouping at least some of its investment in the Pan and Fork site. He suggested letting a design process determine the appropriate square footage. It’s possible the 75,000 square feet can be designed in a way that’s acceptable to the board and community, he said.
Grauer, who declared his candidacy for mayor in the April election last week, said it is “imperative” that the council solves the issue by that election. He said the council must determine the zoning and uses of the developable portion of the Pan and Fork site by January so that a bonding question can be placed on the April ballot.
Scanlon and the town’s financial consultant have said some level of public funding will be necessary regardless of what level of park and development is allowed on the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. property.
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