Basalt council members stand ground on review of golf club
October 24, 2006
Two Basalt Town Council members said Tuesday they will vote on the Roaring Fork Club’s application to expand despite suggestions they should step down because of allegations of bias against the project.The decisions by council members Chris Seldin and Amy Capron concluded an emotionally charged first night of the council’s review of the project. The review is expected to take several weeks before a vote.The Roaring Fork Club wants to add 32 luxury cabins, 36 affordable housing units and 15 single-family home lots, as well as amenities like a kids’ camp, a fly-fishing area and three practice golf holes. The private golf and fishing club, which now includes an 18-hole golf course, is on Basalt’s eastern edge.The club owners wrote in a letter to the town government Friday that they felt Capron had a “disqualifying bias” because she wrote an e-mail to opponents of the club, urging them to get involved in the public debate on the project.The letter noted that participation by a council member with a disqualifying bias could potentially subject the town to legal action. Capron didn’t address the club’s letter Tuesday night. She made it clear by her actions that she intends to participate in the entire review.Seldin said the council took the allegations of conflicts “very seriously.” He said he didn’t believe he or Capron did anything to warrant recusing themselves from participating in the review.Meyers Ranch LLC, whose property is proposed to be used for the expansion, asked Seldin to recuse himself. Specific reasons for that request for recusal weren’t available Tuesday. The Roaring Fork Club partners didn’t object to Seldin’s participation in the process.Although the hearing was on a land-use application, the character of the club’s owners became the focus for several speakers from the audience.Basalt resident Michael Thompson said he was generally supportive of the project until he learned about what he characterized as a “legal threat” against the town by the developers. Thompson said he was “deeply offended” that a council member was being pressured to recuse herself for exercising her right of free speech. He suggested the developers should recuse themselves instead.”They can always go test the waters in Pitkin County,” he said. Much of the land eyed for the club’s expansion is located in Pitkin County. The Basalt council would have to annex the land if the project is approved.Basalt native Rich Grant said he doesn’t care if the project is approved from a growth standpoint because the town of his youth is long gone. “Growth, no growth – to me it’s irrelevant anymore,” Grant said.But, he said it is unacceptable when a council member faces threats from a developer.An equal number of speakers testified to the high level of character and community spirit that club managing partner Jim Light and his co-owners have displayed over the years.Beth Mobilian, a volunteer in numerous civic causes, said the club owners have shown they care about the community by contributing to fundraising efforts and youth programs. “They are the people that step forward to help our kids,” she said.Former Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens rushed in from his home, where he was watching the hearing on Access Roaring Fork television, and spoke in the club’s defense. He said opponents of the project will do just about anything to achieve their goal and that they dragged a council member into a communication he felt she “probably” shouldn’t have been in. He noted the town has strict rules prohibiting communication about issues outside of the public process.He said the club simply was noting the situation and its rights.”It’s unfair to say they’re threatening the town,” Stevens said. “I’ll tell you these guys will never sue us.”Several speakers delved into issues unrelated to the alleged conflicts and the club’s reaction.Basalt resident Ed Podolak expressed surprise and dismay about the controversy over a project on 200 acres of ground, especially since the area is surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands.”It’s just confusing to me how that small slice of ground can cause such a problem,” he said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.