Basalt council OKs Willits project pact |

Basalt council OKs Willits project pact

The Basalt Town Council gave conditional approval Thursday night to a project that could add 600,000 square feet of development to the El Jebel area.

The council voted 4-1 to grant approval to the Willits project’s central core. The approval hinges on the ability of the town staff and development team to hammer out wording in final documents in the next two months.

The town had previously approved 423 residences on the 30-acre property just upvalley from the El Jebel City Market.

Developers Michael Lipkin, Clay Crossland and Paul Adams will be able to build 456,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space. There could be another 37,000 square feet of government buildings and 74,000 square feet of affordable housing. Nonleaseable space boosts the total to about 598,000 square feet.

Neighbor and critic Ted Guy said that was too much development.

“The biggest concern I’ve got is this thing seems to keep growing,” Guy said. “If you had something growing on you at that rate, it’d be considered a malignant melanoma.”

Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt didn’t necessarily agree with the cancer analogy, but she agreed the project was too big. She cast the dissenting vote.

“Six hundred thousand square feet is a number I have trouble dealing with and I’m going to vote no on this,” Whitsitt said.

The four other council members present voted for approval with little or no comment.

Willits, formerly known as Sopris Meadows, has been under review for about six years total, and about one and a half years in this third and final stage of review. The sides had reached an impasse in 1999, but negotiations between the town staff and developers forged the nuts and bolts of the deal reviewed by the council Thursday night.

“We’ve come to grips, I guess, with concerns that have been expressed over the years,” said Mayor Rick Stevens. “It seems to me we’ve gained in every area.”

Highlights of the deal include a donation of land for a public transit center; land for a performing arts center of up to 25,000 square feet; and land for another governmental building. The developers agreed to a real estate transfer fee that will fund construction and operation of the performing arts center as well as other public projects.

The two sides also resolved a dispute over affordable housing that seemed headed to court. The project will include 74 housing units.

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