Basalt council presses Eagle County commissioners for coordinated midvalley growth
Elected officials in Basalt pressed the Eagle County commissioners this week to coordinate growth in the Roaring Fork Valley, but nothing concrete came out of a joint meeting.
When the two bodies got together in Basalt on Tuesday, council members focused on coordinating growth in the midvalley while county commissioners outlined a plan to address affordable housing.
Basalt’s boundaries meld with Eagle County’s in the El Jebel area, one of the highest density neighborhood’s in the valley. Eagle County is currently reviewing two additional major housing projects in El Jebel. They would add a combined 450 residences.
Basalt Councilman Gary Tennenbaum told the three county commissioners, all Democrats, that they have strong support from the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County, “but that support comes with some responsibility of working together,” he said.
He noted that the Roaring Fork Valley Regional Planning Commission advised the commissioners to reject The Fields and the Tree Farm. The Fields is a proposal for as many as 110 residences across Highway 82 from the Blue Lake entrance. The Tree Farm is seeking approval for 340 residences and nearly 135,000 of commercial space on the north side of Highway 82, across from Whole Foods.
The county commissioners granted the first round of approval to The Fields despite the planning commission’s recommendation. The commissioners will review the Tree Farm on March 21.
Sequence the projects
While the boards didn’t discuss specific projects, Basalt’s message was clear. Councilman Auden Schendler questioned the need to rework land-use master plans or wait for coordinated traffic studies, both of which were mentioned as possibilities. He suggested the governments should take a simpler approach of focusing growth in the core of Basalt before considering sites in more rural areas.
“Right now, basically, it’s happening everywhere because there’s no plan or sequencing,” Schendler said.
The two boards have an intergovernmental agreement, and it allows each of them to weigh in on proposals being reviewed by the other government when located in an area of interest. For example, the Tree Farm is on the edge of Basalt, so the town can make referral comments.
Critics contend the agreement is limited in value because it isn’t binding. Eagle County interim attorney Beth Ayres Oliver has questioned the legality of the agreement. On Tuesday she said she would propose alterations and send them to Basalt’s town attorney to examine.
Regardless of how it gets done, Tennenbaum said the two governments need to find a way to be planning better together for the sake of the midvalley.
“I just don’t want to pay it lip service anymore,” he said.
There were ambiguous pledges to try to work together on master plans, but the only definitive direction was cooperation on a new advisory council on affordable housing. Basalt will be invited to appoint one member to the council and another will be appointed by the commissioners from the unincorporated portion of the county in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The nine-member board will hold monthly meetings and advise the Eagle County Housing and Development Authority’s board of directors on steps that can be taken on affordable-housing issues.
“Countywide we’re in the same dilemma,” Ryan said of the affordable-housing shortage.
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