Basalt council proceeds on Pan and Fork ‘compromise’

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
A contractor for Basalt town government works Tuesday on the portion of the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park that will be a riverside. The council is working through a plan for the part of the site closest to Two Rivers Road.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

The Basalt Town Council voted 5-0 Tuesday night to support the direction of its Planning and Zoning Commission to allow as much as 75,000 square feet of development and additional parkland on the former Pan and Fork site.

The council also voted to direct the planning commission to work on rezoning the property so that a developer can more easily submit a plan that it believes matches the town’s direction.

The council’s vote also directs an independent financial advisor to look at different development scenarios to gauge how much money could be made with various amounts of square footage.

Town Manager Mike Scanlon said that information is needed to determine if a public subsidy is warranted and, if so, at what amount.

“In the last 18 months, this is the best meeting I’ve seen. We’re not all glaring at each other.”Basalt Councilman Mark Kittle

“Part of the effort is to understand how a developer makes money, so when they ask for concessions, you know what you’re doing,” Scanlon said.

The planning commission worked the past several months on an amendment to a master plan for the Pan and Fork, a former mobile home park near the center of downtown. Although the commission didn’t approve specific uses, the scenario it recommended contemplates a 47-room hotel with a restaurant and bar, 30 residential flats of 1,200 square feet each and a 94-space underground parking garage.

Councilman Mark Kittle said he has always supported a balance between development and park on the Pan and Fork site. He welcomed the planning commission’s recommendation because it moves that direction. He said he was ready to “throw up his hands” in frustration over the debate over the property, which has divided the community.

“In the last 18 months, this is the best meeting I’ve seen,” he said. “We’re not all glaring at each other.”

Councilman Herschel Ross said the thorough work by the planning commission and Basalt’s Parks, Open Space and Trails Committee on the potential for the parkland will provide a developer with the information needed to come up with a plan. It also shows the great potential for a combination of development and park, he said.

Development of the Pan and Fork site is seen by a large contingent of residents as a way to stimulate economic activity and bring vitality to downtown. Another sizable contingent believes Basalt would best be served by devoting the site to parks, recreation and open space.

The Pan and Fork site is about 5.3 acres. The town purchased the half closest to the Roaring Fork River and is constructing a park. The 2.4 acres closest to Two Rivers Road is in private hands. The council previously passed a resolution that said the private property should be divided in half between development and park.

Councilman Bernie Grauer said he views that as a “good compromise.” The planning commission’s work is a model of good planning, he said.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt advocated Friday for holding a public discussion about buying the entire private parcel, then deciding how it should be used. Whitsitt said she felt too much of the planning process was driven by concerns over the profits of a developer. She repeated the concern Tuesday but praised the work by the planning commission and parks committee.

Grauer said a developer must achieve some profit if the town expects them to invest millions of dollars in a project.

The planning commission also worked on a master plan that contemplates roughly 13,650 square feet of development on Merino Park, the former recycling center, and 21,150 square feet of development on Lions Park, where Town Hall is located.

The town’s next step in debating the Pan and Fork future will be assessing the independent financial analysis. That report is expected in about two months.