Basalt council tells Pan and Fork developer to add community benefits
After sinking close to $7 million into the Pan and Fork property over eight years and facing an uncertain future over possible property tax overcharges, the Basalt Town Council acknowledged some tough fiscal realities Tuesday night.
Board members said they don’t have the funds to make some of their dreams come true on the controversial plot of ground. They also told developer Tim Belinski that he must sweeten the pot to win approval for his proposal on the private part of the parcel. That could come in the form of offering more community benefits rather than paying for more development expenses, board members said.
“There has been so much money sunk into this; an incredible amount of taxpayer funds,” Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle said.
A lot of the money spent was for community goals such as easing the flood risk of the Roaring Fork River. The town also purchased part of the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site for a park along the river. Additional funds were spent to remove mobile home park residents out of land determined to be at risk of a catastrophic flood.
The private property benefited from public funding to use dirt and rock to raise it out of the floodplain and make it developable.
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There’s no sign that the council majority is ready to throw in the towel on the plan to purchase more land to add to the park. But council members conceded Tuesday night they won’t be able to develop a community-oriented building envisioned on the portion of the property being eyed for development by Belinski’s group.
Belinski’s Basalt River Park LLC has an option to buy about 2 acres of land for $3.2 million. He is offering to sell roughly 1 acre to the town for $2.05 million. He also wants direct and indirect financial assistance from the town for his development plan for 11 river cabins, two free-market apartments, six micro-apartments and four deed-restricted units. The residential component would total 23,435 square feet of market-rate housing; 3,650 square feet of deed-restricted housing; and 11,500 square feet of office space and associated uses.
The town’s outside financial consultant examined Belinski’s plan and determined that about $750,000 in expenses could be shifted from the town to the developer.
The council directed their staff last night to continue negotiating with Belinski to achieve that shift in expenses.
One expense that caught the attention of some council members was the asking price for the 1 acre the town wants for its park addition.
Given the public expenditure over the years, it is “difficult” to see the asking price continue to rise, Riffle said.
Like Riffle, the price didn’t sit well with Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer.
“That took me aback,” she said.
Council members also said they want to see the project provide more community benefits, such as a restaurant. The town had envisioned teaming with the developer on a community building for events and rental for private use. Restaurant space was envisioned as part of the building.
However, the town discovered it might have violated Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights and unlawfully increased property tax 10 times since 2005. It might ask voters in the November election if overcharged taxes should be refunded and if it should forgo future revenue. The outcome could severely affect town spending. Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said it eliminates the town as a player in the envisioned community building at the Pan and Fork.
“The reality with the TABOR situation is (that) the town can’t magically come up with the extra funding right now,” Tennenbaum said.
The council directed their staff to work with Belinski and come back for the May 14 meeting to see if progress could be made on shifting the expenses and sweetening the pot.
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