Basalt council votes 5-0 to support ‘compromise’ on Pan and Fork property |

Basalt council votes 5-0 to support ‘compromise’ on Pan and Fork property

Basalt took a giant step forward Tuesday night to solving one of its longest-running controversies when the Town Council gave first-round approval to a proposal on the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park space.

The council voted 5-0 to approve a plan that provides land for expansion of an existing park and a mixture of commercial and residential development.

The future of the 2.3-acre site west of downtown has been debated — often intensely and sometimes bitterly — for the past seven years. The nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. acquired the property.

Councilman Auden Schendler said the deal was the epitome of a compromise. Some people wanted all park while others wanted more development.

“Is it as good as what I think should be there? No,” Schendler said.

Someone in the audience told him not to vote for it if that was the case.

Schendler responded that compromise is a reality of politics.

“We have to move on past this now,” he said. “It’s not perfect. I understand but I think we ought to move on.”

The project was proposed by Basalt River Park LLC, a development group headed by local businessman Tim Belinski.

The major terms of the deal are:

The town government buys roughly 1 acre of the eastern portion of the property for expansion of the river park for $1.2 million as well as a corridor of open space between Belinski’s development and Rocky Mountain Institute for $146,517. The town’s total cost for the land purchases is $1.34 million or the appraised value, whichever is lower.

Basalt River Park LLC gets approval to build 24 residences ranging from rent-controlled units, free-market apartments and lucrative river cabins. There also would be about 27,000 square feet of commercial space.

Basalt River Park agrees to build a restaurant on the east side of its development, closest to the parkland. The restaurant would be about 3,000 square feet with a 1,500 square foot patio.

Basalt River Park funds $600,000 of essential improvements along Two Rivers Road, including road and sidewalk improvements, bus stops, public bathrooms and a parking area. That increases the amount the developer pays and reduces the amount the town pays to about $244,000.

Basalt River Park gets to increase the size of the river cabins to about 1,900 square feet from 1,600 square feet.

The town agrees to buy the space earmarked for the ArtBase community arts center for $158,000 or the appraised value, whichever is less.

The council heard from supporters and foes of the proposal during public comment. Basalt businessman Royal Laybourn told the council to reject the project and provide more park.

“The public is not getting what they want,” Laybourn said. “The developer is getting what he wants.”

Basalt resident Gerry Terwilliger said fewer than 7%of town residents surveyed in the past supported residential at the site.

“It is really time for this council to represent the citizens and not the developers,” he said.

Supporters said Belinski’s latest proposal was an effective compromise. One speaker said it is time for Basalt to look forward rather than get stuck in the past feuds.

“Talk about vitality, if that’s what we want, this (project) is what we want,” the woman said. “I’m in favor of it. I know it’s contentious, very contentious.”

Former Basalt Councilman Bernie Grauer agreed that 77% of people surveyed in the past wanted the property to be all park. But when a ballot question was put in front of them, they weren’t willing to put the money up via increased property taxes, he said. Now the town has budgeted to buy a lesser amount of parkland with a sales tax dedicated to open space and trails.

Grauer said the current proposal provides both parkland and a development that is economically viable.

“What we have here, I believe, hits the sweet spot,” he said.

Councilman Gary Tennenbaum echoed Schendler’s comments that the project wasn’t perfect but a good compromise. Tennenbaum said he never has been a big supporter of residential development at the site, but the current proposal provides a lot of community benefits in return for the residential.

A prior developer proposed 150,000 square feet of development. The current project reduces that by roughly 33 percent.

Tennenbaum said people he has talked to want to see the debate resolved after several years. Time has changed since the survey indicated people wanted all park on the site.

“That survey was done four years ago, and four years ago things were different,” he said.

Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt, who was vehemently opposed to earlier proposals for not providing enough park space, said the debate produced an acceptable compromise.

“People have been divided on this for so long, we can’t let that go on any longer,” she said.

Councilmen Bill Infante and Ryan Slack also spoke in favor of comprising. Councilwomen Katie Schwoerer and Jennifer Riffle weren’t able to attend the meeting due to prior plans.

The council granted first-round approval. The project must come back for another round of approval with greater details.