Basalt delays $1 million housing decision | AspenTimes.com

Basalt delays $1 million housing decision

A proposal for a 56-unit affordable-housing project got a favorable first review from the Basalt Town Council on Tuesday night, although a decision about waiving nearly $1 million in fees was postponed.

RealAmerica Development LLC wants to build a 100 percent affordable-housing project along Highway 82 just east of Stubbies bar. The project is called Roaring Fork Apartments. The foundation for a hotel exists at the site, but that project bit the dust during the recession. RealAmerica has the property under contract, according to Ronda Shrewsbury Weybright, president of the firm.

Weybright wants the town to waive land-use and development fees that total $982,306. She wrote a letter to the town saying her firm faces a $2.3 million "funding gap" with the project.

"The development fees contribute significantly to this gap," she wrote.

Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon urged the council Tuesday night to delay a decision on the fees until a town contractor performs an independent appraisal of the finances of the project. He asked the council to concentrate on the land-use aspect of the project.

That was a reversal of Scanlon's advice when the council started a review of a development application on the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park earlier this year. At that time, Scanlon advised the council to wait on the land-use review until a town consultant could examine the financial pro forma for the proposed project. The review of that project, which included a hotel, stalled after the pro forma was unfavorable.

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The council voted 6-0 to approve the first reading of the first round of review for Roaring Fork Apartments, although there were concerns. The proposal requires a specific approval to exceed the town's 35-foot height limit to add a fourth story.

"This is a big building. It's going to have impacts — visual, traffic and others," Councilwoman Karin Teague said. Despite those impacts, she said she could support the proposal at this stage.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said she could support the height to get extra affordable-housing units. However, the proposed amount of parking is a "deal breaker" for her because it is too much, she said.

Councilmen Rick Stevens and Herschel Ross said they could approve the fourth story.

Councilman Mark Kittle advised Weybright to reduce the building to three stories, which would drastically reduce the construction costs. A four-story structure would require steel framing; three stories can be done with wood, he said. By reducing the construction cost, the developer might not need as great of a waiver of fees, Kittle suggested.

Two other council members gave an indication of their thinking on the waiver of fees.

"I'm probably not going to be excited about fee waivers," Teague said.

Stevens indicated he could be convinced.

"There's built-in redundancy in those things, I think," he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com