Basalt downtown development plan unveiled
The Aspen Times
to see the report
Go to http://www.ourtownplanning.org/participate/downtown-area-advisory-committee/ and click on the link to download the report from the De. 18 agenda.
Two Rivers Road in Basalt and the site where Clark’s Market was located are prime ground for mixed commercial and residential development that could revitalize the town, a committee made up of residents advised in a report released Thursday.
The members of the Downtown Area Advisory Committee envisioned using a significant part of the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park — closest to Two Rivers Road — for development. However, they also want open plazas retained between buildings to provide public access to the Roaring Fork River and a riverfront park the town government is constructing.
The committee also wants a significant portion of the east end of the Pan and Fork site left open to ensure downtown is forever connected to the river, both visually and via green space in Lions Park.
The committee was appointed by the Town Council three months ago to help plan the possible future of public and private lands in and around downtown Basalt. The committee is merely advisory. Its recommendations could be ignored not only by the elected officials, but also the private landowners and developers who might emerge with proposals.
“As we all know, the devil’s in the details, and that’s a ways to go,” said Gino Rossetti, a member of the town Planning and Zoning Commission.
However, if the elected officials accept the committee’s vision, it could grease the skids for any developer going through the process that proposes something within the guidelines.
Paul Andersen, the moderator for the committee, said the 10 members were urged by Town Manager Mike Scanlon to think big and not be encumbered with worrying about ownership issues. “The committee had to take a free hand in imagining,” Andersen said.
The nine-member committee’s final report shows where development would be desirable, but it doesn’t recommend specific uses.
“The idea was not to get overly specific,” Andersen said.
An example of where the committee’s conceptual planning may be at odds with the property owners’ vision is at Basalt Center Circle. The committee envisions significant mixed-use development in an area encompassing the Phillips 66 gas station, the old Clark’s Market space and adjoining shops and the Aspenalt Lodge.
That promoted Aspenalt Lodge co-owner Chris Szczelina to ask how the concept would become reality. He noted his family doesn’t have the resources to seek redevelopment. He asked if the town is going to promote the plan with developers.
Szczelina also noted that a lot of surface parking was eliminated at Basalt Center Circle in the conceptual plan. Parking is already at a premium, he said, so removing it without a solid plan for replacement seems unwise.
The committee’s conceptual plan calls for below-grade parking at both the old Pan and Fork site and the old Clark’s site.
The committee’s guidelines seemed generally well received by about 75 people who attended the unveiling of the report in a presentation at Basalt Regional Public Library. Several speakers raised questions — generating the type of dialogue Andersen said was the goal.
Michael Kinsley, a former Pitkin County commissioner and current consultant with Rocky Mountain Institute, said the riverfront at the old Pan and Fork site was “genuinely sacred.” Basalt is creating a park that will be unparalleled on the West Slope, he said. He applauded keeping access open to the park but said he felt the other portion of the Pan and Fork site, closest to Two Rivers Road, was appropriate for more density.
Committee member Greg Shugars countered later in the meeting that preserving open space between the river and downtown is critical to Basalt’s future. Private development shouldn’t be allowed to restrict public access in such a critical place, he said.
“I don’t think that development ever sleeps,” Shugars said. “If we’re asleep, we’ll be sorry.”
The need for affordable housing and commercial space also was a key topic. Kinsley warned that Basalt will continue down Aspen’s path and become “grossly unaffordable” in 10 to 20 years if it doesn’t take deliberate action.
“What’s it take to create diversity? Just hope it happens?” he said.
It must make sure that not only housing remains affordable, but also some commercial space so entrepreneurs can afford to start businesses.
Andersen said the committee agreed on the need for affordable housing.
“Basalt needs to cultivate a living situation where characters can live here,” he said.
The Town Council didn’t take any formal action on the plan. It will dive into the details and make comments next month.
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