Basalt enters debate on El Jebel project |

Basalt enters debate on El Jebel project

BASALT ” Basalt officials decided Tuesday night they’d better speak their piece on a large midvalley development application before it’s too late.

The Town Council voted 7-0 to direct their planning staff to send Eagle County government a critique of the Tree Farm application in El Jebel. Property owner Ace Lane has applied to the county to build 319 residences and about 95,000 square feet of commercial space across Highway 82 from the Willits Town Center.

The project is adjacent to Basalt but in unincorporated Eagle County. The council wants Eagle County to decline to review the application and send Lane to Basalt.

Eagle County Attorney Bob Morris said that is illegal. He told the Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission last week it was legally required to review Lane’s application. The commission, which advises the Eagle County commissioners on land use matters, cannot deny the project simply on the claim that it belongs in the town, he said.

The Town Council also asked for a joint meeting with the Eagle County commissioners so it can review Lane’s Tree Farm project and submit direct comments. But it’s not that simple. The planning commission was required to start review of the project this month; the county commissioners cannot start their deliberations until the commission makes a recommendation.

So, Basalt was in danger of not participating in the debate. Members of the Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission were “disturbed” at a meeting last Thursday that the Basalt town government didn’t offer comments, Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux said. The commission delayed a vote until March, but urged Basalt to offer some guidance.

“I really think this is in the town’s best interest,” Duroux said of offering comments.

Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt agreed, saying the planning commission was begging for something it could work with. “I don’t know why [we wouldn’t],” Whitsitt said. “We’re between a rock and a hard place, as near as I can tell.”

The town has already approved a master plan that endorses substantial development on Lane’s property. The master plan also designates the property as suitable for annexation into the town.

The 319 proposed residences are within the range deemed suitable by Basalt’s master plan, according to a memo prepared by town planning staff member Brian McNellis.

The master plan also encourages more light industrial development along Highway 82 than Lane is contemplating, the memo says. Those comments are among several that will be forwarded to the Eagle County planning staff.

The council members said they still want to talk to the county commissioners about the project.

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