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Basalt eyes November tax question

Basalt officials said Tuesday night that they would likely ask town voters in November to authorize a tax hike to relocate residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park and make improvements to prepare the site for redevelopment.

No decision was made, but Councilman Rick Stevens seemed to sum up the council’s mood when he said plans by Town Manager Mike Scanlon were going in “the right direction.”

Scanlon and town consultant Bruce Kimmel made a presentation to the council that showed $7.43 million is needed to relocate the residents of 38 residences at the Pan and Fork, make alterations to the Roaring Fork River to ease flood risk and bring in fill to raise the site so it is ready for redevelopment.

“If you don’t relocate the residents, there will be no river improvements, and without river improvements there can be no redevelopment,” Scanlon said.

The town has $2.08 million of the projected $7.43 million accounted for with budgeted funds. That leaves a $5.35 million shortfall. Scanlon said he would continue to research details on how to raise those funds, but a combination of using an existing sales tax dedicated to parks, open space and trails will be used along with a bond issuance that will rely on a property tax hike or sales tax revenue for repayment.

A bond issuance would need approval from town voters. The council discussed the possibility of seeking approval in November.

“Oh, we’ll have one,” Scanlon said after the meeting.

So far, the town has spent $1.2 million to acquire a portion of the Pan and Fork site nearest the Roaring Fork River. The town’s interest is twofold: It wants to turn part of the site into a park, and it wants to remove residents from “harm’s way.” Studies show that the site is susceptible to flooding and potentially catastrophic consequences.

Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. paid an addition $2.2 million to acquire the site. The nonprofit organization initially proposed to acquire development approvals and then sell its portion of the land to a developer and use the profits to relocate the residents.

Scanlon suggested that plan wouldn’t work. His proposed alternative calls for moving the residents first and then undertaking the work necessary to remove most of the site from the floodplain. Scanlon said the Pan and Fork hasn’t been redeveloped in years because the relocation of the residents is so expensive and daunting.

“This is the piece that’s the stumbling block,” he said.

He said the nearly $7.5 million in public improvements would be a wise investment for Basalt. It removes residents from danger, and the river work would ease the flooding threat for a larger stretch than just the Pan and Fork.

Scanlon said the town would recoup some of its investment. State law prohibits municipal governments from spending funds that directly benefit a private developer. So town expenses such as the relocation of the residents of 22 mobile homes on private property would have to be repaid once a developer buys the property, he said.

Councilman Herschel Ross said he supports making the public improvements to prepare the site for redevelopment. Developers with options on the property have discussed plans for a hotel and commercial space. Some downtown merchants look at the project as economic salvation the commercial core, which is suffering while Willits Town Center benefits from the presence of Whole Foods Market.

“Everybody I talk to in the town wants to know when this is going to get started,” Ross said.

The answer likely will become clearer in November.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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