Basalt eyes purchase of trailer park
BASALT ” Basalt officials unveiled a bold plan Friday to relocate 38 families out of the path of a potentially catastrophic flood and redevelop a trailer park at the heart of town.
The town government signed a contract to purchase the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park for $4.5 million. The purchase is contingent on voter approval of funding at an election in April.
Town officials have considered it a top priority for several years to get residents of the Pan and Fork and nearby Roaring Fork Mobile Home Parks “out of harm’s way.” A major study commissioned by the town in 2004 concluded the two mobile home parks are highly susceptible to a major flood. Both are along the banks of the Roaring Fork River. Land use challenges and finances made relocating the residents appear insurmountable.
“This is a first step. At least the property will be in the hands of the town, if voters decide to purchase it,” said Mayor Leroy Duroux.
The town will seek permission to issue general obligation bonds for the purchase. The bonds will be repaid through a property tax hike.
If the deal is approved by voters, the town government will find replacement housing for the tenants, then close and remove the trailer park. Finding replacement housing for the tenants is a requirement, not an option.
“We have a 100 percent replacement housing policy which applies to the town,” said Town Manager Bill Efting. “We’re not going to put anybody out on the doorstep.”
The vast majority of the site will be converted into a riverside park. A strip closest to Two Rivers Road will be eyed for redevelopment. Although no plan exists yet, various town officials said it could feature a mix of commercial and residential uses, including affordable housing.
Efting said he considered the proposal a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” because of the potential to redevelop the area along Two Rivers Road and “restore Basalt’s connection to the Roaring Fork River.”
The Pan and Fork is in the heart of Basalt. The 5.3-acre site is across Two Rivers Road from Town Hall and the Basalt Regional Library. The property stretches from the intersection of Two Rivers Road with Midland Avenue to the Tacqueria el Nopal area to the west.
Duroux, who has lived in Basalt most of his life, said the Pan and Fork has existed since the 1960s. Renee Ritchie is the current owner through RNR Ltd. She approached Efting this fall with a proposal to sell to the town. Efting said he forwarded the offer to the council. “We’ve been working on it for a couple of months,” he said.
The seven-member board is unanimously behind the effort to acquire and redevelop the property although no formal action has been taken. The council will decide Tuesday whether to pop the question to voters.
“We do need to be a little more pro-active about our own destiny,” said Councilman Glenn Rappaport. It will be good to get the issue before voters and let them determine the town’s course of action.
“If the community says ‘no way’, that’s OK. We have an answer,” Rappaport said.
Basalt voters approved a 1 percent sales tax, dedicated to open space purchases and trail projects, in November 2006. Those funds aren’t being eyed as a source to buy the Pan and Fork because it would drain them for five years, Efting said.
The town will hold public meetings and open houses in early 2008 to gather opinions about acquiring and using the property. Town Council members can participate in campaigns on the issue as individuals, but the town government cannot spend funds for approval of the question.
Duroux and other town officials were cautious about making the relocation of the Pan and Fork residents and redevelopment of the property sound quick or easy. Even if the town acquires the property, it will take years to find replacement housing for all the residents, make improvements that reduce the flooding risk and redevelop a small portion of the land, they said.
“The problems don’t go away just because the town owns it,” said Efting.
Additional money will be needed for flood mitigation and creating a park. However, some funds could also be recouped through development of a small part of the property, Efting said.
Councilman Chris Seldin said town regulations will help find replacement housing for residents of the 38 households. Developers that seek annexation of their projects into town must provide 50 percent of their residences as affordable housing. Some of that must be replacement housing.
Seldin said the community will receive a few units here and there in new developments, until they total the 38 households that must be offset at the Pan and Fork.
“If this acquisition goes forward, it’s going to transform an important piece of Basalt for the better,” said Seldin.
The fate of the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park, which is home to about 50 families, remains unresolved.
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