Basalt faces suit over growth controls |

Basalt faces suit over growth controls

Basalt’s tough new growth controls are facing a tough new challenge from a couple who claim they have been stripped of their ability to fully develop their land.

Dan and Lynne Levinson of Aspen filed a lawsuit Thursday in Eagle County District Court against the town of Basalt over the alleged effects of the town’s new master plan on the Levinsons’ six-acre property.

The Levinsons own land west of Town Hall on old Highway 82. Their land includes the Taqueria el Nopal and other businesses, as well as part of a mobile home park.

The Levinsons are angry because the master plan designates four of their six acres in Basalt as public open space. In other words, it isn’t designated for development.

The other two acres are designated for high-density residential and limited commercial development.

The Levinsons want to retain the ability to redevelop all six acres or, failing that, they want a multimillion-dollar settlement from the town.

They claim the new designation of open space could kill a proposed sale of their property. They gave the development firm of Jim Light and Jim Chaffin an option in January to purchase the property for $2.5 million.

The lawsuit noted that the Levinsons attended numerous meetings of the Basalt planning commission and Town Council “to voice their objections” to the new designations on their land.

“The Levinsons’ concerns were ignored at the hearings and meetings,” said the lawsuit, filed on their behalf by Aspen attorney Gary Wright.

At an Aug. 8 meeting, the Levinsons angrily claimed that Basalt was taking the wrong path with its tougher growth management tools. Dan Levinson said “branding” property would eliminate creative applications that could benefit the town.

“I’m sitting here and watching the town die tonight,” said Levinson in August. “This is not planning. This is death to this town.”

The lawsuit said designating four acres as public open space cannot be legally justified, so it must be considered a “taking” of private property without compensation.

A notice of claim filed by the Levinsons earlier in September said the fair market value of their property designated as open space is about $2.1 million.

Basalt Town Attorney Jody Edwards said he doesn’t believe the lawsuit has merit because the town isn’t taking anything from the Levinsons.

The town didn’t rezone the property. It passed a master plan that envisions particular uses for the property, said Edwards. He said he is unaware of any case where a taking was awarded on the basis of a master plan.

If the Levinsons don’t like what is envisioned in the master plan, they can redevelop their property under existing zoning.

“[They] can come in and pull a building permit and there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Edwards.

He said the town government will formally respond 20 days after the lawsuit is officially served or when it waives official service.

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