Basalt faces surge of development | AspenTimes.com

Basalt faces surge of development

BASALT ” Basalt officials wanted density, and now they’ve got it.

Town officials approved a land-use master plan in August that favors higher density within a defined area rather than sprawl into rural areas.

Now that the master plan is complete, the town is shifting its focus to a surge of new development applications.

Seven “significant developments” are currently in the review process, according to a summary prepared by Basalt Town Planner Susan Philp for the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. If approved as proposed, it will add 391 residences and 172,000 square feet of commercial space to the town.

The study was prepared at the request of planning commission chairman Bill Maron. He expressed concerns at a meeting Sept. 18 that the town might be losing sight of the cumulative impacts of growth since projects get reviewed piecemeal. He said the new master plan was intended to slow growth, but it didn’t feel like that had been accomplished.

Philp’s report did little to ease Maron’s mind Tuesday night at a planning commission meeting.

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“We’re looking at a lot more, a lot faster than I expected,” Maron said. “It’s getting big and it’s getting big fast.”

Some of that growth is tied to decisions town officials made during the update of the land-use master plan. The Town Council and planning commission decided to stick to a well-defined urban growth boundary ” an area where development would be allowed and even encouraged. By setting a tight boundary, the town government took a stand against sprawl and encouraged higher density within the town core.

The master plan was completed in August, after many of the developments applications were submitted. However, it was apparent earlier in the summer which way the wind was blowing on the density-versus-sprawl issue.

Willits Town Center is the poster child for the effects of the decision to favor density over sprawl. The developers had approvals in place for 500,000 square feet of commercial and residential development before the master plan was completed. Now, the developers are seeking to add 150,000 square feet of lofts and condominiums to the project.

The Willits request received initial approval from the Town Council on Sept. 25. It goes back before the board for a final vote Oct. 9.

Not all applications are earning approval from town officials. They indirectly rejected one housing development for 115 residences near Basalt High School when they determined it was outside the urban growth boundary and constituted sprawl.

The significant developments identified by Philp are in various stages of the review process. They are expected to keep the planning commission and council busy into next year.

“It’s staggering compared to what we’ve been seeing,” Maron said.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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