Basalt gets bonus meeting to debate downtown hotel plan
By popular demand, the debate over whether a boutique hotel is appropriate on a key parcel near downtown Basalt will come back to residents sooner than expected.
The town government has added a special meeting from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall to share more information about the proposal by Lowe Enterprises on the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site. A second community meeting already was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 14 at Basalt Regional Library. The Town Council members will discuss the project at the later meeting.
The town always intended to add an earlier meeting, but details had to be worked out, according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon. Lowe representatives will give a short presentation Thursday about the company’s plan, then audience members will get a chance to ask questions, Scanlon said.
Lowe Enterprises President Jim DeFrancia said his team will address “where and how” it intends to build affordable housing. That was an “open question” in prior presentations, he said. Lowe team members recently determined with town-planning staff members what the affordable-housing obligation would be for the project.
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Basalt, similar to many local governments, requires developers to provide affordable housing for a percentage of the employees who will be generated by projects.
DeFrancia has previously outlined a plan for a 60-room boutique hotel with 12 affiliated luxury condominiums that would have hotel services. The plan also calls for 40 condominiums aimed at year-round residents.
The site is along Two Rivers Road, west of downtown and immediately east of the Rocky Mountain Institute building.
The plan has generated foes and detractors. One camp views the project as the best way to breathe life back into downtown Basalt. Some key retailers have left the downtown core for Willits Town Center in recent years, producing a high vacancy rate downtown, and activity is often slow.
The other camp contends that the project will effectively close off access to lands along the Roaring Fork River, which the town government is shaping into a park. They want more of the property at the hotel site to be kept open.
The supporters of the project, including the Basalt Downtown Business Association, are collecting signatures for an advertisement they plan to run to show support.
Foes of the plan became more vocal after Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said last month she was opposed to the hotel and high-end housing on the site. She wants more open space for park and a special-events venue. She claimed the site could be a regional attraction that draws people to Basalt.
Scanlon said it’s a distinct possibility that Thursday’s meeting will be a show of force for one or both sides in the debate. He said he hopes that people in the middle will attend to gather information about questions they have about the project. A moderator has been hired to run the meeting and try to keep it civil.
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