Basalt golf developer aims to avoid employee housing fight
A developer who wants to expand a private golf course in Basalt is desperately trying to prevent the application from getting bogged down in a civil war over employee housing.Jim Light, the managing partner for the group that wants to expand the Roaring Fork Club, suspects that a proposal for 34 employee units could spark significant community debate. He said he doesn’t want to risk creating the same type of battle in Basalt that the Burlingame housing project has spurred in Aspen.”Upvalley there is a sport, it’s a blood sport over employee housing,” he said.The longtime Roaring Fork Valley developer isn’t taking any chances on that happening in Basalt.Light is insisting that the town government consider the application for the employee housing separately from his application to add nine holes of golf and 24 luxury cabins to the Roaring Fork Club. Town officials haven’t ruled yet on the request.The employee housing appears to be one of only a few issues that needs to be ironed out in the club’s quest to expand. The application was formally introduced to the town planning commission and Town Council last night.”I don’t see any strong negatives that jump out,” said planning Commissioner Bernie Grauer. That seemed to summarize the broader view of the officials.Light and his partners want to add the nine golf holes and 24 cabins on 202 acres owned by the Guido Meyers and Wy Kittle families, two longtime ranching families. The new holes and homes would be sprinkled in the rolling terrain between Elk Run subdivision and the existing club.In the golf course application, the club is also seeking approval of 10 single-family home lots for the Meyers family and three for the Kittles. Those homes are separate from the 24 proposed golf course cabins.Light and his partners also made what they feel is a generous offer for employee housing. They will give the town seven acres near Elk Run for use for employee housing. They suggest that some of the 34 residences be used to relocate residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park, which town studies identified as unsafe because of flooding potential of the Roaring Fork River.That’s where the Burlingame factor figures into Light’s thinking. He offered to have the club participate in a committee that tries to get the housing built, and he offered to have his firm manage development.But Light doesn’t want the golf expansion’s fate resting with the employee housing.The town staff wants the club to take the lead on development, not the town. “We’re not developers,” said town planner Susan Philp.The staff proposed that the Roaring Fork Club get the approvals and build “turn key housing” that the town could then administer. The timing of the review and completion of the project must be ironed out, Philp said.Light received a jolt of a different type when listening to first impressions about the project from Basalt officials. Grauer said he felt the project should have more than 24 luxury cabins.The units are sold as fractional ownership, typically with four buyers. Light said that increases the occupancy and creates more members using the club and visiting the town’s shops and restaurants.Grauer said the economic activity spurred by the club, which already has 48 cabins, is vital to Basalt. Locals can only do so much for midvalley businesses.”We can only eat so many meals and buy so much gear,” Grauer said. Thus, more cabins are justified, he said.Light concluded the hearing by expressing shock. “I’m hyperventilating [because] someone’s said you need to increase your density,” Light said.The planning commission and council will resume discussions about the project on April 5.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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