Basalt homes in on planning vision for its downtown area
The planning effort to shape downtown Basalt’s future appears ready to shift into high gear after hitting a late-summer lull.
The Basalt Town Council is scheduled to appoint the 10-member Downtown Area Advisory Committee at its meeting tonight. The council is proposing a diverse cross section of town residents and appears to have silenced critics who claim the board majority has a bias on the outcome.
Each of the six Town Council members proposed one person to appoint, while Mayor Jacque Whitsitt appointed two members. The remaining two members of the committee are from the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission.
The council appointments are Ted Guy, Greg Shugars, Cathy Click, Steve Chase, Chris Lane and Charlie Cole. Guy and Cole aren’t town residents, but they have a long history of involvement in civic issues. Cole helped launch the town’s Parks, Open Space and Trails Committee, and he worked to get the library funded by voters at its current location. Guy participated in Basalt’s River Master Plan, which defines how the town could ease flood risk and use the property along the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan Rivers.
Lane is a former Basalt councilman with an impressive environmental background. He once ran Aspen Skiing Co.’s environmental program, and he is now executive director of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
Click is a longtime town resident and co-owner of Cafe Bernard. She has been involved in numerous civic issues over the years and is currently a member of the Downtown Business Association and Basalt Affordable and Community Housing Committee.
Chase is a member of the Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission, which oversees issues in the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County, and he was a key member of the Fix the Fork campaign, which secured voter approval for a bond issuance to prepare part of the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site for development, build a town park on a portion of the property and make adjustments to the riverbed to ease flooding.
Whitsitt appointed Gerry Terwilliger and Julie Kolar. Terwilliger has been critical of the town’s downtown planning process thus far, claiming it has been too oriented toward growth. Kolar is a member of the town’s Parks, Open Space and Trails Committee.
The Planning Commission appointed two members from its own ranks — Chairman Chris Touchette, an architect, and longtime downtown business owner Tracy Bennett.
Town Manager Mike Scanlon said suspicions of the council’s intentions “just sort of went away” when people saw the proposed appointees on the Downtown Area Advisory Committee.
“It’s diverse enough that you’re going to get discussion from all directions,” Scanlon said. “I don’t think there will be a lack of opinions.”
The committee will meet roughly once per week to weigh previous public input on downtown’s future. The committee will be assigned to deliver a recommendation to the council by the end of the year.
“We have to identify a path to move forward,” Guy said. He said the “positive steps” Basalt has accomplished since Scanlon became manager in 2012 impressed him. The committee’s work will help keep the momentum going, Guy said.
One focal point for the group’s work will be the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park, along the Roaring Fork River. The town acquired that property with the nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. The town is turning its portion of the property, closest to the river, into a park. Heavy equipment is in the river this week finishing work to reshape and stabilize the riverbank.
The town’s nonprofit partner initially planned to build a hotel and limited commercial and residential space on its half of the property, closest to the road, but financial problems snuffed its progress. Representatives of the nonprofit said they are willing to sell the property.
“I’ve heard there are at least 10 developers waiting to take over for (Roaring Fork Community Development Corp.),” Guy said.
He said he will propose to the committee that they invite each of the developers to make a short presentation about what they envision on the property.
A representative sample of Basalt residents also will provide input on development and open space they want to see downtown. The town hired an independent contractor to undertake a scientific survey. The questions are being crafted, and the survey will be undertaken Oct. 1 through 28. A final report will be available Nov. 5.
Scanlon said the Downtown Area Advisory Committee will have the survey results before its recommendation is due.
The survey and committee’s work will help shape the future of the Pan and Fork; Lions Park, where Town Hall is located; the former recycle center, where Butch’s Lobster Bar is temporarily set up; and potentially, in the long run, the Phillips 66 site and former Clark’s Market building.
Whitsitt acknowledged that the town government has faced pressure from people who want a quick decision to develop available properties. She said she wants to guard against quick decisions and make sure the town comes up with the right decisions.
“A lot of this is going to be irreversible,” she said.
Nearly three years after Aspen City Council cleared the founder of Jazz Aspen Snowmass to launch a jazz performance and education center downtown, Jim Horowitz said he expects the project will get rolling before the year is over.
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