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Basalt keeping tight growth boundary

BASALT A solid majority of the Basalt Town Council decided Wednesday night that they want the town to grow more dense rather than sprawl out.In a straw poll, the council voted 5-1 to keep the growth boundary about the same as a 1999 land-use plan established.Councilman Glenn Rappaport said the council needs to send a message that it is trying to solve its problems closer to the core rather than out on its fringe. “It needs to be denser, it really does” he said.Rappaport and other council members insisted that there is enough undeveloped land within the current “urban growth boundary” to build affordable housing and provide other community amenities. An urban growth boundary defines an area appropriate for growth.Even without expanding that growth boundary, Basalt will have trouble getting its arms around the development that can still occur, Councilman Chris Seldin said. “This is not a no-growth urban growth area by any stretch.”The council overruled its Planning and Zoning Commission with the decision. The six-member planning board unanimously recommended allowing more flexibility with the growth boundary. They argued that the town should keep a growth boundary similar to 1999, but set criteria that would allow approval of projects outside of that boundary.”Why hamstring ourselves when we don’t know what’s coming down the pike?” planning commissioner Gary Wheeler asked.Planning commissioner Brian Dillard questioned whether the town will see proposals for affordable housing if it doesn’t expand its boundaries.Growth-control critics in Basalt, as elsewhere in the valley, contend that stricter controls just lead to higher prices. They point to simple rules of supply and demand.Seldin predicted that once developers realize the council is sticking to the existing growth boundary, they will emerge with proposals for affordable housing projects within that boundary. He said the progress on affordable housing in the next few years will “dwarf” the town’s limited accomplishments so far.Council members Laurie Dows, Gary Tennenbaum and Amy Capron joined Rappaport and Seldin in sticking with current growth boundary. Mayor Leroy Duroux supported the planning commission’s call for flexibility. That’s the only way to add to the affordable housing inventory and relocate residents of two mobile home parks in the heart of town that would be endangered by floods, he said.Duroux also noted that the town lost 16 acres of land where development was eventually contemplated when the Grange families dedicated their ranch on the outskirts of town as open space. The ranch is downvalley of Big O Tires. That development should be allowed elsewhere to benefit the town, he said.Councilman Mark Kittle reportedly was ill and didn’t attend the meeting.Rappaport acknowledged that the council’s decision will “piss people off.” Landowners outside the existing growth boundary will be angry that they aren’t allowed in, he said. And people living inside the growth boundary will be mad because it means the council is endorsing greater densities for future projects in and near the town core.Rappaport said sticking with tight boundaries and expanding them in the future will pace the rate of growth. “The rate of growth matters,” he said.The council’s direction could influence growth in Basalt for the next decade, although Rappaport noted it could also spur candidates with different views to run for office next spring and change the policy.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.


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