Basalt makes affordable-housing pledge

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park residents will have alternative housing available to them by February 2015, Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon told an audience of about 20 people Wednesday night.

The residents want the pledge in writing. They are nervous about what will happen if Scanlon doesn’t stay in his post. Scanlon wouldn’t put the promise in writing, but he noted he is “on the hook” because of comments he has made to local newspapers. Besides, he is confident he can deliver on the pledge.

“I think I have a pretty good track record over 12 months,” said Scanlon, who has been in his post for about one year.

The town manager met with members of Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt, a group of residents holding out for better relocation terms than the town has been offering. They want housing of similar size and cost to their current homes. They pay $650 per month.

“I think I have a pretty good track record over 12 months.”
Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon

Scanlon said he is working on “two or three” affordable-housing projects in Basalt. The Roaring Fork Apartments, proposed next to Stubbies bar, is most likely to be built first, he said. Basalt and possibly Pitkin County might team with a private development firm, Real America, to get the housing built, Scanlon said.

The Pan and Fork residents will have the highest priority for moving into the new project or projects since they are being forced out of the mobile home park, Scanlon said.

Despite that promising twist in the issue, the outcome with the remaining Pan and Fork residents remains murky. Members of the group want to stay in their trailers until that permanent, alternative housing is available in one year. Scanlon responded that it appears they need to be out by April 1 to allow a contractor for the town progress with a Roaring Fork River restoration and flood mitigation project.

The river work can only be performed during certain months, including April through mid-June. The town wants the river project completed as quickly as possible, so it wants the contractor to finish this spring. That requires tearing down a levee that extends about 700 feet along the edge of the mobile home park. Scanlon is reluctant to delay because that will likely drive up the project’s cost. On the other hand, if the project comes in under budget, the savings can be used to relocate residents, he said.

Once that levee is removed, it isn’t safe for people to be living in the mobile home park during spring runoff.

“I (could see) the current floodplain (turning) to something much worse,” Scanlon said.

In the worst-case scenario, trailers could float down the Roaring Fork River to Carbondale, according to Scanlon.

“The (Army Corps of Engineers) wouldn’t be really happy about it, and neither would the (Environmental Protection Agency),” he said.

The work will convert part of the trailer park into open space in the floodplain, where flooding wouldn’t matter. The remainder of the site will be raised with dirt and rock out of the floodplain.

Scanlon didn’t slam the door on extending the deadline to move past April 1, but he expresses skepticism. That means residents will need interim housing if they want to hold out for permanent housing in February 2015, he said. The town is working on various interim housing options, he said.

Meanwhile, Pan and Fork residents have a new option as of this week. An anonymous donor has made at least $500,000 and possibly up to $1 million available for low-interest loans for Pan and Fork residents to assist with housing purchases. Members of Workers for Justice expressed interest in that option Wednesday night. They wouldn’t need to prove that they are in the country legally to be eligible, Scanlon said.

Still, some residents appeared unsettled by the prospect of taking out a loan and making monthly payments larger than the $650 they pay at Pan and Fork.

There is some uncertainty about how many families remain in need of alternative housing help. By Scanlon’s count, financial packages have been given to or are being negotiated with 29 or 30 of the 35 trailers in the park. He said arrangements must be completed with occupants of “five or six” trailers. Workers for Justice leaders contended at the meeting that there are 10 families still living in the Pan and Fork or that have relocated but aren’t satisfied.

Scanlon and the residents will meet again next week to try to resolve outstanding issues.


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