Basalt master plan survives first court skirmish |

Basalt master plan survives first court skirmish

Basalt’s new master plan has survived its first court skirmish, but an attorney challenging it believes he will still win the war.

An Eagle County district judge recently dismissed one of three claims against the town in a lawsuit filed by Dan and Lynne Levinson of Aspen.

The Levisons said they suffered a “takings” on the value of their land when the town of Basalt approved a master plan last fall. The master plan is a blueprint for Basalt’s future growth. It generally defines what type of development should occur, and where, in Basalt’s future.

The master plan designates four of the Levinsons’ six acres of property in Basalt as open space. The other two acres were designated for high-density residential and limited commercial development.

The Levinsons angrily objected to the open-space designation of most of their property during the town’s public hearings on the plan last summer. They filed a lawsuit in September to try to retain development rights on all six acres or, failing that, to force the town to buy their land.

Documents filed in court show that developers Jim Light and Jim Chaffin had an option to buy the property for $2.5 million. That sale is now in jeopardy.

The Levinsons, through Aspen attorney Gary Wright, asked a judge to consider the Town Council’s approval of the master plan as a judicial or quasi-judicial action, which is subject to review.

Basalt Town Attorney Jody Edwards countered that the action was a broad, general legislative action that can’t be reviewed by the court. The town further argued that the master plan hadn’t been applied on a site-specific basis to the Levinsons’ property because the landowners haven’t turned in a development application since the plan was approved.

The judge agreed that approval of the master plan was a legislative act and dismissed that claim.

Wright said he was filing a motion for reconsideration of that decision. He also noted that the primary issue – whether Basalt is taking a portion of the property’s value by designating land as open space – is yet to be decided.

“Basalt recognizes it doesn’t have the funds to buy all the open space it wants, so it’s trying to do it through the back door,” Wright said.

If the town government doesn’t want the Levinson property developed, it should buy it, not take action that makes development more difficult, he contended.

The Levinson property is on Two Rivers Road, west of Town Hall and the library. Their land includes the Taqueria el Nopal and other businesses, as well as part of a mobile home park.

The property borders the Roaring Fork River. While preparing the master plan, town officials agreed more needs to be done to protect the river corridor.

No rulings have been made on the takings claim.

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