Basalt officials start hard look at growth potential as part of master plan
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Basalt’s planning staff calculated the number of existing residential units within town boundaries as well as those approved but not built and those potentially allowed in the future by land use policies. Here are the numbers:
Existing units: 1,745
Future land use: 53 to 137
Basalt officials are getting ready to take a long, hard look at how many more residences the town should accommodate — in essence, how much it should grow.
Basalt currently has 1,745 residential units within its boundaries, according to its planning staff. The Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission is pondering how many more units to allow and where as part of an update to a master land-use plan. The Town Council also will soon weigh in.
In addition to the existing units, Basalt has 375 residential units approved or planned, the planning staff determined. Future land-use designations would allow another 53 to 137 dwellings within its boundaries.
Basalt also is looking at the existing, approved but not built and potential units outside its boundaries but within its Three Mile Planning Area — all areas within 3 miles of the town’s boundaries. That stretches about 10.2 miles east to west on the valley floor, from Old Snowmass to the Waldorf School, and 9.6 miles north to south. When those numbers are added to Basalt’s, there are 4,132 existing units, 927 planned or approved but not built, and between 974 and 1,194 possible through zoning and land-use policies.
Those numbers caught the attention of Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission member Rob Leavitt at a meeting Tuesday night.
“We’re adding 2,000 units to a (region) that has 4,000 units,” Leavitt said.
He questioned if the infrastructure can handle it. Highway 82 is already overwhelmed, as anyone who must commute on it knows, he said.
Given that there are nearly 1,000 units planned or already approved within the Three Mile Planning Area, Leavitt said, he wants to look at curtailing additional development in Basalt.
He believes the majority of Basalt residents share his view. In open houses organized by the town planning staff and consultants, residents were asked to weigh in on the type and amount of development they want to see on key parcels in town. In three out of four cases, they picked the lesser density. Only on the former Clark’s Market site in the heart of downtown was more density favored.
“I think it’s a significant finding,” said David Dixon of CTA, which is consulting the town on the master plan.
Leavitt said he believes residents might have favored even more restrictions, if given the option.
“You only gave them two choices — density or sprawl,” he said. “What if we asked them (if they wanted to see) nothing?”
Total build-out in Basalt and within its Three Mile Planning Area was estimated by the Basalt planning department to be between 6,033 and 6,253 residential units.
Planning commission chairman Bill Maron said the numbers can paint a skewed picture of the development future.
“If you look at it in a data-driven way, you can freak yourself out,” Maron said.
The units that are approved but not yet built won’t all get constructed, he said. Some places that were designated for development in the town’s 1999 and 2007 master plans haven’t been developed, he said.
Land and construction costs push developers toward fewer and more expensive homes, so not all the approved units will be built, Maron said.
He and planning commission member Tracy Bennett said they want to see the master plan encourage development in places where transit and other urban services are within walking distance.
“This is where things are supposed to happen,” Bennett said. “I don’t want to see stuff going way out in the mountains.”
Basalt can only control the amount of development within its boundaries. The Eagle County and Pitkin County commissioners preside over areas outside of the town but in its Three Mile Planning Area.
The master plan is looking beyond numbers. The community blueprint is also looking at the type of development and facilities wanted as well as the types of projects that citizens want to pursue.
The Town Council will dive into the town master plan debate starting with a joint meeting with the planning commission Jan. 14. The goal is to approve a master plan before the town’s April election, when four seats on the seven-seat board could potentially turn over.
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