Basalt organizes funding for Highway 82 pedestrian underpass |

Basalt organizes funding for Highway 82 pedestrian underpass

Basalt secured a little more than $2 million Tuesday from the Colorado Department of Transportation to help build a long-anticipated pedestrian underpass of Highway 82 and Basalt Avenue.

The town government is forging ahead with the design of the project so construction can start this summer. The goal is to have the underpass in use by fall. The estimated cost is $4.8 million, so local sources must also be tapped.

Basalt has budgeted about $1 million for the project from its Parks, Open Space and Trails fund. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which has a busy bus stop along the stretch of highway where the underpass will be added, is contributing $500,000.

Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon said an application for as much as $1 million is being sought from the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, which is comprised of representatives of Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County.

Basalt will consider covering the balance of the project from its general fund.

The project is receiving funds from three sources under CDOT’s umbrella. It is earmarked for $1 million in Regional Priority Plan funds, $800,000 in Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery Act safety funds and $216,000 from the Transportation Alternatives Program, according to the state agency.

Scanlon credited CDOT for finding funds for the project, and he credited his staff and commissioners from Pitkin and Eagle counties for working to secure the funds. “There were no dedicated monies” one year ago, he said.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said Scanlon deserves credit for shepherding the project despite having a lot on his plate. Advancing on the project is “nothing short of moving a mountain,” she said.

The underpass has been eyed for years as a way to ensure pedestrian safety between the Southside neighborhood and downtown. The underpass will be built on the east side of the Highway 82 intersection with Basalt Avenue — closest to the Basalt Store and the bus stops on either side of the highway.

The underpass will provide a vital connection to Southside, “which has rightly felt like an orphan,” Whitsitt said.

The council voted 6-0 Tuesday night to accept the CDOT funding. In other action at the meeting:

• The board approved a resolution to accept a report by the Downtown Area Advisory Committee to acknowledge results of a town survey and to establish next steps in the planning process to determine how key parcels downtown will be used.

The resolution was tweaked at the 11th hour. The proposed resolution prepared by the staff said, “The Town Council hereby officially accepts the Downtown Area Advisory Committee Report and hereby adopts the report as the blueprint for development and redevelopment in the Our Town Planning Area.”

An amended version was handed out to the council at the meeting: “The Town Council hereby officially accepts the Downtown Area Advisory Committee Report. The Town Council acknowledges the countless hours and hard work of the committee in their efforts to create the Downtown Area Advisory Report.”

• A discussion about the required buffer between parks, schools and daycares from recreational marijuana establishments got heated and a motion to amend the buffer died in a deadlocked vote. The town code currently says that if any part of a building containing a marijuana store is within the 500-foot buffer, the entire building is ineligible for a pot shop. The proposal would have measured the buffer from the actual space a recreational marijuana shop occupies within a building. It would have eliminated the any in, all in rule.

The town staff said the same amendment would be proposed for liquor stores.

“It sounds like it makes things less restrictive. I don’t support that,” Councilman Rob Leavitt said.

Councilman Gary Tennenbaum countered that the town already has tough restrictions on where recreational marijuana shops can be located. The town also caps the licenses for recreational pot shops at two. Currently only one shop is operating.

Leavitt said he didn’t view the alteration as necessary, especially since the town has plenty of liquor stores. “It seems like we’re solving a problem we don’t really have,” Leavitt said. Whitsitt and Councilman Rick Stevens also expressed reservations about changing the way the buffer is measured.

Councilman Bernie Grauer said the change in the measurement of the buffer zone was good common sense. “I kind of think we’re making a lot out of a simplification,” he said.

Basalt resident and audience member David Schoenberger chided Leavitt, Stevens and Whitsitt for opposing the altered buffer rule. “If you vote against this, you’re voting against the community,” he said.

The vote was deadlocked 3-3 with Councilman Mark Kittle recusing himself, so the proposal to change the way the buffer is figured died from lack of support.

Stevens said he was “on the fence,” but Schoenberger’s scolding swayed his vote. Schoenberger called Stevens a “Communist.”

• The council voted 7-0 to proceed with the purchases of two condominiums at the Riverside Plaza Condominiums. Units 331 and 334 will be purchased for $220,000 each. Basalt will manage the dwellings as affordable-housing units.

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