Basalt park proponents collect signatures in show of support |

Basalt park proponents collect signatures in show of support

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

A group that wants to limit development and maximize a park on the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site in Basalt intends to flex its might for the Town Council by collecting 600 signatures of registered voters in a statement of support.

Friends of a Basalt River Park aims to collect the signatures by the end of September, according to Jae Gregory, an organizer of the group. The goal is to convince the council that “people really want a less developed option,” Gregory said.

Friends of a Basalt River Park is urging the town to acquire land owned by the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. along Two Rivers Road so the town can better control what gets developed, Gregory said.

The park group also wants to limit development to no more than 30,000 square feet in gross building area and to two stories. The footprint should “support the development of public, nonprofit, event and recreational spaces,” according to the group’s mission statement.

The group also is demanding that “absolutely no zoning changes” be undertaken on the 2.4 acres of land currently owned by Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. without a public vote.

Lengthy, sometimes testy debate

The fate of the Pan and Fork site has been at the center of an intense community debate for about a year. The debate has boiled over into a fight at times. A second community faction is lobbying for a greater amount of development at the Pan and Fork site to spur economic vitality downtown.

The town government purchased the half of the Pan and Fork site closest to the Roaring Fork River for a park. Friends of a Basalt River Park wants a large share of the land closest to Two Rivers Road also preserved as a park.

Organizers of the Basalt group drew on the experience of Aspen activists to help form their strategy. Gregory and other Basalt residents talked with Ward Hauenstein and Bert Myrin about their successful effort to get a question on the Aspen ballot in May that limits the City Council’s discretion to grant variances for development projects without a public vote. They also collected signatures on a petition to force an election on the controversial Base2 Lodge in Aspen.

After those talks, Gregory and her allies decided to try to get signatures of 600 Basalt registered voters — more than twice as many as needed for a formal petition to force a ballot question, Gregory said. She stressed that the group doesn’t want to circulate a petition to force a ballot question but will go that route if the council ignores its input.

A public initiative would need signatures from 10 percent of the town’s registered voters to place a question on the ballot. There are roughly 2,500 registered voters, so about 250 would be needed for a formal petition, she said.

Gregory said she and the other organizers are confident they can collect 600 signatures on the statement of support.

“We have a good, strong group,” she said.

“Seeing the light”?

Brian Dillard, a member of a group that supports a fuller development option to spur vitality, said it’s too early in the process to weigh in on the proper amount of development. That can be determined after a developer and the town get further along in the planning process, including an economic-feasibility study, he said.

However, Dillard said he was “happy to hear that the all-park group is now getting on board and seeing the light.”

“I think it speaks volumes to our group and cause that the all-park contingent has come around to discussing how much development they can imagine on the Pan and Fork parcel. That’s wonderful news,” Dillard said in an email to The Aspen Times.

Dillard said the group he is working with also is growing and will stay involved in the process. Bill Hegberg, another member of the group, said he didn’t think the Friends of a Basalt River Park’s statement of support should carry much weight, if any, in the Pan and Fork planning.

“Elements such as the hotel/park should only be decided in the context of the overall planning of a community, taking into account the multitude of factors included in that lengthy process. Petitions are by nature reactive and reflect few factors,” Hegberg said in an email to The Aspen Times.

The town already has invested thousands of hours in the planning process, he noted.

Hegberg also said the effort of the group to cap the square footage at 30,000 is a “subtle attempt to make a hotel unfeasible.”

Events center favored by group

Gregory said the group isn’t opposed to a boutique hotel, a restaurant or any other specific uses as long as they fit into the 30,000-square-foot cap. However, the vast majority of people whom the group has talked to support an events center on the site.

Friends of a Basalt River Park is spreading word about its effort via its Facebook page.

The town government is working on a master plan for the Pan and Fork site and surrounding property. In addition, development firm Lowe Enterprises is working on a plan for the site.

The town and developer are collaborating on an economic-feasibility study on various development scenarios to help determine how to proceed. That study is expected to be completed by the end of the month.