Basalt planning effort slow out of the gate
Some members of a special committee appointed to help determine how to revitalize downtown Basalt are questioning if the Town Council will heed their advice.
The Downtown Area Advisory Committee was placed on the council’s agenda tonight after a last-minute request for a meeting, according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon. The situation remained fluid Monday, and there was a chance the meeting between the committee and council might be delayed until Thursday. The meeting comes as tensions grow over a handful of issues, most prominently the appropriate level of development at the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park.
The town government purchased the half of the site closest to the Roaring Fork River for open space and a park. A nonprofit partner of the town’s purchased the half closest to Two Rivers Road with intent to pursue some level of development.
Scanlon tried to ease the tensions last Thursday at the latest meeting of the committee. He said too many people are looking at the issue as park versus development. “What has been disappointing to me is the number of emails drawing a line,” he said.
Scanlon contended it doesn’t have to be an “either/or” issue. There can be some development and some park. The goal should be to find the proper mix, which will require “creating the capacity to change,” he said. The community is struggling with moving beyond the growth versus no-growth debate, Scanlon said.
Some members of the committee and the public at large feel some council members already have an agenda for the site or will alter the committee’s recommendation.
“What can we present to the Town Council that we can consider tamper-proof?” committee member Charlie Cole asked Scanlon at the committee meeting.
Scanlon said the committee was scheduled to meet with the council on Nov. 13, so members would get a chance to outline their positions and get a reaction from the elected officials.
But tensions escalated Friday and over the weekend to spur the committee’s request for a meeting prior to Nov. 13. Committee members Ted Guy and Gerry Terwilliger declined comment on reasons for the escalating tensions. Committee member Tracy Bennett didn’t return a phone call Monday requesting comment on the reasons for the escalating tensions.
Some of the brouhaha appears related to an interview of Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt that aired on Aspen Public Radio on Friday. She said Basalt residents have always revered open space, trails and recreation in community surveys.
“I think there’s a majority on council and definitely a majority in this community who have for the first time seen that river (at the Pan and Fork site) and are not going to let it go,” Whitsitt said in the radio interview.
When contacted by The Aspen Times on Monday, Whitsitt said she expressed her opinion, but didn’t mean to suggest that the council has decided the issue.
“The council has never even talked about this, let alone voted or made a decision,” she said.
Whitsitt said she welcomes a meeting with the committee “so we all know where the other body is coming from.”
Whitsitt said the council has already approved nearly 28,500 square feet of development between Two Rivers Road and the Roaring Fork River, just west of the former Pan and Fork site. Rocky Mountain Institute received approval for about 15,610 square feet of office space and an Innovation Center, with the possibility to expand to 20,000 square feet in the future.
Roaring Fork Conservancy had approval for a river center of about 8,400 square feet, though it scaled that back to 4,500 square feet.
Whitsitt said her preference would be to see the former Clark’s Market building redeveloped as a focal point of downtown revitalization and a longer review of the fate of the old Pan and Fork site.
“The Clark’s Market area is screaming for redevelopment,” Whitsitt said. “The rest of it can wait until we see what it looks like with the already approved development on the ground.”
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