Basalt ponders annual growth restrictions | AspenTimes.com

Basalt ponders annual growth restrictions

BASALT ” Basalt might need annual limits to prevent the town from growing too quickly, members of the Town Council said this week.

The council adopted a land-use master plan Tuesday night that defines where and what type of growth should occur in Basalt. The blueprint limits Basalt’s overall growth to about 2,100 additional residences.

The plan targets an annual population growth rate of less than 5 percent. However, there is no real mechanism to limit the pace,

Several of the council members who participated in Tuesday’s discussion endorsed exploring a regulatory process that limits how much development could occur in any given year. The model they mentioned was Pitkin County’s Growth Management Quota System.

Development proposals that aren’t allowed by right in Pitkin County compete for approvals. In theory, the competition benefits the community because projects earn greater ranking by proposing amenities with widespread appeal.

Councilman Glenn Rappaport said that competitive aspect appeals to him: “I definitely support us making tiny steps in that direction.”

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Councilman Gary Tennenbaum believes the master plan’s philosophy is to “slow down growth.” But he agreed that further steps with a quota system might be necessary. Councilwoman Laurie Dows and Mayor Leroy Duroux also mentioned the quota-system concept as a possibility.

Basalt Planning and Zoning chairman Bill Maron has sounded the alarm recently about the high amount of development under review.

Seven proposals that could total 391 residences and 172,000 square feet of commercial space are under review, according to a study by Basalt’s planning department. Maron labeled that amount “staggering” compared to what Basalt usually reviews.

At least one critic of the master plan said it doesn’t do enough to limit growth and preserve Basalt’s small-town character. Former council member Anne Freedman questioned the “need” for the development the master plan contemplates. She asked the council Tuesday if the town needs overcrowded schools, congested roads and greater contributions to global warming.

“I come to ask you to cut the growth that’s envisioned in this plan,” Freedman said.

Councilwoman Amy Capron said the master plan strikes a balance between limiting growth and creating vitality.

Councilman Chris Seldin said he has concerns about growing too fast, but he also sees a threat of “sterilization” by becoming a town where only the wealthy second-home owners can afford housing. He said he is willing to allow greater levels of growth ” as long as new developments provide substantial amounts of affordable housing.

That master plan assures that. It says that projects seeking annexation into the town must provide 50 percent affordable housing.

Seldin and Tennenbaum hailed the new master plan as a document that lets the town government set the agenda for the community. Currently, both councilmen said, the council reacts to plans developers have proposed.

That will supposedly change now with the master plan in place because it dictates what developers must propose to earn approval.

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