Basalt presses concerns on El Jebel development proposal |

Basalt presses concerns on El Jebel development proposal

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times


The Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission will resume its review on the Tree Farm project at 4 p.m. Thursday, July 2. The public hearing will be held at the Eagle County office building at El Jebel.

The Basalt Town Council will renew efforts to press its concerns with Eagle County over a development proposal in the El Jebel area.

Basalt has five major concerns and a handful of secondary issues with the Tree Farm proposal for as many as 400 residences and nearly 135,000 square feet of commercial space across Highway 82 from Whole Foods.

Ace Lane and his Woody Ventures LLC is seeking approval from Eagle County for as much as 585,474 square feet of residential and commercial development. The developer said the project will be constructed in phases, as the market demands, over the next 20 or so years.

Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon told the Town Council on Tuesday night that he and Town Planner Susan Philp will meet soon with Eagle County Manager Brent McFall and planner Scot Hunn, who is heading the Tree Farm review. Scanlon said the Basalt’s contingent aims to “see where we can get some movement or an understanding.”

He went over the major concerns with the council that he wants to cover with Eagle County. They were:

The “negative” impact of having too many commercial centers in too small of space. Basalt already has competing centers in its historic downtown and at Willits Town Center.

Urban-style development the size of the Tree Farm belongs within town limits, not in an unincorporated area.

An agreement between Basalt and Eagle County from 2008 says the county will consider requiring affordable housing at levels required by the town for projects close to the town limits. Basalt currently has higher requirements than the county.

Basalt contends it will be forced to provide services such as police coverage to the Tree Farm because of its proximity to the project.

Basalt wants to make sure that Lane will not only contribute $910,000 pledged for the Willits pedestrian underpass of Highway 82, but also help provide parking for transit riders and chip in for shuttle service between West Basalt-El Jebel and downtown Basalt.

Among secondary concerns, Scanlon told the council he wants to make sure the county and town have coordinated lighting and sign codes for commercial uses.

“A national retailer will flop to the place where you get a bigger sign,” Scanlon said.

The council members had few comments, but confirmed their concerns and directed Scanlon to press them. The meeting between the Basalt and Eagle County staff members isn’t open to the public. However, the Roaring Fork Valley Regional Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 4 p.m. July 2 at the Eagle County office building in El Jebel.

Dave Marrs, chief financial officer with Geronimo Ventures LLC, which is part of Lane’s team, said the Tree Farm application addresses the town’s concerns. At the request of The Aspen Times, he summarized responses to the town’s five major points.

Lane’s team believes the Tree Farm’s commercial uses will complement Willits rather than compete with it. Only about 6,700 to 8,900 square feet of commercial development will be developed per year, based on demand, Marrs said.

“The Tree Farm team thinks the real focus of the application should be on attainable and affordable housing rather than commercial uses,” Marrs wrote in an email.

In prior hearings, Lane’s team said the least expensive apartments being proposed would be $1,294 per month under current Eagle County guidelines and $1,552 for two-bedroom units.

Lane and his team are steadfast that they will not seek annexation into the town of Basalt, despite the contention that urban-style development belongs in town.

“This is the town’s opinion,” Marrs said.

Likewise, the town’s contention that the Tree Farm will tap town services for free is a “non-issue,” Marrs said. “The Tree Farm has agreed to fair and reasonable reimbursement to the town for services — primarily police services.”

The Tree Farm has agreed to contribute to the underpass, Marrs said, and it has offered to pay a fee-in-lieu of parking for transit parking. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority hasn’t responded to its request, he said.