Basalt reaps $177,813 from Willits building permit |

Basalt reaps $177,813 from Willits building permit

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

BASALT – The Basalt town government reaped $177,813 Tuesday when the developer of the Willits Town Center project received the full building permit for the Whole Foods Market building.

Mariner Real Estate Management acquired the stalled Willits project in May. It re-signed Whole Foods as the anchor tenant, then resumed construction in September. Mariner had a permit to work on the frame of the structure before receiving the full building permit this week.

The payment of the fee for the building permit gave the town government an unexpected windfall. Only $40,000 in revenues from building permits was anticipated in the 2011 budget.

The town has seen few revenues from building permits since the recession hit in late 2008. Numerous projects have approvals but the owners haven’t bothered to pull permits because demand for residences and commercial space is so weak. Town Manager Bill Kane said the town was collecting fees primarily for residential remodels and a handful of minor projects.

A bigger, broader economic boost from Whole Foods will come next summer after the store opens. It will boost the town’s sales tax revenues and create jobs.

Whole Foods officials from the Rocky Mountain regional office in Boulder toured the site in Basalt on Monday to assess the progress. They told Basalt officials they are targeting June for the opening of the 27,000-square-foot grocery store, according to Mayor Leroy Duroux.

“We are shooting for that but it may be July,” Whole Foods Market Regional President Will Paradise said Wednesday in an email exchange with The Aspen Times.

The grocery store will employ “somewhere around 100 jobs,” Paradise said. Of those, 60 to 65 will be full-time positions. Anything more than 30 hours is considered full-time, he said. More than 70 percent of employees are full-time in the Rocky Mountain region and in the company overall, according to Paradise.

Whole Foods has been selected as one of Fortune magazine’s “100 best companies to work for” every year for the last 14 years. The honor is based on surveys with employees, or team members, as the company calls them.

The company hasn’t cranked up its recruiting efforts in Basalt yet.

Kane said the job generation and sales tax revenue growth will go beyond Whole Foods. There will be “a host of secondary retailers” and specialty shops that will open adjacent to the grocery store, he said.

The building that will house Whole Foods is about 47,000 square feet overall, including 20,000 square feet of commercial space that won’t be used by the grocer. Much of that space is being designed for small retailers.

“We’re going to experience a pretty significant sales tax revenue boost,” Kane said.

BASALT – The Basalt Town Council voted unanimously this week to take a humble step to try to spur commercial development in the downtown core and create jobs.

The board voted 7-0 to broaden who gets exemptions from affordable housing requirements for commercial development. In the past, only projects that created condominiumized commercial spaces of 1,000 square feet or less were exempt from mitigation requirements. Now, developers of spaces of up to 2,500 square feet will get the exemptions.

The expanded exemptions apply only to projects in the C-2 zone district in the downtown core. The town government left open the option of expanding the exemption to other parts of Basalt.

The decision was made Tuesday without council discussion. The topic had been thoroughly discussed at informal work sessions throughout the summer. The board considered waiving affordable housing requirements for commercial projects but ultimately decided just to expand the exemptions.