Basalt rejects Roaring Fork Club plan
November 14, 2006
A Basalt golf club’s expansion proposal has died a death best compared to an animal caught in a leg-hold trap and slowly starving.The Basalt Town Council voted 5-1 Tuesday night to instruct its staff to prepare denial documents on the Roaring Fork Club’s application. The decision came two years and three months after the club submitted its original plan.The council majority said they didn’t believe the application by developer Jim Light and his partners complied with the Basalt land-use master plan, a blueprint for where and how the town wants to grow.Council members cited the application’s request that the town annex property outside an “urban growth boundary.” That boundary is an area defined in the master plan as desirable for growth.Councilman Glenn Rappaport said the town government would find itself in a difficult spot politically “and probably legally” if it violated the urban growth boundary for the golf course proposal. Several other developers have applications pending that seek a similar expansion of that boundary.Rappaport said town residents needed to engage in a different forum “and duke it out” over whether the urban growth boundary should be changed in the area where Light wants to expand it. The town government is working on an update of its 1999 master plan – which could be the forum used to reconsider the urban growth boundary.The Roaring Fork Club is east of the Elk Run subdivision. It has an 18-hole golf course and 48 luxury cabins. It applied to add 32 cabins, 18 single-family homes and 36 affordable residences.Councilwoman Amy Capron said that “chipping away” at the existing master plan would set a dangerous precedent, especially with the urban growth boundary.”We need to not hold that sacred, but pay really close attention to that,” she said.Capron and Rappaport joined council members Laurie Dows, Chris Seldin and Gary Tennenbaum in the vote against the club.”I look at this application, and it’s difficult for me to think this is the best we can get for Basalt,” Tennenbaum said.The dissenting vote came from Mayor Leroy Duroux. He said the project offered too much to the community to turn it down because it expands in an area not contemplated. He said the project adds trails that residents want and provides land for expansion of the cemetery.”I just think an opportunity is being missed here,” Duroux said.To a large degree, the Roaring Fork Club was victimized by a changing of the guard on the council and a poor decision by the council in June 2005. Here’s the sequence of events that led to Tuesday night’s denial:• The project is submitted in August 2004.• After months of debate and opposition from a citizens group, Light suggests on June 21, 2005, that the town place the Roaring Fork Club application on a shelf for up to eight weeks. That would give the town time to work on an update to the master plan in the area where the club wants to expand. The council and the town planning commission decline the offer. They say the review of the application and the update of the master plan can occur concurrently.• The council’s decision motivates a citizens group to oppose the project on grounds that the master plan is being ignored. That group stayed engaged in the process throughout the next 17 months.• In April 2006, three new council members are voted into office. Tennenbaum, Seldin and Capron pledged in the campaign to the uphold the master plan.• The Roaring Fork Club clears its first hurdle. The town planning commission grants first-round approval. However, the commission doesn’t debate whether the plan complies with the master plan. That left the threshold issue to the council, and on Tuesday night the hammer fell.Rappaport and Dows acknowledged, to some degree, that they voted to let the review go concurrently with the update of the master plan back in June 2005. That process “failed,” Rappaport said. He and Dows also said they have heard from numerous residents in public hearings since then that the master plan must be upheld or changed via a process that allows all citizens to participate.Public hearings on the master plan update are expected later this year or in early 2007.It was unclear what Light and his partners will do.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.