Basalt should say ‘enough’ at Willits
October 5, 2007
The Basalt Town Council’s approach to development lately reminds us of the approach some people take to partying.
Instead of showing restraint and limiting themselves to a drink or two, some people drink to get hammered.
Likewise, the Town Council has proven incapable of determining when enough is enough while reviewing the Willits Town Center project.
Willits developers Michael Lipkin and Joseph Freed and Associates have approvals in hand to build 500,000 square feet of commercial and residential space in a compact village core. That makes it one of the biggest projects ever approved in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The developers returned to the council this year to tweak their approval. They wanted the ability to adjust how some of the commercial space is configured so they could accommodate a 44,000-square-foot Whole Foods supermarket. They didn’t need any additional square footage for Whole Foods; they just needed space arranged differently.
While they were at it, the developers decided to ask the town government for approval to build more lofts and condominiums in their village core. They first asked for 100 units, then increased the request to 120 units. Those residences would add about 150,000 square feet to the Willits Town Center ” boosting the total size to 650,000 square feet.
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In an initial vote Sept. 25, the council voted 5-0 to grant approval to the expansion. A second vote is required and scheduled for Oct. 9.
We believe the council should reverse its direction and reject the expansion. Some council members justified their vote by saying Willits Town Center is an appropriate place for density. We agree. But Willits Town Center is already dense enough at 500,000 square feet ” development equivalent to about eight of the El Jebel City Market stores.
Going beyond that level is a recipe for disaster, not wise urban planning. We question whether the roads and other parts of the infrastructure can handle that level of growth. The developers have not made a compelling case that the expansion would benefit anything but their pocketbooks.
The denial could be handled in a way that Whole Foods’ space isn’t jeopardized at Willits Town Center. That way, everyone is a winner.