Basalt takes tough stand against El Jebel proposal
BASALT ” The Basalt Town Council decided Monday night to ask Eagle County not to approve a development proposal that would add 249 residences and almost 95,000 square feet of commercial space in El Jebel.
The council voted 7-0 to take the tough stand against Ace Lane’s application for the Tree Farm project. Lane proposed the project on his land surrounding the Kodiak water ski lake, across Highway 82 from the Willits Conoco station.
Basalt Councilman Chris Seldin said Lane is seeking urban-style density that isn’t appropriate for unincorporated land in the county. “The application should come to the municipality,” he said.
Mayor Leroy Duroux said the level and type of development that Lane is proposing should complement rather than compete with development in Basalt. The town is in the best position to make sure that happens, he said.
Lane’s project would compete with the Willits Town Center, a project approved by Basalt for about 500,000 square feet of retail shops, restaurants, offices, a hotel and residences. Construction on that project has stalled because of the tight credit market. It’s less than half built out.
The Basalt council voted to write a letter stating its position to Eagle County. That letter won’t necessarily ask the county to reject the application. It will simply say that Lane should be encouraged to apply for annexation of his land into Basalt and seek approval of the development plan from the town.
Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt noted that Eagle County officials cannot force Lane to withdraw his application and resubmit it to Basalt. It may require the county commissioners to deny the application if Lane presses for a vote, she said.
Lane didn’t attend the Basalt Town Council meeting, and it was uncertain if he even knew the town would debate its position on the project. In interviews Friday, Lane and his land-use planner said Lane wanted Eagle County to review the project because he has worked with them for so long on various visions for his property.
The Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission, an arm of Eagle County government, is scheduled to start the review of Lane’s plan Dec. 4. Eagle County sought a position statement from Basalt as part of its regular review process. The two governments signed an agreement this fall to cooperate at an unprecedented level on land-use issues in areas of mutual concern. That agreement could make it tough for Eagle County to ignore Basalt’s letter.
On the other hand, Lane’s application might be met favorably by Basalt. The town’s master plan update of 2007 concluded that Lane’s property belonged in Basalt urban growth boundary, or the area suitable for dense development. The town regards the site as appropriate for medium-density residential housing, light industrial uses and open space, according to town planner Susan Philp.
If the project did go before Basalt, it would likely take more time for review than it would in Eagle County. Projects are currently being reviewed for about three years in Basalt. In addition, the town government is working on a growth management system patterned after Pitkin County’s to improve the quality, and slow the speed, of growth.
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