Basalt Town Council amends Lipkin’s approvals at Willits |

Basalt Town Council amends Lipkin’s approvals at Willits

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

BASALT – Developer Michael Lipkin won a split decision by the Basalt Town Council this week that allows him to alter the design of a 84-unit residential project at Willits and take up to 10 years to build it.

The decision was split 3-2 over whether Lipkin’s Nadineco LLC was giving the town enough in return for concessions on his project. Mayor Leroy Duroux and councilmen Pete McBride and Glenn Rappaport said the changes sought by Lipkin were a public benefit. Councilwomen Anne Freedman and Jacque Whitsitt said they wanted Lipkin to commit to building deed-restricted affordable housing in return for amending his approvals and extended vested rights on the approvals for 10 years.

Councilwomen Katie Schwoerer and Karin Teague weren’t at the meeting.

Lipkin and his partners have already developed about 200 condominiums and townhouses in the residential portion of Willits. They have also sold numerous single-family home lots. Their approvals from 1996 allow 84 additional multi-family units totaling 125,000 square feet.

Lipkin and company wanted the approval amended to give them flexibility to build “flats” or the townhomes, whichever saw more market demand. They also changed the design to eliminate 60 percent of the surface parking and stuff it under the structures. In addition, Lipkin wanted the vested rights for the development approvals extended for 10 years because of the uncertainty the recession and its hangover created in the midvalley real estate market. The town typically grants vested rights for three years, though it has been more lenient since the recession.

In return for amending the approval, the town planning staff recommended adding a second 1 percent Real Estate Transfer Assessment (RETA) onto the sales of the units. A 1 percent RETA already exists on Willits sales.

The second RETA was proposed on sales in excess of $1 million, drawing an objection from Freedman. She said the assessment needs to be charged on a lower sales threshold.

“To me that’s totally useless. We’re not going to get anything at all,” she said on the assessment on $1 million sales.

Freedman, a retiree, said she doubts that townhouses will sell for $1 million in Basalt again during her lifetime. “It’s only semi-mansions that are selling for $1 million right now,” she said.

In addition, the town was giving too much and not getting enough if Lipkin and his partners don’t commit to some affordable housing, she said. Whitsitt concurred.

Rappaport said real estate market conditions dictate that the prices will be affordable. He was concerned that requiring the developers to provide affordable housing would create a financial burden that removes an incentive to build the project.

The board majority did concede on the RETA threshold amount. It will be assessed on sales of $600,000 and more.

The council’s decision to grant 10 years of vested rights was inconsistent with a decision the board made earlier this spring. A different developer, John Olson, engaged in tough negotiations with the town this spring to get vested rights extended from three years to five years for his two new projects, the Flying Fish and Pokorny.

Lipkin’s request for 10 years of vested rights didn’t raise nearly as much of a ruckus.

Duroux noted after the board’s decision that Olson’s project is a new development while Lipkin’s projects has been on the books for years. He said he isn’t as concerned about extending vested rights as other board members. If a project is worthy of approval, it should get the time it needs for construction, he said.

“If it takes 10 years, it takes 10 years,” Duroux said.

Growth-control advocates argue that long vested rights make conditions ripe for a boom where the community really feels the effects of development. Developers all want to scramble to build when the market is hottest – exacerbating traffic, noise and other impacts.