Basalt will use planning effort as blueprint for downtown development
Basalt officials pledged Tuesday night to use a downtown planning process that residents worked on for more than a year as a blueprint for what developers can and cannot do on a handful of high-profile sites.
Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said she doesn’t want to see the town return to business as usual where the developers submit plans for what they want and the town government reacts. She said she wants to use the vision recommended Dec. 18 by the Downtown Area Advisory Committee to be incorporated into the town code “or we will be driven around like a truck like we always were.”
Town Manager Mike Scanlon said the committee’s work has already influenced Lowe Enterprises, a development firm working on an application for a hotel and residences on half of the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park property. For example, Lowe has pledged to move development westerly to honor the committee’s direction of retaining visual and physical connections between downtown and the Roaring Fork River.
Scanlon said the town could share the committee’s report to developers and tell them that it is the town’s vision. “You see this map? How close can you get to this map?” Scanlon said.
The council members appointed 10 residents to the committee in October. After 10 weeks of wrangling, dialogue and compromise — in the words of member Ted Guy — the committee forwarded general recommendations to the council on how to pursue development at the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site, Lions Park and the former Clark’s Market site.
There were four guiding principles: maintaining visual and physical connectivity between downtown and the Roaring Fork River, improving Lions Park, allowing density to drive revitalization, and put the “there, there” in Basalt.
Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said that the committee’s vision is “kind of where I wanted to go with it.” The key will be creating zoning that allows the vision to happen and working with landowners and developers. He said he wants to convert the vision to reality in the near future, but take time to do it right.
“I’m not in a massive rush to make it all happen right now,” he said.
Councilman Mark Kittle said the town government should be selective on what it tries to convert into reality. “We need to prioritize what we can control,” he said.
For example, Kittle wants to focus on redevelopment of the private sector portion of the Pan and Fork site and help a company called Real America move ahead with a large affordable-housing project adjacent to Stubbies bar.
Kittle said the town cannot control the future of the former Clark’s Market site, which is in the hands of private owners who haven’t submitted a development plan.
Councilman Herschel Ross agreed that turning the resident committee’s vision into reality will take cooperation from developers. He said he wants residents to remain involved in that process.
“I think there is a diagram for us to move forward here,” Ross said.
Committee member Guy guaranteed the group will stay involved. “You encouraged 10 citizens to look over your shoulders. We will be doing that,” he said.
One goal the council discussed was spurring downtown revitalization by making sure future development includes people of all socioeconomic levels.
Steve Chase, a member of the residents’ committee, noted that Basalt lost 300 residents when the trailers in the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park were relocated. The residents were mostly working class and Latino.
“The demographic is now older, whiter and more affluent,” Chase said.
The Real America project, called Roaring Fork Apartments, is expected to help restore Basalt’s diversity because it is affordable housing.
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