Basalt’s newest neighborhood | AspenTimes.com

Basalt’s newest neighborhood

Residents of one of Basalt’s newest neighborhoods are bristling at the prospect of a high-density development sprouting up next door.

Residents of the Southside subdivision are trying to convince town officials to reduce the density of the proposed Stott’s Mill project. Developers want to build 120 free-market townhouses and donate six acres of land to the town for construction of up to 95 units of affordable housing.

The potential for 215 units on less than 17 acres has Southsiders concerned about traffic, noise and threats to the neighborhood character.

“Speaking to the number of people I have, there is enormous concern with the density of this project,” said Southside resident Randy Coleman.

He urged Basalt officials at a recent meeting to make the Stott’s Mill developers stick to the zoning that exists on their property. That would reduce density from high to medium, he said.

Community goals at odds

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The Stott’s Mill debate represents a clash of community goals. On one hand, Southside is starting to get integrated into Basalt and feel more like a true neighborhood as it slowly develops. Southsiders say that atmosphere would be threatened by a high-density development next door.

“Let’s not lose the neighborhood feeling,” said resident Ann Rominger.

On the other hand, the Stott’s Mill project has been identified by the town government as an appropriate site for growth. In fact, it is targeted as desirable for construction of affordable housing.

In addition, the developers’ gift of six acres could help the town achieve one of its highest goals ? removing mobile homes from the flood path of the Roaring Fork River.

The planning commission and, ultimately, the Town Council, will weigh those community goals and decide how to balance them at Stott’s Mill.

The project is located on mostly vacant land northeast of Basalt High School. Southside abuts Stott’s Mill to the north.

Southside, which is being developed by Dale and Sally Potvin, will eventually include 74 single-family homes and 24 townhouses mixed with a limited amount of commercial development on 22 acres.

When Basalt approved an updated master plan two years ago, it said any new property annexed into the town must be within an area known as the urban growth boundary, and it must provide significant “social capital” ? or qualities that enhance the community.

The annexation policy also states that development applications must help the town solve a problem, such as providing alternative housing for residents of mobile homes who are in the flood plain.

The Stott’s Mill developers are seeking annexation for the site. They sweetened their application by offering the town six acres of land that could be used for affordable housing. The developers hope the offer not only takes care of their obligation for housing but also provides the town with extra land for possible relocation of mobile home residents.

The town recently completed a river master plan which contends that residents of two neighborhoods, the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park and Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park, are in harm’s way because of flood danger. The plan seeks public-private partnerships to relocate the residents and possibly even relocate some mobile homes. In theory, the riverside properties would be redeveloped in a flood-safe manner once the trailers are removed.

Southsiders want answers

Several Southsiders told the Basalt planning commission last week that it is unfair for their neighborhood to host more than its share of affordable housing.

“Why does it have to be displaced from the river project and placed in our back yard?” asked Southside resident Mark Dahlstrom.

Southside developer Sally Potvin noted that affordable housing throughout the Roaring Fork Valley has gone unrented in the past year, proving that demand is sagging.

“The demand for 95 units I don’t see at all,” she said.

Under town regulations, the Stott’s Mill developers would be obligated to build 24 affordable housing units, or 20 percent of the free-market component of 120 units.

But town planner Susan Philp said the town also aims to retain its existing stock of affordable housing.

“The goal of the town was really not to lose ground,” she said.

To accomplish that goal, it must find sites to provide housing in an equal amount to that provided by the mobile home parks.

Southsiders claim that if the town accepts the six acres from the Stott’s Mill developers, it is a foregone conclusion that affordable housing will be built there.

They said that out of fairness, the town should provide them with information during the Stott’s Mill review about the intentions for the six acres of donated land. The town’s plan should be reviewed concurrently, they said.

The town has no definitive plan for the six acres. However, it has discussed the possibility of up to 95 affordable housing units and performed studies based on that assumption. A nonprofit related to the Catholic archdiocese from Denver has been mentioned as a possible developer of a low-income housing project at the site.

Town officials insist they aren’t certain they will accept the six acres, so no plan is definitive. However, planner Philp promised the Southsiders she would try to get more information from government officials about the plans for the six acres.

The planning commission will resume debate of Stott’s Mill later this month.

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