Basalt’s plan allows 2,089 new homes
August 30, 2007
BASALT A new land-use master plan adopted by Basalt might provide a rude awakening for people who think town leaders have clamped down on growth.The 2007 master plan approved by the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission Thurdsday night allows a potential of 2,089 residences to be built within the town’s urban growth boundary. That boundary is the area the town considers appropriate for medium- and high-density development.An analysis in the plan shows there are 604 residences that are approved and unbuilt or would be allowed as infill in the town. The new master plan establishes future land uses that would add an additional 1,485 residences.Those figures combine to create the potential for the 2,089 residences ranging from single family homes and townhouses to multi-family apartments and mother-in-law units.That amount is “more than enough housing units to meet the Town’s needs for the next five years and then some,” according the master plan crafted by the town planning staff and consultant Tim Malloy.If all those houses get built, the town will more than double its population. Basalt had an estimated population of 3,284 on Jan. 1, 2006. The new homes will add more than 5,000 residents, assuming there are 2.5 people per household.Goodbye, 1980s and ’90sThe study notes that the build-out won’t happen for several years, if ever. Nevertheless, the prospects are disconcerting to some residents because a larger population equates to such problems as more vehicles and greater traffic congestion.”Rapid rates of change – both physical and social – can be threatening to those who remember Basalt in the 1980s and 1990s,” the master plan reads. “This was borne out in the Community Profile Survey, which showed that many residents believe that maintaining small-town character and preserving open space and protecting the environment were very important objectives for the Town.”The town government has been working on an update of its 1999 land-use master plan for the past 20 months. It’s spent about $145,000 thus far, according to the planning department.During that process, the Town Council gained a reputation among some observers as being growth busters. The build-out analysis might dispel that myth.The new master plan targets a growth rate of about 3.2 percent annually. Basalt experienced an average annual growth rate of 5 percent between 1996 and 2005, the master plan said.Less sprawl, greater densityThe council directed where the growth will occur rather than drastically clamping down on it. The council and planning commission decided earlier this summer to prevent urban sprawl by allowing greater density within the town core.That decision could produce political fireworks for years to come, Town Council members conceded this week. Developers will jump on the opportunity to propose greater densities within the urban growth boundary.When they do, the council can expect neighbors to show up en masse in opposition, Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said at a meeting this week.Twice within the last month, residents of neighborhoods have attended meetings to voice concerns about high-density development proposals.Willits residents don’t want the town to approve developer Michael Lipkin’s plan to add 100 residences that total 85,000 square feet to the Willits Town Center until traffic problems are solved. Willits Lane is expected to be overwhelmed by the growth.In a different part of town, residents are concerned that the 81-unit Jadwin proposal will create too much traffic congestion and environmental damage in the area between the Basalt Post Office and water sanitation plant.Planning commission chairman Bill Maron said Tuesday night in a joint meeting with the council that the town should analyze how much density is appropriate in some areas of town.Mayor Leroy Duroux called Basalt’s growth issue “a Catch-22.” Restricting sprawl requires greater density, but greater density fires up the opposition.Councilman Chris Seldin noted that “on the one hand, citizens are really concerned about growth.” On the other hand, they want to see affordable housing built, he said. He wondered if residents will accept growth that adds significantly to the affordable housing inventory.The council is bound to find out.