‘Big change from business as usual’ in Basalt | AspenTimes.com
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‘Big change from business as usual’ in Basalt

BASALT ” The Basalt Town Council tightened the screws on developers this week by favoring a growth management plan that will allow approvals for no more than 32 free-market residences per year.

“It’s just a real big change from business as usual,” said Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt, who pushed hardest for the tough stance.

Three weeks ago, when a web of rules designed to manage growth was first approved, the council favored allowing up to 55 free-market units per year, which would produce an annual growth rate of about 3.5 percent. But after revisiting the rules Tuesday, the council opted for slower growth.



Basalt experienced an annual growth rate of about 5 percent before the recession, according to the planning staff.

Council members justified setting a lower rate by noting there are 300 approved but unbuilt residential units within the town’s boundaries. There are another 300 units under review. All those units will be exempt from the new growth management system. In addition, affordable housing units won’t count toward the allotment of 32 residences annually.




Council members insisted their actions won’t stifle growth.

“As Willits keeps developing and we have these other units that keep developing, our town is still going to grow by a decent percentage in the years to come when the economy does get better,” said Councilman Gary Tennenbaum.

Town Manager Bill Kane urged the council to allow potential approval of the greater number of residences each year. He said the town didn’t necessarily have to approve 55 residences annually, but could keep the option open. That way, he said, big projects that can afford to offer significant public amenities might get proposed.

Whitsitt countered that the council majority were elected on slow-growth or, in her case, no-growth platforms. She argued it was time for the council to make good on promises to constituents. If Basalt continues to approve large amounts of free-market housing after the recession, it will never ease the need for affordable housing, she said.

“I think if we send the message, ‘Don’t come talkin’ to us unless you’ve got 100 percent affordable housing,’ we address the issue,” Whitsitt said.

Basalt’s new growth management system will force free-market projects to compete in a scoring process. Projects will receive scores based on public amenities and compliance with the town’s master plan. They must meet a threshold score, and they must also top other projects to received any of the 32 approvals allotted each year.

Mayor Leroy Duroux warned that the new rules will force developers to seek approvals from Eagle County. If that happens, Basalt will feel the effects of growth without collecting tax dollars to offset the impacts, he said. Council members responded that they must work harder with the county to coordinate growth policies.

The council’s major shift in direction came at a late-night meeting that only a handful of attorneys and development company officials attended. However, the curbed growth rate will be discussed at another public hearing on Tuesday, April 28.

Also on Tuesday, the council approved a new affordable housing code. The new rules require developers of commercial and residential projects to provide higher amounts of affordable housing than previously required. Revamped guidelines set new levels of income and assets for buyers and renters of affordable housing and establish sales and rental prices. The new housing rules can be found at a link at http://www.basalt.net.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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