Candidates state positions on mobile home parks in flood plain |

Candidates state positions on mobile home parks in flood plain

Aspen Times writer

Well-publicized studies contend the Pan and Fork and Roaring Fork mobile home parks are “in harm’s way” of a major flood. Does the town have an obligation to relocate the residents as soon as possible, or should it wait for the private sector to initiate change with a development application? Editor’s note: These are the answers to the final of three questions for the candidates for Basalt Town Council.Garret S. BrandtAge: 38Neighborhood: WillitsOccupation: AttorneyYears in Basalt: In the town limits since February 2005, in the midvalley since 1998Ensuring the safety of the town’s residents should be of highest priority to the council, but I do not believe the town should become a residential developer. In this situation, the town is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. Eminent domain and forced relocation, at taxpayer expense, is not a great solution, and excessively costly. Waiting for a developer or other private money to solve this could be too late in coming, and then the council will be blamed for not caring and failing to act soon enough. I think the council needs to be proactive in encouraging a developer to offer relocation to these residents, which will produce faster and better results. Council can offer development incentives that make such relocation attractive to a developer and the residents. Incentives could include streamlined review of the application, additional density if appropriately clustered, and possibly public subsidy for specific construction of residences for those families being relocated.Chris SeldinAge: 34Neighborhood: Elk RunOccupation: AttorneyYears in Basalt: Almost four yearsWhatever happens at these properties will shape Basalt’s entrance, tremendously impact its downtown, and define the town’s relationship with our rivers. These are critical concerns that must be considered along with the flood issue. The town does not currently have the funds to relocate these residents, which makes unilaterally doing so “as soon as possible” look pretty unlikely. The more pertinent question is whether the issue is so urgent that the town should compromise on other public values in order to get a developer to pay for the relocation. I think the answer is no.Basalt’s land-use code requires 100 percent replacement of affordable housing lost when a property is redeveloped. Both mobile home parks are being actively eyed for redevelopment, and some private sector participation in relocation of their residents probably makes sense. The town needs to be sure, however, that redevelopment proposals are not hustled through to the detriment of our entrance, our downtown and our river corridors. While the flood risk is a serious one, a major flood will not come without warning, and many other properties could also be affected. The town can’t realistically solve all the problems created by past flood plain development. Amy CapronAge: 33Neighborhood: Between Elk Run and Arbaney ParkOccupation: Landscape architectYears in Basalt: 11 years in the valley, six years in the town of BasaltAffordable housing has historically been placed in tenuous locales, where other types of development were either not desired or valued. As many studies will show, any development in a flood plain could be threatened with a major flood. Through the years, dams and diversions have been installed that have lessened the ability of our rivers to flood dramatically and without notice. The immediacy of relocation of the tenants of the mobile home parks is lessened with these measures, though still imperative. As the town of Basalt has grown and the focus has turned to our rivers as an amenity, the value and desirability of the mobile home parks’ lands has increased tremendously. The river master plan has been created to help shape that area and the river corridor itself. It is a resource we need to utilize in conjunction with the Basalt master plan in analyzing redevelopment in those areas.Per our land-use code, 100 percent of affordable housing that exists needs to be replaced if an area is redeveloped. As this process occurs, it is our obligation to assist both the developer and those families to relocate to other affordable housing within our community. It is a challenging issue that will need to be resolved through partnerships and support from the community as a whole.Joe ZuenaAge: 49Neighborhood: Elk RunOccupation: Property managerYears in Basalt: 19 yearsIt is very important the town implements the river master plan that will allow growth to take place from the center of town to the outside town boundaries. This will encourage both citizens and property owners to work together in developing these properties. Pitkin County and Eagle County as well as the town of Basalt are all aware of the potential flooding that could take place in a heavy snowmelt runoff year. Until these parks are redeveloped, the parks owners must take the required steps to protect the residents living on their properties from flooding. The town’s obligation to the residents in the mobile home parks is to educate and rehearse with them an emergency evacuation plan (both in English and Spanish) every year until the parks are safe from flooding or redeveloped.Gary TennenbaumAge: 35Neighborhood: Elk RunOccupation: Pitkin County open space and trails land stewardYears in Basalt: Four yearsThe Pan and Fork and Roaring Fork mobile home parks are at the entrance to Basalt and if redeveloped can add tremendous value to all town citizens by providing access and open space along both the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork Rivers, potentially allow a whitewater park, and increase the ecological health of both rivers. However, any redevelopment must provide 100 percent replacement housing for the current residents, so town partnerships with future redevelopers of that area must provide solutions. There is a documented flood risk, which creates a need to relocate these residents, but the reality is the town does not have the funds to do it alone. As a town councilor I will encourage any redevelopment of these mobile home parks to help find and fund 100 percent replacement housing for the current residents. Free market solutions to this issue are more realistic to finally getting these residents out of the flood plain and into replacement housing. I look forward to helping find solutions for this issue and to address the entire attainable housing issue in Basalt.

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