Condo-hotel concept gets mixed reception from Basalt council
Basalt Town Councilman Auden Schendler urged his fellow board members Tuesday night to keep an open mind about development on the Pan and Fork property for the sake of breaking a multi-year stalemate.
Schendler expressed the most support among board members for Lowe Enterprises’ interest in building a condominium hotel on the site adjacent to Two Rivers Road. Lowe has an option to buy about 2.3 acres from the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp.
Lowe favors a condo-hotel project but it doesn’t want to submit a formal application and spend the funds because of the financial uncertainty, according to Town Planner Susan Philp. Lowe, which is partially based in Aspen, developed The Gant Condominiums in Aspen among many other projects. It wants to build a project in Basalt that would allow private ownership of individual condos, but they would operate similar to a hotel, Philp said.
Schendler wants the council to sit with Lowe representative Jim DeFrancia and discuss potential development. He said he would sponsor a “rule” that would require the project to keep the units in a rental pool so Basalt would have “hot beds.”
“I really would like to move this forward,” said Schendler, who was elected 10 months ago.
He said his employer, Aspen Skiing Co., investigated developing a hotel on the site but couldn’t make the numbers work. Therefore, he said, he thinks the Town Council needs to be flexible on uses.
Mayor wants public uses
The other council members said they would be willing to consider as much as 55,000 square feet of development, but the uses remain a stumbling block.
Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said she felt the majority of Basalt residents would favor public uses such as an events venue and a restaurant over a condo-hotel. Just because that works best for the developer doesn’t mean it works best for the community, she said.
“We look at development for the good of the community,” Whitsitt said. Her highest priority is getting a park built on the half of the Pan and Fork site that the town already owns adjacent to the Roaring Fork River.
“The public, I think is going to be watching us,” she said.
Schendler responded later in the meeting that he feels town residents want to see the riverside park constructed as soon as possible but they also want development pursued on the other part of the site.
“We’re trying to get something the (community) wants there,” he said.
Whitsitt said she wants to explore buying a portion of the private property and preserving it as a park. Town residents rejected buying the entire parcel in the November election by a narrow margin. Whitsitt said open space funds could be sought from Pitkin and Eagle counties to buy roughly half of the property. That would reduce the purchase price for a developer on the remainder.
Willing to meet with Lowe
Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle agreed with Whitsitt that the purchase of half the property should be pursued. She opposed the idea of a condo-hotel as a style of development that allegedly won’t be viable for the long run.
Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said he would consider a condo-hotel, but was skeptical the town could craft a rule that requires it to be operated like a hotel.
Councilman Bernie Grauer favored looking into the concept. “How long are we going to string this process out?” he asked.
Council members Katie Schwoerer and Mark Kittle didn’t attend the meeting.
While the issue remained unresolved, council members present indicated they would be willing to talk to Lowe to try to break the logjam without requiring a full-blown permit.
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