Council candidates on how to improve Basalt |

Council candidates on how to improve Basalt

Aspen, CO Colorado

Editor’s note: This is the second day of coverage of the Basalt Town Council race. Six candidates are vying for three seats.

Today’s question is: What are two tangible steps the council can take to improve the town other than review land-use applications?

The town election is Tuesday, April 6, although some Basalt residents have already received mail-in ballots. The polling place at Town Hall is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mail ballots must be received by Town Hall – whether mailed or dropped-off in person – by 7 p.m. election night.

The town needs to see that the Willits construction site is better managed. We cannot allow another summer of unhealthy and unsightly blowing dirt.

2. The town can hold more community events and establish community gardens. For starters, the town can work with the Wylie to hold art camps, exhibits and sales in Lion’s Park. The town should also approach the owners of empty stores and work with them to use the space in some way until they can find tenants. For example, a store can be the site of a student art exhibit or a small black-box theatre performance. At the very least the store windows could be filled with displays.

I am a member of the town’s Green Team, a small group of town staff and volunteers who promote green projects, and we have already begun looking at sites for a community garden. Some high school students have expressed interest and we should try to engage them and other students in the effort.

I firmly believe that Basalt should explore a free bus service within the town. We have three separate areas and a downtown area with very little on street parking. It would be convenient for residents of Willits and Southside to be able to take a free shuttle to the Farmer’s Market, River Days, or even the Wednesday Night Music Series. Alternately, those downtown can easily access businesses over in the Willits or Southside areas without having to worry about driving.

Another program that I would like to promote is a “Basalt Date Night.” We could provide low cost child care with pizza dinner if the participating adults had a voucher validated by a Basalt business on that night. The town would presumably be filled with our friends and neighbors all spending money in Basalt. This program should be open to all valley residents, as long as you spend your time in the town of Basalt.

Of course, there are many. If obliged to only choose two that might lend to a more vibrant community for the residents and visitors, alike, I choose the following:

1. Review and update the town’s budget. Historically, the town has relied on construction fees and taxes to cover over approximately one-third of the budget. Currently, with very little new construction, the town needs to consider where and how to keep generating income to keep Basalt as a place where families to want to stay.

2. Further concentration on parks, open space and trails, including the linking of east and west Basalt with Two Rivers Parkway and the linking of the town parks and schools, along with a priority to the approval and construction of the River Center, which will house the Roaring Fork Conservancy. The existing Basalt sales tax allocated for these improvements should be explored further.

My first response is more question than answer. When I look around Basalt I see a unique talent pool of people such as engineers, lawyers, architects, artists, builders, business owners, naturalists and educators. Can Basalt wed the goals of job creation and reduction of our environmental footprint? Improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings, municipal buildings, and residences can create local jobs for our current craftsmen. There are $40 million in grants available through the governor’s Energy Office. Should we be looking for a new paradigm for job creation that isn’t solely focused on building houses?

The other thing government can do is collaborate with citizens when making major decisions. A current topic is vitality. The Sunday Market was a great first step. A further community-wide discussion will surely touch on land use and development issues. People need a safe place to discuss those ideas and not simply argue entrenched positions.

We can build a safe pedestrian and bicycle connection to the southside of Highway 82, Basalt High School and the Rio Grande bike path from Old Town Basalt. We can continue striving to connect our citizens and visitors to our two gold medal rivers. Can we construct a pedestrian bridge between Old Pond Park and the new library?

Two tangible steps the Basalt Town Council can take to improve the town are: (1) engage Basalt’s enormously talented and capable pool of citizens, many of whom currently have the time and the desire to work on projects of long-lasting significance for Basalt, and (2) get out of their way once they get going, by removing bureaucratic roadblocks.

The Farmers’ Market is a good example of how these two steps can tangibly improve Basalt. What else is possible – a community garden on vacant, town-owned land? Pedestrian-friendly gathering spaces and connections between our parks, stores, and public amenities? Between the town’s different geographic regions? All kinds of things are possible, especially now, when the council has the breathing space to explore these ideas without the crush of land use applications and other pressures it has faced in the recent past.

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