Councilmen eye different paths to end Basalt’s Pan and Fork conundrum
Two Basalt councilmen are eyeing different paths to try to end a two-year deadlock over the future of the former Pan and Fork property.
Councilman Auden Schendler wants to encourage the landowner of part of the property or a developer with an option on the land to submit a development application for council review.
Schendler said at a recent council meeting he doesn’t support a proposal by Councilman Bernie Grauer to explore the town government’s purchase of 2.3 acres of land adjacent to Two Rivers Road that’s owned by the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp.
Grauer suggested at the March 28 meeting that the council direct the town staff to explore what existing funding sources could be used to buy the land for approximately $2.9 million.
No other council members spoke against that approach at the time, but Schendler told the other council members April 11 that he wishes he had piped up.
“I was kind of gobsmacked by it,” Schendler said, “and I couldn’t respond fast enough.
“What I wished I said is, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on a second.’”
Schendler said he respects Grauer’s efforts to find a solution to the ongoing feud over the Pan and Fork site, but he feels it is “fiscally irresponsible” to focus the town’s efforts and finances on one property.
Schendler and Grauer met Tuesday to discuss the issue after Grauer returned from a trip to Hawaii.
They agreed on one key point: that the votes probably don’t exist on the council to approve the amount of development that a developer would consider economically necessary.
Schendler said he’s willing to consider a development proposal and remains convinced that’s the best path. He understands Grauer feels that isn’t the most realistic approach.
Grauer said he has been on the record as saying he supports as much as 55,000 square feet of development. But he noted that three candidates elected in April 2016 — Mayor Jacque Whitsitt and Councilwomen Jennifer Riffle and Katie Schwoerer — were on record saying they want more park and less development on the Community Development Corp’s property. Councilman Gary Tennenbaum has generally expressed that view, as well.
Given that majority opinion, Grauer said the only course of action is to buy the property and then decide the proper mix of park and development. He said he disagrees with Schendler that it’s fiscally irresponsible to focus this much attention on the old Pan and Fork property.
“I think it’s the No. 1 paramount issue facing Basalt right now,” he said. The town has been deadlocked on it for two years and has spent $7.5 million on relocating former residents of a mobile home park, flood mitigation on the Roaring Fork River, acquiring a portion of the property and raising the ground level of the CDC portion.
The town’s purchase of the property is the quickest path to avoiding a more protracted fight, he said.
“By owning the land, we can deal with the developer without the CDC in the middle,” Grauer said.
Basalt voters narrowly defeated a ballot proposal last April to raise property taxes to buy the 2.3 acres from Community Development Corp. for about $2.9 million.
The town staff was directed to present information at the April 25 meeting on how the town could purchase the property with existing funding sources. Whitsitt said the staff investigation might not be complete yet. She said it would be determined Thursday whether a discussion will be held next week on the Pan and Fork purchase.
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With the likelihood that some level of COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings will still be in place come Mountain Fair weekend, July 23-25, organizers are taking some aspects of the fair to the streets and elsewhere around town.