Developer of 156-unit housing project in Basalt hopes for speedy resolution with town council
RELIEF ON BASALT AVE.
An alteration will be made to Basalt Avenue at the intersection with Highway 82 to make long-term traffic flow better.
The Basalt Town Council approved funding Tuesday night to add a lane to Basalt Avenue at the northbound approach to Highway 82. There will be a dedicated left turn lane onto westbound Highway 82. There will be a dedicated lane headed straight toward downtown Basalt and there will be a dedicated right turn lane.
The proposal must be approved by the Colorado Department of Transportation. If approved, it will improve traffic flow out of the Southside neighborhood.
The proposal requires wider pavement, extra curb and gutter, and modifications to the traffic signal and signs. It will add an estimated $24,000 to the cost of the pedestrian underpass that is being constructed near the intersection.
The project is scheduled to be completed by August or September.
The developer of a 156-unit Basalt housing project hopes it isn’t deja vu all over again.
Stott’s Mill spent nearly five years in Basalt’s land-use review process last decade before earning approval in January 2010. But by then the Great Recession was in full swing and stymied the project.
Briston Peterson and his partners in MSP1 LLC dusted off their plan and returned with an expanded proposal in July 2015.
The project went before the Basalt Town Council for a vital step in the approval process Tuesday night, but the majority of the board felt too many issues are outstanding.
One point of contention is the years of vested rights. Peterson wants the approvals to remain in place for five years. The council indicated in a 4-3 straw poll it’s only willing to grant the project three years.
Peterson said his group needs the extra time because there is uncertainty about where the economy is headed and, therefore, how the bank industry will react, with Donald Trump taking over as president.
If the economy purrs along as it is now, Peterson said the project will break ground next spring. If conditions change and lenders tighten up, it will take longer to get started. Therefore, he said, he wants five years of vested rights.
Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt countered that the council had no issue extending the vesting when the development group sought it during the recession. She favored sticking to three years and considering an extension if needed.
Council members Gary Tennenbaum, Katie Schwoerer and Jennifer Riffle concurred to be consistent with town policy and ensure a timely start to the project.
Councilmen Auden Schendler, Bernie Grauer and Mark Kittle said they would support five years of vested rights.
Peterson said that while the seated board might be willing to extend vested rights if necessary because of the economy, a future board might not share that position. That’s why he wants five years of vesting.
He became frustrated by the debate Tuesday night.
“It’s solving affordable-housing needs,” he said of the proposed project. “Let’s not handicap it at this meeting.”
The project includes 60 single-family homes and 96 multi-family residences. It will provide 30 units of deed-restricted affordable housing. Peterson and his team contend that even the free-market units will be attainable by workers because of the small size per unit and high density.
The discussion over vesting led to tense moments between council members. Schendler engaged Peterson in back-and-forth conversation about the need for the extra years of vesting, earning a rebuke from Whitsitt.
“You’re being rude,” Schendler told Whitsitt.
She said she wasn’t trying to be rude but was trying to keep the hearing on track.
“We’ve heard it twice. Do you want to hear it again?” she asked about the developer’s reasoning for the vesting.
Whitsitt quickly added that the typical procedure for public hearings is that the staff makes a presentation, the applicant makes a presentation, the council asks questions, the public gets a chance to speak and then the council starts deliberations and stops collecting additional information. She wanted to stick to that format and got support from Riffle.
The discussion ended soon after with the council tabling review until January to resolve outstanding issues.
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Current Basalt officials say the town government has violated the Colorado Taxpayers’ Bill of Right by increasing the property tax mill levy over the prior years 10 times since the mid-2000s. Two former mayors contend the mill levy could be adjusted in any given year as long as it didn’t exceed the mill levy in 1994. It’s a $2 million question.