Does Basalt golf club deserve ‘good corporate citizen’ credit?
August 8, 2005
Some people in Basalt think the Roaring Fork Club deserves credit in a current land-use battle because it is a good corporate citizen.Others say it’s baloney that the club should receive special consideration simply because managing partner Jim Light is a nice guy.The Roaring Fork Club’s status became an unexpected focus of a meeting Monday night that the Basalt town government hosted to try to encourage more public input than government land-use hearings typically court.Former Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens labeled the Roaring Fork Club “one in a few” and “an enlightened developer” that Basalt should be glad to deal with. Many developers enter the review process and attempt to negotiate out of government requirements, like affordable housing or school impact fees, Stevens said. In contrast, he claimed the club is offering more than what is required.Frank McSwain, a Basalt resident who is involved in numerous civic causes, noted that the Roaring Fork Club is a good citizen that often donates its facilities to community organizations and nonprofits. It is donating its clubhouse for one nonprofit function this month and its golf course for a foundation’s fund-raiser next month.McSwain also noted that the club is contributing about six acres for an affordable housing project.The Roaring Fork Club’s first phase of 18 holes of golf and 48 luxury cabins were approved by Basalt in 1997. The club opened in 1999. Light has noted in numerous public meetings that the club’s cabin owners pay substantial property taxes to Basalt and the school district yet place few demands on services as second-home owners.The club is seeking approval for 32 additional cabins and 13 single-family home lots on property it wants to lease just east of Basalt. It is asking the town government to annex the land and approve its application, which includes 34 affordable housing units and facilities for teaching golf and fly fishing.Critics of the plan said at Monday night’s meeting that Light’s personality and the club’s behavior shouldn’t play a role in an important community decision.”Why upzone because someone’s a good citizen?” said David Cramer, an organizer of opposition to the club’s expansion plan. “Why tear down the rural buffer because they’re a good citizen?”It’s an appeal to emotion,” Cramer said. “We should be looking at this rationally.”The core issue is whether approval of the golf club’s plan will help preserve Basalt’s small town character, according to Cramer. A recent community survey showed that nearly three in four residents believe preserving character is the leading issue facing the town. The survey didn’t define how preservation should be achieved.Cramer and a handful of other speakers questioned the depth of the club’s community spirit. Cramer noted that the club is claiming it should be exempt from some financial requirements, like a school impact fee.Light explained after the meeting that it has offered some amenities above and beyond what is required, like a voluntary assessment on real estate sales of the luxury cabins. In return, it wants the whole package of fiscal requirements examined.Ramon Verduzco, a resident who lives outside Basalt in Holland Hills, said he has raised concerns with club officials numerous times over various issues only to be ignored. He said the club’s neighbors, who live in Pitkin County, are unwelcome and made to feel like “strangers” around the golf property. That is in contrast to Blue Lake, where everyone is welcome to use trails, he said.The meeting provided a forum for lots of comments in favor and against, and residents were encouraged to raise all questions they want answered at future discussions. How it will help with the review of the project remains unclear.The town is going to form a “roundtable” group that residents will be encouraged to join before the review is turned over the planning commission.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org