Drive-through coffee shop the right brew for Basalt | AspenTimes.com

Drive-through coffee shop the right brew for Basalt

BASALT – The Basalt Town Council on Tuesday approved a drive-through coffee shop at Willits Town Center even though the mayor said it violates “promises” made to the neighborhood 11 years ago.

The council voted 5-2 to grant a waiver to a limitation on the number of drive-through businesses at the growing commercial area. The 2001 approvals for Willits Town Center targeted a specific area for auto-oriented development but set limits. The Conoco gas station was approved along with a drive-through car wash. Alpine Bank also was allowed to have drive-up services. All three of those businesses were built. However, any future drive-through required special review by the council.

The developers of Willits Town Center want to build a 9,500-square-foot building in a vacant space between Alpine Bank’s parking lot and Whole Foods Market, with high visibility from Highway 82. The coffee shop is negotiating on an 1,800-square-foot interior space along with the drive-up counter, according to Tim Belinski, the leasing agent for the development. A burger joint and retail businesses are possibilities to fill out the building, though the owners haven’t announced any tenants yet. The auto-oriented building is across East Valley Road from a park.

Council members Rob Leavitt, Glenn Rappaport, Rick Stevens, Karin Teague and Herschel Ross voted to approve the waiver for the coffee shop. Stevens noted he’s not a laptop, coffee shop kind of guy and prefers grabbing his coffee on the go. The drive-through business is located near the roundabout on Willits Lane, where it is convenient to get on and off Highway 82, he noted.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt and Councilwoman Anne Freedman didn’t support the drive-through waiver. Whitsitt said a prior council that she was a member of went “round and round” in debate about not wanting to turn Willits Town Center into a auto-oriented development. Approving a drive-through coffee shop in addition to the gas station, bank and car wash is taking “a pound of flesh” out of the neighborhood, she said.

“This is not what I signed on for,” Whitsitt said. “I’m already hearing about it – that we’re not living up to our promises.”

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Freedman said she didn’t want to promote Willits Town Center as a place where commuters on Highway 82 see a coffee shop, pull off the highway, grab their drink and dash.

“I want it to be a neighborhood coffee shop, not a place for people to whiz in and out,” she said.

Willits Town Center’s owners want to break ground on the building this fall and complete it by spring.

Speculation is that the coffee shop is a Starbucks, something Town Manager Bill Kane alluded to Tuesday night. He quipped that the forest-green color used in architect’s computer drawings of the building were “suspicious” in that it looks like the colors of a certain Seattle-based national coffee-shop chain.

scondon@aspentimes.com