Eagle County says no to Willits site for office space
The Eagle County Commissioners rejected a request last night to relocate the site of their proposed midvalley government office building and community center.
Commissioners Tom Stone and Michael Gallagher directed their staff to proceed with plans to get the building approved at the Mount Sopris Tree Farm, according to county administrator Jack Ingstad.
Commissioner Arn Menconi still had questions about the site selection and didn’t want to make a decision yet, Ingstad said.
Basalt town government officials lobbied the commissioners at a meeting in El Jebel Monday to get the 15,000-square-foot building constructed at the Willits project, about 1 mile upvalley from the tree farm.
The Basaltines claim the Willits site makes more sense from a land-use planning perspective because the project has approvals for about 600,000 square feet of commercial and residential development in its core. The tree farm is mostly undeveloped land.
Developer Michael Lipkin and his partners donated 1.5 acres of land in Willits to the town of Basalt. The Town Council was going to let Eagle County use the site free of charge for its building. Plus between $400,000 and $500,000 of infrastructure was going to be provided for free.
On the other hand, Eagle County officials note they have already spent $1.5 million in site preparation work at the tree farm.
The county commissioners felt they had to proceed with the plan for the tree farm because that proposal had gone through a “lengthy public process,” Ingstad said. “The county commissioners didn’t want to pull the plug.”
They couldn’t assume that a switch to Willits would be acceptable to the public, he said.
Commissioner Tom Stone said in an interview Monday that Willits would have to present significant advantages to convince him to switch the proposed site for the office-community center.
“The Willits property needs to be more attractive, not equally attractive,” said Stone, chairman of the board.
Ingstad said the decision came down to more than just money. The commissioners felt the community center was a vital part of the project and something the midvalley needs. Moving to Willits might have required paring the project down to just an office building.
Tuesday night’s decision by the commissioners places the relevance of a public hearing in question. The tree farm plan, which includes various recreational amenities as well as the office-community center, is scheduled to go before the Roaring Fork Regional Planning and Zoning Commission for review Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in Basalt Town Hall.
The plan for the building and ball fields has already received the first round of approval from the planning commission and commissioners. It is now facing the second round of review, formally called preliminary plan review.
The relevance of Thursday’s public hearing is also in question because Eagle County has already signed a contract for construction of the office-community center at the tree farm. However, that contract is contingent on the structure receiving final approvals, explained Stone.
Ingstad said Thursday’s meeting is still important for the public to attend, regardless of whether they support or oppose the tree farm site for the building.
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