Eagle County turns down Tree Farm talks with Basalt

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

The Eagle County Commissioners have declined the Basalt Town Council’s request for a joint meeting to talk about a major development application in the mid-Roaring Fork Valley.

Instead, Basalt town government representatives will get specially designated time to air concerns when the Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission and county commissioners hold public hearings on landowner Ace Lane’s Tree Farm development, the county said in a letter.

“We appreciate your invitation to schedule a joint meeting of the BOCC and the Town Council, but since the application has already been filed with the county, we feel that a joint meeting is inappropriate in this part of the land-use process,” said the county letter, signed by county commissioners Kathy Chandler-Henry, Jill Ryan and Sara Fisher.

Lane’s Woody Ventures LLC has applied to build as many as 400 dwellings and about 134,558 square feet of commercial space north of Highway 82, across from Whole Foods Market. The project would be phased over time, depending on market forces.

Lane’s land is in unincorporated Eagle County. Basalt officials are concerned about growth impacts and the competition for commercial businesses. The town wants the county to find a way to make Lane apply for annexation into the town. Eagle County’s letter showed no indication it would exert that type of pressure.

Basalt was asked to submit formal comments before the land-use review started. The town and other public entities that could be affected by the project — such as the school district and the fire department — were given 30 days to provide what’s known as referral comments.

Eagle County’s letter said no public hearings are scheduled yet, but it will make the public aware of when they will be held. “Our desire is to give everyone with suggestions and concerns an opportunity to provide comment,” the letter said.

Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon said he was disappointed that Eagle County wouldn’t accept Basalt’s request to pursue more proactive land use planning.

“I think we’re headed toward the same train wreck,” he said. He defined train wreck as a rigid process that leaves Basalt with no option but to lobby the commissioners to vote against the project.

“It’s almost set up to be confrontational now,” he said.

Scanlon said the opportunity to provide referral comments was inadequate. The Tree Farm project has a potentially huge impact on Basalt, yet the town was given only 30 days to provide comments.

“I get it if it’s 80,000 square feet, but it’s 523,000 square feet,” Scanlon said. “We have to be able to differentiate.”

He said he also was disappointed that Eagle County declined the request for a joint meeting outside of the regular review process. The town governments signed an agreement in 2008 that spells out the joint meeting process on land-use issues of mutual concern. It was hailed at the time as a new era of cooperation between the governments.

Scanlon pointed out wording in that agreement that says once a joint meeting is requested, “the governing bodies shall schedule a joint meeting between the two boards in a timely manner to ensure adequate consideration of all concerns during the approval process.”

“We’ve made a meeting request and it would seem Eagle County believes it is an option. I would disagree,” Scanlon said.

He still hopes to persuade the Eagle County Commissioners to meet. Instead of asking for a meeting specifically on the Tree Farm, Scanlon wants the governments to meet to discuss how traffic, parking and police protection, among other issues, will be addressed as the midvalley grows.


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