Economic sustainability tough nut to crack for Basalt candidates
Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series looking at Basalt Town Council candidates’ positions on growth issues.The five candidates running in the Basalt Town Council race all expressed wariness about adding big-box retailers to the community’s mix, although two said they wouldn’t rule them out.Candidate Garret Brandt said he cannot think of a location in or around Basalt where a big box “makes sense.” However, he doesn’t want to rule them out in case some developer comes up with a good plan that benefits the community.”I’m not going to absolutely say no because who knows what the future holds for us,” Brandt said.
He also noted that virtually everyone he knows has shopped at Lowe’s and Target at least once since they opened late last year in Glenwood Springs. There is clearly a demand for those types of stores, he said.Candidate Joe Zuena said he would like to see a Whole Foods or some other kind of organic market open up in the Basalt area. Zuena said the grocery store options are too limited in the valley so the extra competition would be beneficial.The other three candidates expressed big problems with big boxes. Gary Tennenbaum said there is a need for them in the valley, but not necessarily in Basalt.
“Yes, I shop at Target. Do I want a Target in Basalt? I just don’t think it fits with the small-town character,” Tennenbaum said.Candidate Amy Capron said there were pros and cons to a large store. A steady stream of sales tax revenue would be an advantage, she said, but one outweighed by the disadvantages when the town’s long-term interests are considered.”Is that what we’re looking for? I would say no,” Capron said.Candidate Chris Seldin said a big box could only be built on the open agricultural lands that surround part of Basalt. He said he doesn’t feel that would be an appropriate use of those open areas. Plus, he said a big box would be detrimental to the overall economic health of the town.”Big boxes come in and they wipe out Main Street,” he said.The five candidates are competing for three council seats. The town election is April 4.Zuena is a quasi-incumbent; he was appointed to fill a council vacancy late last year after serving for several years as a volunteer on the town’s planning and zoning commission. Zuena, 48, owns a property management company in Basalt. He has lived in town since 1987.
The other four candidates, all professionals in their 30s, are new to Basalt politics and relatively new to town. Brandt, 38, is an attorney in Basalt. He was raised in Aspen, left the area for about one decade and returned to the Basalt area in 1998.Capron, 33, is a landscape architect in Basalt. She has lived in town six years.Seldin, 34, is the assistant county attorney for Pitkin County government. He has lived in Basalt for almost four years.Tennenbaum, 35, is a land steward for Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. He has also lived in town for four years.Basalt remains, by-and-large, a bedroom community where many residents travel to work in Aspen. During the debate, the candidates were asked what they could do to build economic sustainability.Brandt said the council at least needs to be willing to consider any type of economic generator. It cannot set a rigid annual growth rate or rule out specific types of development, like big box retailers, because it might miss out on a project that provides community benefits, he said.
Zuena said the town can use annexations to its advantage to boost economic sustainability. It shouldn’t accept applications that propose only housing, he said. It must encourage commercial uses, as well. Zuena also proposed that the town “set land aside” for future uses, where it might attract businesses.In his one vote on a major development application since joining the Basalt Town Council, Zuena voted with the rest of the council to approve a four-story, 48,000-square-foot condominium-hotel along Highway 82.Capron said zoning can be used as an incentive for commercial development, but she warned against too much government “meddling” in economic development issues. She said getting residents involved in maintaining Basalt as a nice place to live and one where residents participate in civic issues will help attract businesses.Seldin agreed that the town has a “limited amount of influence” on building the town’s economic sustainability. Market forces make it inevitable that more reallocation of businesses downvalley from Aspen will continue, he said.Tennenbaum also said market forces will boost Basalt’s sustainability. “I feel we have to give it a little time,” he said.He said the town has taken an appropriate step in its master plan by identifying where commercial development is welcome.Basalt residents who missed the Town Council candidates debate Thursday night still have plenty of chances to see for themselves how they performed.Access Roaring Fork, Channel 17, will broadcast the debate twice a day from Sunday through April 4. The debate will air at noon and 8 p.m.Those without cable TV won’t be left in the dark. They can check out a videotape at Town Hall starting Tuesday.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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