Finally — progress on Basalt’s Pan and Fork

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Basalt officials are working on zoning for key downtown parcels, including the Pan and Fork site, marked as riverfront parcel, Lions Park (where town hall is located) and the Basalt Center Circle property, which includes the old Clark's Market building, now the ReStore.
Town of Basalt/courtesy image |

After 18 months of community debate that has turned steadily sourer, the Basalt Town Council approved a “game plan” Tuesday night for resolving the Pan and Fork debate by November.

It’s an effort to bring a close to a debate that’s divided the community. The town teamed with the nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. in August 2011 to acquire the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site. The town is converting its half of the property into a park on the banks of the Roaring Fork River.

The community squabble is over use of Roaring Fork Community Development Corp.’s half, adjacent to Two Rivers Road between Midland Avenue and the Rocky Mountain Institute Innovation Center. Warring factions of the community envision different uses. One wants restricted development and more park. Another wants to use more development as catalyst to invigorate downtown.

The council voted 7-0 to approve a resolution that lays out steps the town government will take toward a goal of placing a question on the November ballot to acquire all or part of the 2.3 acres of property owned by the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp.

The council’s ability to keep the momentum going will be tested Feb. 23 when it is asked to determine the maximum amount of square footage allowed on Community Development Corp.’s property. That’s been a sticking point.

“I think we’re making great progress. It’s just taking a while,” said Councilman Rick Stevens. He said the council majority has already indicated it wants around 50,000 to 55,000 square feet of development, so setting the maximum shouldn’t derail the process. He said he would prefer moving ahead with the planning on the property without focusing on square footage.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said setting the number is important for public trust. “People want to know where our limits are,” she said.

Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said the community debate will continue without setting the number. “We’re going to get the same community outpour if we don’t have that number,” he said.

It also would help a developer if the council set its limit. The developer could determine if and how they could work with the square footage.

There were other signs at the council meeting that Basalt might be able to solve the community debate without civil war. While the rancor has captured all the attention, the town’s volunteer Parks, Open Space and Trails Committee has quietly crafted a plan for the park on the town-owned property and portion of the Community Development Corp. property.

A huge, terraced, open area would dominate the eastern end of the property from Two Rivers Road down to the Roaring Fork River. A band shell is proposed close to the bridge. Terraced seating would be on the lawn.

A water feature was proposed by the committee across from the intersection of Two Rivers Road from Midland Spur. It would cascade down the property to a children’s play area shy of the river. Tennenbaum said the feature is reminiscent of Herron Park in Aspen. The Basalt park could be even more popular since it’s so close to downtown, he said.

The Basalt park proposal also includes natural landscaping on the riverbank with jetties jutting into the river. It could draw people to the river. Trails and seating areas would be located in wetlands on the western side of the property.

A price hasn’t been placed on the plan yet, though phasing would help with implementation.

“It kind of gives me the goosebumps to see this come to fruition,” Tennenbaum said.

Councilman Bernie Grauer said the open space committee’s work shows what happens when citizens are empowered. He said the park proposal gives a “green signature” to the town.

Another volunteer committee, the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission, is working on zoning and uses for the Community Development Corp. property as well as Lions Park (where Town Hall is located) and the site where Clark’s Market used to be located. The idea is to create a master plan that developers can assess and use in their planning.


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