Flood threat too pricey to correct?
Efforts to remove two trailer parks from the heart of Basalt because of flood risk has stalled and is no longer a top priority for all Town Council members, one official said Tuesday.Councilman Glenn Rappaport said during a meeting with Pitkin County commissioners that fiscal and political realities will make it difficult if not impossible to relocate residents then redevelop the land at the Roaring Fork and Pan & Fork mobile home parks.The two trailer parks are just downstream from the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers.Rappaport said that using incentives to get the private sector to relocate the residents and redevelop the trailer parks in a safer way would require the town to approve a density that residents might not accept.What were going to get if we make a developer pay is something pretty foreign to what we have now, he said.Any redevelopment would pull structures away from the Roaring Fork River, preserve the most flood-prone lands as parks, and allow a greater density of development away from the river and possibly off-site.The dilemma with the trailer parks, where 83 families live, has driven a significant amount of town planning and policymaking since officials learned from a consultant in September 2004 that flooding posed a substantial danger to lives.However, Rappaports comments raised questions about whether the relocation remains a top priority. He said a survey indicated that about 90 percent of trailer park residents have paid off their mortgages. Respondents said they were satisfied with their living situation and would be reluctant to relocate. Latino families make up the vast majority of residents in the two mobile home parks.Rappaport also questioned whether there is much of a threat, as some residents have done since Basalt announced its concerns. When the town bought land just downstream from the trailer parks and relocated some residents from homes there, critics questioned why low-level housing was deemed at risk but higher-end development just upstream was considered safe.Rappaport on Tuesday said he doesnt like creating crisis to justify a land-use solution. He said he wants to know exactly what type of danger the trailer parks face and when they could be in danger.None of the other council members challenged Rappaports assessment of the relocation.Pitkin County commissioners appeared surprised by the policy shift. Chairman Mick Ireland started the discussion by asking how the county could help implement the relocation. The 52 units at the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park are almost exclusively contained in a little island of Pitkin County within Basalt town limits. The county issued the trailer parks operating permit.When Ireland learned the relocation of residents might not happen anytime soon, he responded that he didnt want the commissioners remembered for creating the Ninth Ward of Basalt. The comment was a reference to an area of New Orleans that flooding hit hardest after Hurricane Katrina and remains in redevelopment limbo.Have we at least done swimming lessons? said County Commissioner Patti Clapper, expressing concern about this year.Basalt Town Manager Bill Efting said emergency management teams, which include officials from Pitkin County and Basalt, have a system in place to alert the residents of the trailer parks and other neighborhoods if flooding poses a risk this spring.The trailer park relocation is only part of a River Master Plan that Basalt is reassessing. A consultant estimated the plan, to ease the flooding threat in Basalt and enhance the communitys connection to its streams, would cost $15 million to $17 million to implement. After going through some sticker shock, the council decided we needed a second opinion, Efting said.The town is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Sacramento, Calif., to assess the work needed.In a nutshell, were on hold until we get a second opinion on costs, Efting said.Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux said the consultants plan would require altering a good deal of riparian habitat the wetlands along the river. Is all that really necessary, or is it overkill? he said.Duroux said the level of private sector development it would take to fund the plan at the trailer park sites and elsewhere would come at too high a cost to the community, according to town studies. What came from that was pretty scary, he said.Scott Condons e-mail address is email@example.com
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