Golf club expansion foes: Basalt deserves better | AspenTimes.com
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Golf club expansion foes: Basalt deserves better

Civic activism has gone high-tech in Basalt where two men have launched an Internet-based petition drive designed to prevent the expansion of a private golf course.Jon Fox-Rubin and Jim Paussa are using e-mail to direct people to their online petition in opposition to the Roaring Fork Golf Club’s proposal to add a nine-hole course and 24 luxury cabins on two ranches east of town. The golf and fishing club currently has an 18-hole course and 48 luxury cabins.The petition also asks the Town Council to sponsor a planning meeting where residents can voice their opinions on what they would like to see on the land where the club wants to expand.Fox-Rubin, a former councilman who left office in April, said he helped start the petition because he believes many Basalt residents are confused about the town’s options. The misperception exists, he said, that there are only two choices for the ranches – either a private golf course with a limited number of luxury homes or a high-density development.He said those are “false choices” designed to lead people to believe they have no choice but to support the golf course.”The developer has chosen a use for the land and is now trying to sell the idea to the town,” said a golf club expansion “fact sheet” circulated by Fox-Rubin and Paussa. “We who live in Basalt ought to be the ones that define what use will provide the most benefit to our community.”Using the leverageInstead of rushing to a decision, the golf course foes want the town to take its time reviewing the proposal. As an alternative to the usual review process – where the developer and the development foes marshal their forces and show up for public hearings – Fox-Rubin and Paussa want the council to host a town meeting and a series of planning sessions to determine how the land should be used.While the idea appears to be taking liberties by allowing the public to decide how private property owners should use their land, Fox-Rubin said the town actually has leverage in this case.The golf course expansion isn’t possible unless the town government annexes the land, which is owned by the Guido Meyer and Wy Kittle families.”[The land] is mostly in Pitkin County and has extremely limited development rights,” said the golf course foes’ fact sheet. “Time is actually on our side regarding this important decision, so we can study all the options before deciding what we want.”The opposition leaders said they don’t want to spark a big community controversy. “If people say they like it, we’ll back off,” Fox-Rubin said.But he claimed numerous people have already expressed opposition to the project. Fox-Rubin himself said he understands how the proposal would be good for the developers – an investment team headed by Snowmass Village developers Jim Light and Jim Chaffin – but he’s unconvinced it is good for the town.”For me it’s a hard sell that you need to expand that golf course for golf’s sake,” Fox-Rubin said. The addition of nine holes is just a way to justify building 24 more luxury cabins, he contended.’Big benefit, low cost’Light said he and his partners would respectfully decline to participate in a community planning process to determine how they should develop the ranches. For one thing, he said, they have a contract to lease the property so they couldn’t tell the families what to do with the land if the golf proposal doesn’t progress.In addition, Light said, he’s not sure who Fox-Rubin and Paussa think would put the money and effort into a project designed by the community. He said he and his partners won’t engage in a lengthy review process. If their proposal doesn’t receive a timely review, they won’t have staying power.He stressed that he has no desire to fight over the project, with Fox-Rubin and Paussa or anyone else.Light said he views the proposal as a way to preserve Basalt’s diversity and small-town character. It adds second-home owners who don’t require much in services but add to the tax and customer base.Light confirmed that he has hired Basalt-based consultant Jim Kent to meet with some town residents to discuss the project, gather their opinions and try to answer their concerns. But he said neither the club nor its consultant is spreading the idea that Basalt must choose between a golf course and high-density housing.If Basalt refused to annex the ranches, the Meyer family could apply to Pitkin County to develop a handful of large luxury homes on their 185-acre ranch, Light noted.He believes the golf course, with the undeveloped land necessary for nine holes, and 24 homes of limited size provide benefits to Basalt.”There are no proposed big houses like they have in Aspen,” Light said. “We think we’re helping preserve the small-town character.”Two routes possibleThe club and ranch families intend to submit a formal application to the town in about a month, according to Light. The planning commission and Town Council have discussed holding joint meetings for at least the initial review.The opponents plan to “informally” approach the council this month and gauge the reception for a planning meeting.So far 34 people have signed the petition through a word-of-mouth effort to gather signatures. The petition can be found online at http://www.petitiononline.com/ranches/.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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