Golf expansion in Basalt gains momentum
After spending 43 days in limbo, the developers of a private golf club received good news from the Basalt town government last night.The Town Council and planning commission decided to review the Roaring Fork Club’s proposal to add nine holes to its golf course and build 24 luxury cabins rather than put it on hold while a land use “master plan” is updated.Several town officials said it would be unfair to Jim Light and the other partners in the golf club to make them wait for that master plan since they submitted their application seven months ago.”That’s a little draconian,” Planning Commissioner Bill Maron said about a potential delay. “I really don’t think we’re dealing with the evil empire.”The application’s fate was up in the air after an April 5 meeting. The town faced heavy pressure from some residents to delay deciding whether to annex land where the club wants to expand and to delay reviewing the expansion plan. Basalt residents Jon Fox-Rubin, David Cramer, Auden Schendler and Jim Paussa have consistently urged the council to let residents engage in a thorough planning process to determine the best use of the land just east of Elk Run subdivision, where the club wants to expand.Cramer claimed the developers have unfairly focused the debate on whether a golf course would be better than high-density housing like Elk Run. What residents don’t realize, he said, is it’s not an either-or situation. Thorough planning by a broad spectrum of residents could define other, better uses for the land, he said. That group’s lobbying has been offset by about a dozen prominent businessmen who previously urged the council to review the golf project rather than delay it for more planning. John Black, a member of that contingent, told the council last night that delaying the review could haunt the town by driving the developer away. “This isn’t an opportunity that will always be there,” he said.Town Manager Bill Efting said the divisiveness placed the council and planning commission in a tough spot. “Is it going to be a perfect process? Probably not,” Efting acknowledged.But determining the process wasn’t particularly tough for the council and planning commission members, who met in a joint meeting. In straw polls, the council voted 3-1 to let the review of the Roaring Fork Club go concurrently with the master plan update. That way extra comments from residents could be solicited for the golf club review, the majority said.Mayor Leroy Duroux and council members Laurie Dows and Glenn Rappaport supported that position. Anne Freedman was opposed.The planning commission supported the same strategy by a 4-1 vote.Rappaport said the decision shouldn’t be interpreted as approval of the golf club’s plan, but some officials’ comments raised questions about whether they have made up their minds about the club’s expansion before they get to the nuts and bolts of the review.Planning commission Chairman Joe Zuena claimed that 90 to 95 percent of town residents “are obviously in favor of it” since they weren’t attending hearings on the club’s expansion. As chairman, Zuena will be responsible for presiding over what is supposed to be impartial review and public hearings on the club’s project.Duroux, who will preside over his board’s future hearings on the project, also showed his hand. He said several new businesses that have started up in Basalt probably wouldn’t exist without the Roaring Fork Club. He also noted the club provides hefty amounts of property taxes for the school district although the homeowners there don’t have kids in local schools.Duroux also credited the application for supplying land that could be used to relocate residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park, which is in the potential path of a flood of the Roaring Fork River.Duroux was against delaying review of the club’s expansion because he claimed the master planning process wouldn’t change the use of the targeted land. If anything, residents would likely support increasing the density there above what the club is proposing, he said.”It would be a mistake for me to say let’s hold this up for nine months,” Duroux said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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