Housing arm of Catholic archdiocese looks at another proposal for Basalt

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

BASALT – The town of Basalt has given a nonprofit arm of the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver a green light to further pursue a housing project at Willits Town Center, according to Mayor Jacque Whitsitt.

The proposed housing would take care of the replacement housing required by the redevelopment of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park as well as mitigate additional housing requirements for that project, according to a memo prepared by the Basalt planning staff for the Town Council.

The Pan and Fork development will displace mobile homes of 38 individuals and families. Basalt has an ordinance on the books that requires all of that housing to be replaced elsewhere in or near the town. The new housing doesn’t necessarily have to be for the residents of the displaced units, but the same number of units must be replaced.

No decision has been made on the proposal for replacement housing at Willits Town Center. Only a work session on the concept has been held so far, Whitsitt said.

If the proposal advances, it will require a partnership with the Pan and Fork owner and the developer with a contract to buy the property. It also will require a purchase of development rights from Mariner Real Estate Management, owner of Willits Town Center.

This is at least the fourth project Archdiocesan Housing has explored in the Basalt area since the early 2000s. Fritz and Fabi Benedict provided a financial gift to the nonprofit to build a project in the Roaring Fork Valley. Prior projects didn’t advance because of land-use issues.

In the latest plan, Archdiocesan Housing is exploring development of a mixed-use building on block No. 4 of the Willits Town Center property. The site is along Willits Lane and is close to bus stops, job centers and amenities such as grocery stores.

“In accordance with the Willits Planned Unit Development, the property can accommodate a three-story, commercial/multi-family building containing an estimated 64 housing units and underground parking,” the planning staff memo said.

Josh Russell, housing director for Archdiocesan Housing, couldn’t be reached Friday for comment. The town planning staff’s memo said the nonprofit housing organization will seek approval to build rental housing rather than deed-restricted, for-sale housing required in the Willits approvals. The Catholic housing arm would manage the rental housing. In its other proposal, Archdiocesan Housing planned to build low-income housing. Its 2009 proposal for housing on a different site said it would target Roaring Fork Valley residents that are at or below 60 percent of the area median income. It couldn’t be determined Friday if that same target exists for the Willits proposal.

Archdiocesan Housing will pursue funding from Basalt, Eagle County and the state of Colorado for the housing project.

Whitsitt said the council wants to look further at the housing proposal. No specific date was set for a return meeting on the plan, she said.