Is the clock ticking for Basalt’s last ranches?
A former Basalt councilman fears last week marked the beginning of the end for three working ranches on the outskirts of town.Jon Fox-Rubin claimed the council’s decision to review a golf club’s expansion proposal on one of the three ranches threatens to seal the fate of all three.If the golf club’s plan is approved, that will set a precedent for the minimum amount of development that will be allowed on the other ranches, he predicted.He unsuccessfully lobbied the council to delay reviewing the golf club’s plan until the future of all three ranches could be discussed. He wants the community to come up with a plan that rewards the owners for their stewardship while proposing development that benefits the entire town. If done right, he said, the plan could include conservation easements that allow ranching to continue without penalizing the owners.
Instead, the town embarked on a haphazard planning process, Fox-Rubin said.In an informal vote, the council decided 3-1 to review the Roaring Fork Club’s proposal to expand onto the ranch of Guido Meyer and his family. The club wants to add nine holes of golf and 24 luxury cabins on Meyer’s 190 acres. The plan also includes 10 single-family home lots for the Meyers and 36 affordable housing units.Although Basalt has beefed up its land-use planning efforts over the past eight years, it has pussyfooted around the touchy topic of what should happen on the three prominent ranches on its boundaries. The Meyers ranch is squashed between the high-density Elk Run subdivision and the previously approved portion of the Roaring Fork Club.Across Highway 82 is Reno Cerise’s ranch, which also abuts a portion of the golf club as well as the Southside residential area. Farther downvalley but contiguous with the town is the Grange family ranch.
Neither the Cerises nor the Granges have submitted development proposals, but the challenges of ranching and the high land prices in the valley appear to make changes inevitable at some point.Basalt completed a comprehensive land-use master plan in 1999. Of the three ranches, only a portion of the Meyer ranch was included in the urban growth boundary, an area identified as suitable for growth. A key component of the master plan states that the use of a property will remain as it is “unless a property is specifically identified with a future land-use designation.” In other words, ranches will remain ranches until a master plan update determines proper uses.”The meetings have been held. The community has spoken,” town resident David Cramer told the council last week. Like Fox-Rubin, he urged the board to stick with the master plan until it is updated.The council strayed from that course. The majority said it would be unfair to delay the Roaring Fork Club’s review until the community master plan is updated later this year.
Board members also claimed the town could review the golf club’s application while at the same time using community input from a citizen survey to determine what level of input the public wants. That survey is being conducted as part of the master plan update.Fox-Rubin predicted that decision means the Cerise and Grange ranches will also be eyed for golf course development. He questioned if golf courses are the long-term answer to Basalt’s economic viability given their proliferation in the valley.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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