Land-use battles wear down Basalt mayor
BASALT ” The differences that have split the Basalt Town Council are wearing Mayor Leroy Duroux down to the point where he questions whether it is worth seeking another term, he said Wednesday.
Duroux’s four-year term ends in May. He is uncertain if he will seek re-election.
“I haven’t decided yet for sure, but I guess the frustration level is making up my mind,” he said.
Duroux has been a council member since he was appointed in 1994. He was elected to two four-year terms as a councilman in 1996 and 2000, and easily was elected mayor in 2004.
Although council members have continually changed during his tenure, Duroux usually was firmly among the majority. Now, after three new members swept into office on a slow-growth platform in the last election, he finds himself on the short end of the votes.
The current group dynamics are difficult for him, he said. He disagrees with the decisions the majority is making on some major land-use decisions for the town.
His frustration spilled out Tuesday night when the council considered whether to pass the land-use master plan the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission approved. Five council members spent more than an hour debating whether they should set a rigid or somewhat flexible urban growth boundary ” the area where Basalt wants to grow. Duroux, who doesn’t have an assertive style as mayor, had difficulty joining the discussion. When he finally did, he noted, “most people don’t care what I have to say.”
Duroux wanted to keep the growth boundary flexible so the town would have as many tools as possible to solve problems. The biggest issue facing Basalt now, he said, is providing adequate amounts of affordable housing.
Duroux noted that many people are concerned that Basalt is getting too big. But he claimed that the number of houses and other structures doesn’t determine small-town character. It’s determined by cultivating a diverse population and keeping people involved with community organizations, he said.
Restricting the town’s boundaries restricts chances to add affordable housing to town, according to Duroux. “You can’t have no growth and add affordable housing.”
He was on the losing end of a 4-2 vote. The majority claimed there are plenty of opportunities to add affordable housing within the town core without sprawling into open lands around town. The master plan they approved allows nearly 2,100 new residences within the growth boundary.
Duroux repeated his concern Wednesday that the town is losing the type of people that fuel volunteer efforts and community groups. As real estate values escalate, more second-home owners are moving to Basalt.
“People aren’t asking what can I do to make the community better,” Duroux said. “What we’re losing right now are the ‘doers.'”
Duroux has been a tireless “doer” in the town where he has lived nearly all his life. He and his wife Janice are involved in numerous school and civic endeavors. But he sounded Wednesday like a man who is uncertain if he wants to be a “doer” on the Town Council any longer.
Duroux said he won’t make a final decision about seeking re-election until it is time for candidates to fill out petitions.
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It’s hard to fight City Hall and even harder to fight well-funded neighbors who don’t want any development near them, a local man has realized. So he settled for less than what he and his partner bought the property for.