Basalt council aims to ease Southside parking issues with ‘weird’ plan

A vacant lot across from Big O Tires in Basalt was approved for an automated car wash. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Basalt town government is proposing to front $75,777 to fix an ongoing parking problem along Southside Drive.

Council on Tuesday night voted 5-1 to approve the second reading of an ordinance for a single-bay, automated car wash at the intersection of Southside Drive and Cody Lane. Most of the board’s nearly one-hour discussion was on a parking arrangement Mayor Bill Kane labeled “weird” but justified in these unusual times. A business entity called the Von Rooyen Group LLC has an option to buy about one acre of land from Aspen Skiing Co. for $1.3 million and develop the car wash.

Under the approve plan, the town will pay $21,777 to acquire right-of-way from the Von Rooyen Group and $54,000 to help construct a 21-space, head-in parking area off Southside Drive. The development group reduced the amount of right-of-way and therefore the price the town would be required to pay since the initial discussion June 23.

The town will potentially recoup the funds by leasing seven spaces each to Big O Tires and Basalt Quick Lube. Staff proposed leasing the spaces for $250 per month to each of the businesses. Town Council members wanted that amount boosted to $350 per month so the town could recover its investment quicker. The remaining seven spaces in the parking lot would be available first-come, first-served.

“Staff sees an opportunity to clear up a rather significant problem over time,” said James Lindt, assistant planning director.

Currently, vehicles from the automotive businesses and other shops in the area park wherever there is space.

Kane expressed support for the plan although he acknowledged it was unconventional.

“It sounds a little weird,” Kane said. “It sounds a little bit outside base paths for what municipal governments might do, but times are weird also.”

The expenditure is justified, he said, because the town will get its money back and possess the land. That could be important if an underpass of Highway 82 is ever developed to connect Southside Drive and Midland Avenue, Kane noted.

Councilman Glenn Drummond said he could “stomach” the plan as long as the parking area is paved rather than gravel. Lindt responded the $54,000 construction project would result in an asphalt lot.

Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said he is concerned the businesses could decline to lease the spots and then use them anyway if the town proceeds. He wanted a caveat to the approval that requires Big O and Quick Lube to lease spaces before the town exercises the option to buy the space and build the parking lot.

“We’re doing them a service because there’s cars all over the place,” Tennenbaum said.

Councilman David Knight opposed the plan. He said the private sector should be solving the problem. He couldn’t justify the town spending $75,777 at a time when economic health is uncertain the coronavirus era.

Councilman Ryan Slack made a motion to approve the plan — with the condition that the town leases seven spaces each to Big O Tires and Quick Lube for $350 per month.

The car wash will keep its approvals regardless of what happens with the parking. Council gave the staff the power to revoke the parking plan if the leases for $350 per month aren’t accepted. If that is the case, the Von Rooyen Group would be required to address its smaller obligation for parking for its car wash operation. The car wash is likely to be completed and opened in 2021.