Basalt council deadlocked on Skico housing plan 2-2; discussion will resume June 11 |

Basalt council deadlocked on Skico housing plan 2-2; discussion will resume June 11

This image shows where Aspen Skiing Co. is proposing an affordable housing project in Willits Town Center. Whole Foods is in the upper center of the photo. Highway 82 is on the upper end. Willits Lane is off the photo on the bottom end.
Courtesy image

Aspen Skiing Co. doubled down on its preferred alternative for an affordable-housing project in Basalt in an effort to coax approval Tuesday night from the Town Council, but the strategy failed, at least temporarily.

Skico submitted a second alternative to the town government late last week after getting feedback from the council at a May 14 meeting. Some council members wanted more parking and a change in the unit mix in Skico’s project.

But Skico representatives opened Tuesday night’s meeting by saying their second alternative wasn’t viable so they wouldn’t discuss it.

David Corbin, Skico senior vice president of planning and development, said updated cost estimates showed alternative two wasn’t economically viable because it cost more than 30% what alternative one was penciled in for last December. Even alternative one is now estimated to cost 17% more now than it did in December, he said.

“I’m sad you brought alternative two when you really didn’t mean it.” — Mayor Jacque Whitsitt

The math is clear — alternative two cannot be pursued, Corbin said.

“We can’t make it viable,” he said.

Philip Jeffreys, Skico’s project manager, took the microphone and tried to sell alternative one.

“I know that sounded a little dire, but I’m really excited about alternative one,” he said.

Jeffreys said he felt Skico’s presentation on its preferred alternative was rushed at the May 14 meeting, so he wanted to take more time to explain it.

Skico’s preferred alternative is for 36 units comprising 148 bedrooms — everything from one to six bedrooms each. The plan would provide eight units of rent-controlled housing for non-Skico employees, with a priority for child care workers.

Skico wanted to address parking obligations by building 34 off-street spaces on its property and buying 33 units on public streets that it would buy from the town for $202,000.

In its alternative plan, Skico reduced the unit numbers a bit and changed the mix. The biggest change was it would build a 77-space underground parking garage rather than rely on spaces on the street.

The majority of members of the public who spoke at the meeting favored alternative two. Carol Hawk, a resident of Willits, said many neighborhood residents didn’t attend the meeting because they thought alternative two would advance and they found it acceptable.

The council was split over the project.

“I’m sad you brought alternative two when you really didn’t mean it,” Mayor Jacque Whitsitt told the Skico officials.

Councilman Ryan Slack expressed reservations about Skico’s preferred alternative.

On the other side of the ledger were Councilmen Gary Tennenbaum and Bill Infante. Tennenbaum said Basalt encourages landowners and developers to propose creative ways to provide affordable housing.

“I look at this as a project that we ought to be encouraging,” Tennenbaum said.

He later added, “I really want to see this project happen. Skico is a partner in Basalt.”

Skico’s proposal failed to advance, at least for the time being. Councilman Auden Schendler is a Skico executive so he recused himself from voting, as required. Councilwomen Katie Schwoerer and Jennifer Riffle missed the meeting because of prior plans. That left only four voting members and they were split 2-2.

The council voted to continue the meeting until June 11 when more members will be in attendance.