Basalt council grants final approval for Pan and Fork project

The proposed plan for the former Pan and Fork property was approved by the Basalt Town Council Tuesday night. In the area enclosed by the black fence, the half on the left will be development. The half on the right will expand the park in the foreground.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times

Nearly 8½ years after the town of Basalt and a nonprofit organization purchased the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park, a redevelopment plan is finally a reality.

The Basalt Town Council voted 7-0 Tuesday night to approve a development firm’s plan for residences, small office spaces, a restaurant and a permanent home for the Art Base community arts center. A key part of the plan also includes sale of about 1 acre of land for expansion of the downtown park along the Roaring Fork River.

This latest proposal was reviewed by Basalt’s staff and elected officials for about 18 months.

“It’s time for Basalt. It’s time for the Art Base,” said Rich Carr, an architect working with the development team headed by local businessman Tim Belinski.

The site is located just west of downtown, along Two Rivers Road.

The final plan wasn’t what was initially envisioned. When the town government and Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. bought the 5.3-acre site in August 2011, the Community Development Corp. planned to build a nonprofit campus for nonprofit groups as well as a mix of commercial and residential development to provide revenues.

Plans by two possible developers fell flat with town officials and citizens. However, a ballot question for the town to buy the entire parcel also was rejected.

The result was Belinski’s compromise with the town. The project features 24 residences of various sizes. Four will be rent-controlled affordable housing while 20 will be free market. There will be 11,500 square feet of commercial space, which Belinski said would mostly be in small pieces to keep them more affordable.

The Art Base will purchase a 6,000-square-foot space for its new home.

The town government will spend $1.34 million in open space funds to expand the existing park by one acre.

A 3,000-square-foot restaurant with an impressive deck will meld the park into the developed portion of the site.

Just about all the heavy lifting was done earlier in the review process. Another two hours was required Tuesday night to iron out details. Once the mission was accomplished, the development team, a large contingent from the Art Base and town officials broke into a cheer.

One of the biggest issues was phasing of construction. Some council members expressed concern at a Feb. 11 meeting that the developer was proposing a plan that could delay construction of the restaurant for up to seven years.

Belinski stressed Tuesday night the intent is to develop the entire project as quickly as possible.

“We’re not seeking any kind of delay under any circumstances,” he said. “There is no business sense to delaying. The land will be purchased. Construction costs will be ratcheted up exponentially and the interest clock will be ticking on millions of dollars. We need to move and move as quickly as possible.”

If all goes as planned, residential development will begin in March 2021 and transition into phase two with commercial and more residential development in April 2022, according to Belinski.

The Art Base construction would begin in summer 2022 with the restaurant close on its heels in fall 2022. Both the Art Base and restaurant — the amenities with the greatest public connection — would be completed by June 2023 under his outline.

In the meantime, the developer has to prepare space for food trucks or vendors where the restaurant will go.

The developer also must put up $250,000, which the town can spend for any purpose if the restaurant isn’t progressing after seven years.

The council placed several other conditions on the approval. There can be no banks or real estate offices on the first floor of the commercial development. Councilwoman Jenn Riffle warned that downtown could evolve to be similar to Willits if those uses proliferated.

“What do we want our citizens to encounter and experience there?” she said of the downtown site. “You can go to a bank anywhere. You can bank online.” This site should be reserved for special uses, such as the restaurant and Art Base, she said.

Sizes of the residences were also specified to prevent overly large homes from being built.

Real estate transfer assessments of 1.5% will go to affordable housing, 0.25% to the Art Base and 0.25% to “green initiatives.”

Councilman Bill Infante said he was against the assessments, but since it was going to be in place, he proposed that a full 0.5% go to the Art Base. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt expressed confusion over his proposal since he was opposed to the assessment.

Infante responded, “In principle I’m against RETAs, but I’m not going to fight City Hall on that one, Mayor.”

Construction fencing surrounding the site will have to feature art.

Three ordinances and one resolution connected to the approval were passed 7-0.

Former Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens credited the development team, Art Base and council for coming up with a compromise the community wanted.

“One of the things that really struck me is by completing this process we can turn our attention to other needs that have not been solved by this plan on this parcel,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of pent-up stuff in the pipeline that needs attention; maybe it will get that attention given this crosses the finish line.”