Basalt is stuck with the ugly black fence

This is a view of the former Pan and Fork site in Basalt, looking west. The town-owned Basalt River Park is to the left, adjacent to the Roaring Fork River.
Aspen Times file

Who is wearing the black hat when it comes to the unsightly black fence in the heart of Basalt? It depends on perspective.

Basalt officials are peeved with the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. for keeping the fence up for the past three years on property it owns between Midland Avenue and the Rocky Mountain Institute. A development group headed by Tim Belinski has an option to buy the property and received approval from the town for a project. In addition, the town has a contract to buy about 1 acre of the site to enlarge a riverside park.

However, Belinski’s group won’t close on the purchase until the Federal Emergency Management Agency revises its floodplain map and certifies the property can be developed. The process could take months.

Meanwhile, Basalt officials have become increasingly agitated about the fence, as have some town residents. Mayor Bill Kane reported to the rest of the council Tuesday that he approached several parties affiliated with Roaring Fork CDC about the fence in recent days.

“They’re disinclined to take the fence down until the deal is done,” Kane said. “The black fence will be with us for a while.”

Roaring Fork CDC President Michael McVoy said it’s within the town’s power to take action that will lead to removal of the fence, at least on the piece of the site the town will buy.

“We have defined exactly what it’s going to take,” McVoy said. “The reality is, the town controls when the fence comes down.”

Roaring Fork CDC offered earlier this year to separate the town’s purchase of property from the purchase of the remainder of the site by Belinski’s group. Unlike Belinski, the town doesn’t need FEMA flood map revision to close on the property.

McVoy said the town government hasn’t been able to proceed with the steps necessary to complete the purchase. He received a letter from the town staff this week explaining that more time was needed to compile all the information necessary to obtain a subdivision final plat.

Kane said the work should be completed within the next month to finalize the plat so the town’s purchase can be completed. He said subdivision of the property wasn’t possible until after Belinski received his approval. That was in February. Kane acknowledged he was disappointed that the process has taken so long.

McVoy said additional bureaucratic steps have slowed the sale of the property. He said he urged the town to apply to FEMA for the flop revision map in July 2019. Roaring Fork CDC, Belinski’s group and the town government agreed to divide the fee for the process. The application wasn’t submitted until early this year. Town officials previously said a development plan was needed prior to the application; McVoy disputes that.

Once FEMA approves the map revision, which is expected any day, there is a 120-day appeal period.

McVoy said private investors that helped Roaring Fork CDC acquire the property want the sale — and, thus, removal of the fence — to go through as quickly as possible. They don’t get repaid until the sale goes through.

Kane is optimistic the town’s part of the sale can proceed in a few weeks.


See more