Basalt mayor candidates talk about preserving small-town character
Editor’s note: The Aspen Times will run Q&A’s for the next several days with the candidates in Basalt’s April 7 election. Ballots were mailed to voters Monday. There will be three days of Q&A with the mayor candidates followed by three days with the six candidates for three council seats.
Aspen Times: The amount of growth is always a hot topic in the valley. Do you think council action is needed to preserve Basalt’s small-town character?
Rob Leavitt: I have said over and over that we can’t build our way out of a growth problem. I also think that preserving Basalt’s “small-town character” is one of the primary jobs of Town Council. This does not mean stopping all growth and change. There are plenty of measures town government can and should take to enhance Basalt. There are currently some exciting possibilities for upgrading and improving Midland Avenue, making it more pedestrian and business friendly with wider sidewalks and better crosswalks. Parking is always going to be an issue in Old Town and in Willits, and Town Council must be vigilant about maximizing parking whenever possible. Eventually, under the watchful eye of local government, the Clark’s Market parcel will be redeveloped and provide an exciting opportunity for downtown to be reimagined. Finally, growth is not a Basalt issue or an Aspen issue, it is an issue for the entire valley and beyond. We must have strong relationships with surrounding jurisdictions, communicate, and work together to prevent the RFV from becoming another I-70 corridor.
Bill Infante: A recent article penned by Todd Hartley describes a neighborhood where kids play soccer, and neighbors help neighbors repair a roof. This community has character, vitality, empathy, cohesion. Though surrounded by Basalt, it’s actually in unincorporated Eagle County. No Town Council or political jurisdiction can ordain character, but they can create the conditions that enfranchise citizens by valuing their input, foster inclusion through outreach, and inspire a common purpose through enlightened leadership. Big city neighborhoods can have small-town character if people share allegiance to common values: teamwork, commitment, respect, integrity, trustworthiness. The notion that NO growth protects small-town character reflects a failure of leadership to lead, and to model the behaviors that bring people together. Leaders listen to citizens, and chart a path that others follow because it reflects their will. We want our businesses to grow, arts to flourish and community to thrive — this doesn’t mean that we sacrifice small-town character. Town Council can act to preserve small-town character by modeling the behavior that it seeks to inspire. Town Council needs to rebuild trust by listening to residents, businesses and all stakeholders who, though they may not vote, are part of our community and make us one Basalt.
Bill Kane: In reality, the town of Basalt has and continues to preserve its small-town character with controlled growth. We have a definitive and strictly enforced urban growth boundary, which is common to most progressive, growth-conscious towns. We have participated financially in five major conservation easements, which will eliminate most treats for urban sprawl. These are: Saltonstall Ranch, Glassier Ranch, Grange Ranch, Sopris Chase property at the high school and the Cerise Ranch. Our southern boundary is protected by the Roaring Fork Club and Pitkin County, and our east side by federal land (BLM). We must do better to control growth on the Highway 82 corridor and this will require more work with Eagle County. As mayor, I would lead an effort to strengthen our say on major development activities in our valley. Most development that has taken place in the Old Town area has been for nonprofits and affordable housing, which is a form of growth that nearly everyone supports. It is time to use our comp plan process to carefully evaluate our future. As a professional planner with more than 46 years of working experience in the valley, I feel uniquely qualified to take on this responsibility.