New issues cloud Basalt library plans | AspenTimes.com

New issues cloud Basalt library plans

Three years after debate started over where to build a new midvalley library, the issue remains about as muddy as the Roaring Fork River during spring runoff.

The Basalt Regional Library District’s board of directors wants to build a primary new facility near downtown Basalt and a smaller annex in the El Jebel area. But new twists have developed in the last few days to cloud those plans.

Basalt town government officials had a reserved if not lukewarm response Tuesday night to the library district’s proposal to buy 19,000 square feet of land at the Levinson property for $460,000. The town-owned Levinson property is just west of downtown, where Taqueria el Nopal is located.

The library board also asked the Town Council to give it 15,000 square feet of town-owned land in the Willits subdivision. That land would be used to build a 5,000-square-foot library and provide parking. In return, the library district would give the town the existing library.

But library district board members disclosed Tuesday night that a new proposal from the Crawford family has them reconsidering where to build an El Jebel annex. Representatives of the Crawford family have offered free land between Highway 82 and the bowling alley, according to library board member Bruce Gabow.

The district is studying whether it could relocate the existing library building from Basalt to El Jebel. The cost would be about $300,000 to move and reassemble the building.

Town Council concerns

The library district wants an answer from the town about the purchase proposal for the Levinson land by June 18. The board’s goal is to seek voter approval in November for a bond issue to fund the purchase of the land and construction of a two-story, 17,000-square-foot library.

To get on the November ballot, the terms of the purchase must be worked out with the town within the next three weeks. But the Town Council warned Tuesday night that they need time to evaluate the proposal.

A memo prepared by the town staff noted that the $460,000 purchase proposal would be a $300,000 discount on the land’s market value. In addition, using 19,000 square feet of the property would make it difficult for the town to offset the discount by selling the remaining parcel.

The staff memo claimed the library district’s proposal essentially requires a town government subsidy.

“Asking the town for more resources is shifting the problem to the town of Basalt taxpayers,” the memo said. “If the library board makes the political decision to pursue two libraries, then those libraries should be scaled and costed (sic) to fit library district resources.”

The nature center

Town Council members also said they wanted the library district’s plan integrated more fully with a plan by the Roaring Fork Conservancy to build a nature center on the Levinson property. The nature center would be adjacent to the library.

Library board members objected that they approached the Conservancy’s architects but were told plans for the nature center weren’t far enough along yet to meld planning.

Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens said he still believes the Levinson property is the perfect place for a library and nature center. He said he is concerned that library district voters might not approve a bond issue to build both a downtown facility and an El Jebel annex.

If the bond issue fails, he is concerned about the town’s ability to sell the Levinson land, which it needs to do to help recoup funds spent to purchase it. The town wants to sell half the property and preserve the other half as a riverside park.

Gabow said the library district board believes the only chance of getting a ballot question passed is to propose facilities in both Basalt and El Jebel. If one facility is eliminated, the ballot question would instantly face a big block of opposition.

“There are all these different camps here,” he said.

Stevens said the town has to have a “plan B” for the Levinson property in case the library’s question fails.

The council decided to refer the library district’s proposal to a special citizens’ committee convened to advise the council on Levinson property issues. Town Manager Tom Baker said he would urge that committee to complete its review in time to let the Town Council accept, reject or refine the library district’s proposal before June 18.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]


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