New twist holds promise for trailer residents | AspenTimes.com

New twist holds promise for trailer residents

Local governments and a private development firm are squaring off to see which can offer a better housing deal to residents of a trailer park in Basalt that’s marked for redevelopment.

Whatever the outcome of the competition, it appears that 57 families that live in the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park could be the winners. After years of debate over their fate, Basalt and Pitkin County officials now seem determined to reach a settlement as soon as possible.

The governments are going to explore what it would cost for Basalt to buy land and develop infrastructure for new housing. That will determine how much would have to be charged to buyers for a lot and housing.

While the governments are undertaking that study, a development group that is buying the mobile home park will come up with its own proposed costs for selling trailer park residents replacement housing at a different site.

The fate of the 57 families is up in the air because recent studies show the entire park is threatened by high volumes and high levels of water in the Roaring Fork River in case of a 100-year flood.

A master plan completed by the town for its river corridor says the mobile home park must be relocated out of harm’s way. The development firm plans to close on the property in the next two weeks. Company spokesman David Fiore said his team is working on a redevelopment plan for the trailer park as well as the relocation plan for the residents.

But some government officials are concerned the residents may not be able to afford the housing Fiore plans to build.

County Commissioner Mick Ireland suggested that Basalt follow the county’s model of buying land for the trailer park, subdividing, then selling individual lots to the trailer owners. That model has worked in places like Smuggler, Aspen Village, Lazy Glen and Woody Creek, he said.

“You can make it all work, and you can make it work in two years,” Ireland said. “That sounds like a long time but it’s a short time in this business.”

Ireland suggested that Basalt negotiate to buy property near Basalt High School, which Fiore’s group has under contract and intends to develop for housing.

Commissioner Jack Hatfield agreed that the town of Basalt must “take the lead” on the issue.

“Move the residents for their health, safety and welfare,” he said. “I don’t know that we need 10 more meetings like this.”

Basalt Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt also pressed for government intervention to give the trailer park residents peace of mind that they will be helped. Basalt’s regulations require the developers of the trailer park to replace housing units, but not necessarily housing for the residents they displace.

“These are not pork bellies. These are people. They need a place to go,” Whitsitt said.

She wants their fate settled before the town’s next election in April 2004, when as many as four board positions could turn over.

“I don’t want to leave the next board with this same problem. That’s crazy,” Whitsitt said. “Let’s not act like government today [by delaying].”

But Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens said he didn’t think the town could or necessarily should be the one buying land, developing infrastructure and selling property. He said he was counting more on the developers than government to come up with a solution. And the developers have more incentive – that being profit – to do the job. He suggested that the Basalt council simply needs to work on an agreement with Fiore’s group.

“Let’s not blow it,” Stevens said.

Fiore said his group will eventually reach an attractive proposal for the residents. Without going into details, he said his group wants to develop diverse housing – with a combination of deed-restricted and free-market residences – near the high school. If government can beat his group’s offer, he would encourage it to do so, he said.

Neither group set a timetable for completing their studies.

Fiore’s group will also propose a mix of commercial and residential development at the current site of the trailer park. It is believed that part of the property can be safely redeveloped if flood mitigation steps are taken.

The property is just south of the Roaring Fork River and north of Highway 82. It is located in unincorporated Pitkin County even though it is just a short distance from downtown Basalt.

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


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