Next for Basalt: downtown plan | AspenTimes.com

Next for Basalt: downtown plan

Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

Now that a $5 million bond issue has been approved in Basalt, the town will go whole hog on an effort to ease the flooding potential and restore the natural feel of the Roaring Fork River. That will be the easy part of a grander project.

Town Manager Mike Scanlon said he hopes to launch a process in coming weeks to establish a "community-driven downtown plan" featuring the potential redevelopment of several key parcels. He will seek Town Council support for the proposed work plan at a meeting set for Tuesday.

If approved, Scanlon wants to hire journalist and facilitator Paul Andersen to organize community visioning meetings where residents will be urged to share their ideas for the future of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site and other potential development parcels downtown.

In addition, consultant Jim Kent would be hired to hold small, neighborhood meetings to add a layer to the collaborative process.

If approved, Scanlon wants to hire journalist and facilitator Paul Andersen to organize community visioning meetings where residents will be urged to share their ideas for the future of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site and other potential development parcels downtown.

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Scanlon and the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission have kicked around ideas for a possible interconnected development of some major parcels in the town. Possibilities include Lions Park, the Phillips 66 gas station and the Clark's Market building. The town government owns the park and part of the Pan and Fork site. The gas station and supermarket building are privately owned.

"A larger parcel probably creates more opportunities," Scanlon said.

The big-picture planning could have the advantage of leaving the entire Pan and Fork site as open space and a riverside park, he said.

Scanlon hopes the community can determine a development plan within the next six months.

"I would like to see it flesh out five or six good ideas," he said.

Then the public would be invited again to "kick the tires" of the proposal, he said.

The community visioning effort would allow the town government to plan what public improvements are necessary to accommodate it. One likely amenity that will be required is a public-private parking garage, Scanlon said.

The town would also put out a request for proposals from developers who want to buy into the project and execute the community vision, according to Scanlon.

Scanlon's work plan calls for the creation of an Urban Renewal Authority to raise funds to finance the public improvements needed for the project. A method called tax-increment financing could be used to raise the revenues for public improvements. Bonds would be issued based on the increased value of the property. The extra value would be used to repay the bonds over a set number of years.

Meanwhile, town officials would review the developers' proposal and select one or more to pursue the projects. "We might end up with groups of developers that go together," Scanlon said.

One developer might be an expert in hotels, for example, while another might focus on affordable housing. Ideally, he would like the developer or developers selected by September or October of 2014.

Scanlon said working on getting that plan in place would be his top priority over the next 12 months.

Voter approval to issue $5 million in general- obligation bonds was the vital first domino. Voters approved the bonds 770 to 395 Tuesday, or a margin of 66 to 34 percent. The funds will accelerate the work being undertaken in the bed and on the banks of the Roaring Fork River by American Civil Contractors of Littleton.

In an earlier presentation, Basalt engineer Larry Thompson explained that the contractor would build a temporary dam in the river to allow it to remove cobblestones, regrade the bed and reline it with a special kind of rock. Riverbanks will be stabilized. The town will also turn about 2.5 acres of the former trailer park into riverside open space. The work will guide surging floodwaters into riparian areas, where it can be absorbed.

Scanlon said the river work would extend from the Midland Avenue Bridge to a spot on the river halfway through Old Pond Park, where Taqueria el Nopal is located. Scanlon's goal is to have the river work completed within 18 months.

A track hoe was in the river Wednesday afternoon, preparing the riverbank closest to the Basalt Public Library for an increase in exposure to water. A temporary dam is being erected in the river behind the Taqueria so that a sewer line can be replaced. In later stages, the contractor will replace the old ramshackle berm that has protected the Pan and Fork from floodwater for years with strategically placed rock and a tapered bank.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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