NIMBY battle erupts over Basalt housing push |

NIMBY battle erupts over Basalt housing push

Further proof that Basalt is taking after Aspen appeared Tuesday night when a battle began over the town’s first significant employee housing development.

Although only a small fraction of homes have been developed in a huge new project called Willits, property owners there have already discovered they have something in common – they don’t want more employee housing in their back yards.

Form letters objecting to a particular type of affordable housing called accessory dwelling units were sent by 15 people who have built homes in Willits or are preparing to build. Another couple drafted their own letter.

None of the “authors” attended a joint meeting of the planning commission and Town Council Tuesday night.

The letters urged the town government to avoid creating up to 111 additional accessory dwelling units – or ADUs, as they are called – in their neighborhood of Willits. That development, formerly known as Sopris Meadows, is located just upvalley from the El Jebel City Market.

“Please respect the investment I made,” the form letter states. “Please pay attention to what we, the community members, want.” Town wants housing The lobbying effort could create an interesting dilemma for the Basalt Town Council. A scientific sampling performed for the council last year showed about 83 percent of Basalt residents surveyed said they want some type of action taken to address the shortage of affordable housing.

Slightly more than 43 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “the town should require developers to mitigate the impacts of their project by providing affordable housing or equivalent funds as part of their projects.”

That’s what the Town Council is attempting to do with Willits. The town has delayed final approvals for most of the project until the developers offer more employee housing.

Developers Michael Lipkin, Clay Crossland and Paul Adams had already proposed 212 affordable housing bedrooms as part of their project. Under pressure from the council, they unveiled a plan last month that could add between 192 and 302 additional affordable housing bedrooms.

As part of that plan, the developers are suggesting that accessory dwelling units could be approved, but not required, for 111 additional single-family homes in Willits. There are already 44 ADUs approved.

ADUs are apartments of up to 750 square feet. Typically they will be built over garages of homes in Willits. Foes raise valid points While most town officials support the effort to add affordable housing at Willits, some also acknowledge the NIMBY form letters raised legitimate points.

The letter writers claimed that an additional 111 ADUs would make the density of their neighborhood unbearable. They noted that the Willits developers are providing a significant number of apartments and townhouses elsewhere in the project, which could “provide the affordable housing you feel we so desperately need.”

The developers’ plan, if accepted as proposed, would create between 404 and 514 bedrooms of affordable housing in Willits.

Planning commission chairman Gary Wheeler said he didn’t feel all 111 single-family home lots targeted for ADUs were suitable for the additions. On the other hand, he said he supports the idea of higher-density developments at places like Willits, so remaining open space elsewhere can be preserved.

Planning commission member Nina Dunn said she didn’t think Willits should bear the responsibility of providing all of Basalt’s affordable housing.

Member Doug Graybeal questioned how the single-family neighborhood of Willits would absorb all the vehicles and traffic if another 111 ADUs are approved.

The planning commission didn’t reach any conclusion about the developers’ affordable housing plans. They are scheduled to take the issue up later this month, as is the Town Council.

It’s unknown whether the form-letter writers will play a greater role in the debate. Those submitting letters objecting to the ADUs were: Keith Marlow, J. Christopher Chaffin and Stefan Peirson of Snowmass Village; Rich Garigen of Grand Junction; Carmelo Leo Danna and Cheryl Browning, Christine Lagow, Amy Hausman, Rainer Ritthaler, Karen Stasiowski, Robert and Linda Weiner of Basalt; Chuck Carlson, Diane Keyser and Kelly Daun of Aspen; Karen Signell of San Francisco; and Kenneth and Oma Clark of Lindenhurst, Ill.

Willits property owners Gerald and Marie Lucas of New York penned their own letter objecting to the additional ADUs.

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