One last appeal for Sopris Chase
BASALT Businessman David Fiore said he will make a final appeal to Basalt officials Tuesday to include land he owns in the urban growth boundary so he can develop an affordable housing project.Some midvalley residents regard Fiore’s Sopris Chase project as one of the last great opportunities for a large affordable housing project. Proponents claim that soaring land costs are closing the door on such projects.Fiore’s company, Western Peak, teamed with the housing division of Catholic Charities to propose 60 low-income rental apartments on land Fiore owns near Basalt High School. In addition, Western Peak proposed building an additional 27 affordable housing units and 28 free-market units at Sopris Chase.The project never gained traction with Basalt officials because of its location. Fiore’s 25 acres west of Basalt High School is outside the town’s urban growth boundary – a boundary designated appropriate for development. The majority of the Basalt Town Council and the planning commission have declined to adjust that boundary to include Fiore’s land.Fiore said he will ask the planning commission a final time Tuesday to adjust the boundary when the board finalizes a land-use master plan that will guide Basalt’s growth for the next five to 10 years.Replacement housing for trailersFiore said his project helps Basalt achieve at least three important goals – it helps preserve a diverse housing mix; it provides replacement housing for residents of the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park; and it allows redevelopment that will include a riverfront park where the trailer homes currently sit.Basalt’s politics have been dominated for the past five years by a desire to move 51 families in the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park out of the Roaring Fork River’s flood plain. Two studies the town government commissioned have concluded that the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park and adjacent Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park are at high risk of being destroyed by a catastrophic flood.A rallying cry in the public and private sector has been to get the trailer park residents “out of harm’s way.”The Town Council passed regulations that reward developments that provide replacement housing for the trailer parks. In addition, town rules require that the trailer units be replaced with affordable housing elsewhere if the trailer parks are redeveloped.Fiore owns the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park, home to 51 families. He said he would guarantee that any resident who wants to relocate to Sopris Chase would have the opportunity to rent or buy a unit there, based on that person’s financial capabilities.Even if all 51 families relocated to Sopris Chase, there would still be a surplus of affordable housing for the benefit of the community, since at least 87 affordable housing units were proposed there, Fiore said.If the trailer park is redeveloped, Fiore would have to provide affordable housing to offset the new demand in workers the project would create. Even factoring in that mitigation, he said, Sopris Chase would still provide a surplus of affordable housing.In other words, he claimed that Sopris Chase could provide replacement housing for the trailer residents, mitigate his affordable housing requirements for a redevelopment of the trailer park and still provide a handful of excess units for the community.Fiore noted that his redevelopment of the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park also would provide a community benefit by creating open space. His redevelopment plan would include donating four acres to the town for a park along the Roaring Fork River.Clash of goalsFiore was unable, in meetings in May and July, to convince the majority of the Town Council that Sopris Chase provided enough benefits to expand the urban growth boundary.Councilman Chris Seldin said he favors preserving the rural buffer around Basalt and promoting construction of affordable housing within the urban growth boundary. Seldin said Basalt has numerous opportunities to add affordable housing within the areas where it wants to allow growth.He listed five projects – Stott’s Mill, Pokorny, Willits Town Center, Jaedwin and the Basalt Design Center – that have the potential to add hundreds of affordable housing units to the town.Seldin said the current board is doing more than any prior board to add affordable housing. Therefore, he said, it is ironic that this board has been criticized for not doing enough to support affordable housing because of its stance on Sopris Chase.But creation of affordable housing isn’t the only factor guiding policy. Seldin acknowledged that he regards preservation of open space and a rural buffer as goals equally important to providing housing.”Could you pave it all? Absolutely,” Seldin said in a recent interview. “Should we? No.”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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