Opposition forces withdrawl of Basalt fieldhouse proposal | AspenTimes.com

Opposition forces withdrawl of Basalt fieldhouse proposal

The owner of the former Clark's Market space in Basalt withdrew a proposal to lease the vacant building to the town government for use as a fieldhouse Tuesday because of opposition.

Frank Taverna opened discussions with the Basalt Town Council one month ago for possible use of the 20,000-square-foot downtown building for indoor playing fields for soccer, lacrosse and other community activities. Taverna's preliminary proposal called for him to share the cost of retrofits of the space with the town and for the town to commit to a five-year lease. He and town staff members have been working on details for the past month. The details were going to be unveiled to the council Tuesday night, but Taverna informed Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon at about 3 p.m. that he was withdrawing from discussions.

Scanlon said the town received 10 to 15 emails in opposition to the town spending public funds to lease the space as well as "a pile of envelopes" from members of the Basalt Downtown Business Association in opposition. The opposition rolled in over the past "four or five days," according to Scanlon. Letters weren't available Tuesday night because the council and staff were still in a council meeting.

Parents and organizers of youth soccer and lacrosse had voiced support for the concept.

“Once he started seeing all of this, he said it really wasn’t worth it.”
Town Manager Mike Scanlon

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Scanlon said Taverna was informed about the opposition to the proposal in recent days.

"Once he started seeing all of this, he said it really wasn't worth it," Scanlon said.

Taverna read a brief statement to the council that said sparking controversy among the business community and residents was the opposite of what he wanted to do. He said he wanted the property used for a beneficial purpose for the public.

"When this process started, I didn't know it was going to be a political and personal football," he said.

Clark's Market vacated the space in July. Taverna told the council last month that he has approached numerous other grocers about leasing the space but that there's been no interest. The property currently does not fit a grocer's needs because of limitations, he said.

Scanlon told the council Tuesday that there was misperception among some members of the public that Taverna's proposal would be a financial boon for him at the expense of Basalt taxpayers.

"Sometime in the last two weeks, this became 'Frank's trying to make a gazillion dollars,'" Scanlon said.

In reality, the capital investment Taverna would have been required to make to convert the space into a fieldhouse would have been difficult for him to recoup through the rent being discussed, according to Scanlon.

The council members said little but thanked Taverna for discussing the idea.

The Downtown Business Association was formed about one year ago to revitalize the commercial core. The former Clark's space is one of the keys to the downtown's future. For now, it remains empty.

During a community planning process earlier this year where residents and people with an interest in Basalt were asked to sketch their visions for the future of the town on aerial maps, the sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of redeveloping the former Clark's space. Taverna has said he has no interest in selling in the immediate future.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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