Pitco urges Basalt’s leaders to stay tough on development | AspenTimes.com

Pitco urges Basalt’s leaders to stay tough on development

Two Pitkin County commissioners urged the Basalt Town Council this week to put the screws to developers or get overwhelmed by an onslaught of growth.Commissioner Mick Ireland told the Basalt officials during a joint meeting Tuesday that the only way to assure that housing stays affordable is to use appreciation caps. He also advised targeting housing toward lower-income people who are really struggling to stay in the valley.Ireland said simplifying “onerous government regulations” sounds good but rarely achieves the goal of maintaining affordability. For example, the North 40 project at the Aspen Business Center was allowed to proceed with simplified rules that required houses to be bought by full-time valley residents, but eased income limits and appreciation restrictions. Without caps, sale prices for some of the affordable housing has soared to more than $1 million.”That really harms your program,” Ireland said.Resident-occupied housing is beyond the financial means of roughly 90 percent of the people seeking affordable housing in Pitkin County, Ireland said. When those types of units are built, it sends a message to the majority that the government isn’t addressing their needs. In addition, the program gets bad publicity over $1 million homes that are supposedly “affordable housing.”Ireland advised Basalt officials to require developers to provide affordable housing with deed restrictions because “they work.” Buyers of many affordable housing units in the upper valley must have incomes under specific levels to qualify. Annual appreciation caps are also common.Without deed restrictions, Ireland said, “Aspen would be a ghost town like Vail is today.”Ireland’s advice was just a warmup. Commissioner Jack Hatfield said the vital issue isn’t how much affordable housing developers provide. It’s whether the developments should even get approval.”We’re under assault,” Hatfield said. “Our valley’s under assault. We’re essentially [seeing] a feeding frenzy in the real estate market.”We’re facing ruination, I think, of our quality of life.”Hatfield said the county and town have to work together to limit the amount of development that occurs on the outskirts of Basalt. About six applicants are asking Basalt to annex their land and approve projects on the periphery of town. If annexation doesn’t occur, Pitkin County would handle the review of development proposals.Hatfield said he felt the commissioners would allow only low-density projects on Basalt’s outskirts if the town refused the annexation requests. That would be the best way for Basalt to maintain its small-town character, he said.”If you want to give it away, then approve this project and the 10 in line,” Hatfield said.Basalt Town Council members showed little reaction to the advice from Hatfield and Ireland. Mayor Leroy Duroux acknowledged that growth is an issue throughout the region. “The greatest travesty is to drive up to Missouri Heights and what’s going on up there,” he said.In a recent meeting of mayors from the towns throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and western Garfield County, even Rifle and Silt lamented the loss of affordable housing, Duroux noted. Debeque, a tiny town along Interstate 70 between Rifle and Grand Junction, is experiencing a boom because it’s one of the last affordable places remaining, he said.Duroux said the best approach is to give people the opportunity to live where they work.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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