Pro-park group submits petition to Basalt council | AspenTimes.com

Pro-park group submits petition to Basalt council

A faction of Basalt residents who want less development and more park at the former Pan and Fork site submitted a petition to the Town Council on Tuesday night that claimed it gained the backing of 160 voters in just three days.

Mark Kwiecienski and Patty Lecht submitted a petition that urged the council to allow no more than 33,000 square feet of development on land owned by the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. adjacent to the Rocky Mountain Institute building and fronting Two Rivers Road.

The group wants Basalt to acquire all 2.3 acres owned by Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. The group then wants the town to designate the property closest to Rocky Mountain Institute as a "development parcel" for as much as 26,500 square feet that could be used as a hotel, retail or offices for a nonprofit organization.

The group wants the land next to the development parcel designated as a "community center parcel." Kwiecienski said the petition envisions 6,500 square feet of development on the town parcel for a community center that would host special events year round and could be rented for events such as weddings.

The portion of the property closest to the intersection of Two Rivers Road and Midland Avenue should be kept as open space, the petition said. "No residential development shall be allowed," it read.

The town owns the half of the Pan and Fork site closest to the Roaring Fork River. It's in the process of developing a riverfront park. Kwiecienski's petition seeks to keep additional land by Two Rivers Road as open space.

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Kwiecienski and Lecht said they found "overwhelming" support for the petition even though they didn't start collecting signatures until Sunday. They are the more aggressive of two factions of Basaltines that want less development and more park. They recently split off from Friends of a Basalt River Park, a group that announced earlier in September it was collecting 600 signatures from registered voters in Basalt to support its position of no more than 30,000 square feet of development at the Pan and Fork.

Differences in style led to the split. "The intention is very similar," Kwiecienski said. "I am very much of a doer. They want to do everything by committee.

"I'm not officially part of that group anymore," he said.

Doug MacDonald, an organizer with Friends of a Basalt River Park, agreed that the two factions share similar visions. Kwiecienski's petition is more detailed than the vision seen by Friends of the Basalt River Park, MacDonald said, but they are in general agreement.

"I think we're talking about a little bit difference in style," he said. MacDonald noted that Kwiecienski is "an energetic guy."

Friends of the Basalt River Park sought support for its vision, but it didn't want to launch a formal petition drive unless the council ignored its vision. Kwiecienski said he wanted to start a petition drive sooner rather than later.

MacDonald said the Friends group will stop collecting signatures for at least a week, in part so people don't get confused about two similar efforts.

"We're kind of keeping our powder dry because there's nothing on the table now that would offend us," he said.

Kwiecienski and Lecht said 215 people signed their petition Sunday through Tuesday afternoon. Of those, 160 said they were Basalt voters. The vast majority of those voters supported buying some of the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. property to preserve it as a park, they said.

The council was ambivalent about the petition. Councilman Rick Stevens said just as many people would sign a petition saying that if Basalt wants development limited outside of its urban growth boundary it should allow development within its core.

However, the council did unanimously approve a resolution to clarify that it hasn't expressed support for development of up to 75,000 square feet of buildings at the Pan and Fork site. The resolution was needed to "alleviate those fears and concerns," according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon.

"My understanding is this clarifies that we haven't decided anything and we can do anything we want," said Mayor Jacque Whitsitt.

The next step in deciding the fate of the Pan and Fork property is expected next month when the town will be presented with a study on implications of different-sized development scenarios and keeping the entire site a park.

This story was corrected to reflect the petition circulators wants the town to purchase the entire 2.3 acres owned by Roaring Fork Community Development Corp.

scondon@aspentimes.com