Proposal puts Basalt council’s legacy at stake
The Basalt town government has built a reputation for being tough on growth and for slowing the rapid development of the midvalley.
In reality, however, the Town Council now in office may end up with a legacy of being responsible for approving nearly one million square feet of commercial development at opposite ends of town.
The council has already approved 600,000 square feet of retail shops, restaurants, offices and residences at the Willits Town Center.
Before the council is partially dismantled by term limits in May 2004, it will likely make decisions that will either block or accommodate another project of up to 350,000 square feet.
Willits is a done deal. It was approved in May 2001 and construction is now under way on the first phase. All current council members except Tiffany Gildred were on the board at the time that project was approved.
Another large project was informally proposed last week. An investment group unveiled plans to redevelop the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park with between 310,000 and 350,000 square feet of shops, restaurants, offices and residential space in a number of mixed-use buildings.
The land-use application is being prepared by a group headed by David Fiore, the Illinois businessman who also headed a group that redeveloped the Little Red Ski Haus in Aspen. The Basalt project is called Merging Rivers Place because it is next to the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers. @ATD Sub heds:Deciding what Basalt wants
The current Town Council probably won’t make a direct decision on Fiore’s project because of timing.
Mayor Rick Stevens and council members Jacque Whitsitt and Leroy Duroux are prohibited from running for their seats again because of term limits. (However, nothing prevents the council members from running for mayor or the mayor from running for a council seat.)
A fourth member of the board, Councilman Jon Fox-Rubin, has said he won’t run for re-election due to other commitments.
Fiore’s group probably won’t submit a formal application before the board turns over in the May election. No application will be accepted by the town before a River Master Plan is completed for the area that includes the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park.
That master plan is one of the highest priorities for the current administration. It will establish the zoning that will dictate what type of development is allowed on land like the trailer park, according to Town Manager Tom Baker.
“The whole intent is to get the zoning resolved during their term,” he said of the current board.
The master plan is scheduled to be completed this spring, before the May election. Therefore, the current board will still play a large, albeit indirect, role on the redevelopment of the mobile home park.
Redevelopment is key
Baker said the goal is to produce a master plan specific enough to eliminate uncertainty for developers. If a land-use application matches what the town wants, the town will reward the developer with an expedited review process, Baker said.
On the other hand, if the developer proposes something outside the scope of the master plan, the review process could be lengthy, Baker said.
The town hired Don Ensign of Design Workshop to help a citizen task force create the master plan. Their proposal must eventually be approved or rejected by the Town Council.
One goal of the master plan is clear. The Town Council has declared that its top priority is the safety of residents along the river corridor. A study commissioned by the town showed that some of the trailers in the 52-space park to be in the flood path of what planners like to refer to as the “100-year flood.”
A draft of the master plan shows that the town government wants the mobile home park site to be redeveloped and the residents offered an alternative site for affordable housing.
Fiore’s group proposes to accommodate that wish by leaving part of the site, closest to the river, as open space. The other half of the site would be redeveloped as a mix of commercial and residential space.
If the council clears the way for that project, Merging Rivers Place and Willits Town Center would combine for between 910,000 and 950,000 square feet of development.
In comparison, in downtown Basalt and at the Orchard Plaza commercial center, which includes the El Jebel City Market, there is about 410,000 square feet of development.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com]
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