Proposed project in downtown Basalt gets tough love from council members, public
Speakers say old Clark’s Market site should be developed, but they want a better plan
The developers of a proposed apartment complex and grocery store in downtown Basalt learned Tuesday night they must make revisions if they want to earn the Town Council’s approval.
The council majority indicated they want more affordable housing and breaking up of the mass and scale of the building. Some board members also were skeptical that a grocery store could be successful.
“I think we tried a grocery store there and it didn’t work,” Councilman Glenn Drummond said.
If the developers press ahead with a concept for several food service vendors under one roof, that would stand a better chance of success, council members said.
Developers Tim Belinski and Andrew Light say they believe they came up with a project that honors Basalt’s history as a railroad town and would bring vitality to downtown.
Their request to split future sales tax revenue with the town was a non-starter.
“The sales tax split, I don’t know how we could legally support that,” Mayor Bill Kane said. Approving the request would open the door for City Market, Whole Foods and Skip’s Market to ask for equal treatment, he said.
But the affordable housing component received the most attention since availability is at a crisis stage in the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond right now.
Light and Belinski’s proposal calls for 70 apartments with 11 of them being rent controlled. The developers want to reduce their affordable housing mitigation to 15% of the overall residences from 20% by offering a 1.5% Real Estate Transfer Assessment. But Councilman Bill Infante questioned the relevance of the RETA when the project would be rental rather than individually sold. The developers maintain there is a good chance the apartment complex would sell and the town would reap a windfall.
The remaining 59 units in the complex would be rented at market rates in line with other free market projects. The Lumen Residences in Willits charges $2,370 for a one bedroom apartment and $2,938 for two bedrooms, according to information provided by the developers.
Councilman Ryan Slack said a person would have to gross $90,000 annually to be able to afford a one-bedroom free-market apartment at the proposed Basalt Center Circle project.
“I would say definitely sharpen the pencil on affordable housing,” Slack said.
Kane was the only council member to defend the prices. He said he knows many young professionals who would like an apartment for $2,000 right now.
“If there’s any place in town that deserves a concentration of housing, this is it,” Kane said. “This is the best shot to get people living in town.”
No one disputed the site is ripe for development. Clark’s Market pulled out of the site more than a decade ago. Habitat For Humanity Roaring Fork briefly operated a ReStore there, but the main space has been vacant for years. The largest space is flanked by three operating businesses — Jimbo’s Liquors, BLT Restaurant and Decorative Materials. The structure they are located in would be torn down and replaced with a four-story building with a height of 49 feet. The floor area of the building would be 47,000 square feet with 9,000 square feet dedicated to the grocery store.
“The scale is a little concerning,” Slack said.
Drummond said the building dominates the viewplane. Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said something more must be done with design to “break up the box of the whole thing.”
Members of the public also expressed concerns about the mass and scale of the proposed building. A frequent concern was the four-story structure would be out of scale with historic downtown Basalt, where most buildings are two stories.
Cheryl Hoeke, the longtime owner of a salon near the proposed development site, said the building would “tower over Basalt and make our buildings look like little toy buildings.”
Town resident Virginia Leffler said the “dorm-style building” was out of step with Basalt’s small-town character. She urged the developers to design a building that features architecture other than “the very common mountain modern look that’s popular right now.”
Basalt resident Greg Shugars said the site is ideal for density and that he didn’t oppose the four stories.
“If we’re going to go vertical, this is the place to do it,” Shugars said.
But he had issues with the design. He suggested they go with an all-brick building such as the Riverside Plaza and Riverwalk developments in downtown, which he said have aged well.
Basalt resident Kathleen Cole urged the council to slow the review, hold additional public meetings at the library and get more input on the project.
“I don’t want us to look in the rearview mirror five years from now and say, ‘What were we thinking?’” Cole said.
The council didn’t vote on the project. Instead they urged the development team to digest the feedback and return with refinements Sept. 28.
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Operation Smile is making its way back into the Roaring Fork valley through involvement in local schools and a small event this week, according to valley local Jennifer Jones.