Relations between Basalt and Eagle County sour as proposal for joint land use planning falls flat
August 4, 2017
A joint effort to plan future land-use direction between Basalt and Eagle County all but collapsed in a tense and at times heated meeting between elected officials Thursday night.
Basalt Town Council members wanted the Eagle County commissioners to declare a one-year moratorium on review of land-use applications in the El Jebel area, then coordinate land-use goals with Basalt.
The commissioners were lukewarm at best about a moratorium and said their planning commission for the Roaring Fork Valley will require considerable time to assess if changes are needed to the land-use master plan for the Eagle County section of Roaring Fork Valley and, if so, make changes.
The two boards met in Basalt last night.
Basalt Councilman Auden Schendler lamented that Eagle County was following the path that governments often do — putting up hurdles to speedy action.
"Let's put some urgency behind this," he said.
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Schendler didn't pussyfoot around the biggest point of contention between the council and commissioners by calling attention to the commissioners' 2-1 vote last month to approve the controversial Tree Farm project, which will add 340 residences and nearly 135,000 square feet of commercial space in El Jebel, outside the Basalt town limits.
Commissioners Jeanne McQueeney and Jill Ryan voted for the project "behind cover" of a comprehensive land-use plan that is flawed, he said. Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry voted against the project.
"We're being screwed by that development," Schendler said, citing increased traffic and loss of sales tax revenue for Basalt. He said in no uncertain terms that Basalt doesn't want to see the same mistakes repeated in the Eagle County portion of the mid-valley.
"We're not asking for a collaborative process. To the extent that we can, we're demanding it," he said.
Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said numerous people were demoralized by Eagle County's vote on the Tree Farm. They will feel "betrayed" if the commissioners don't agree to a joint master planning process she said.
Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer seconded that sentiment.
"The discussion we just had is discouraging even for a patient person," she said. "I have no patience and neither does our community."
After venting on both sides, efforts were made by some elected officials to salvage the situation. County commissioner Jill Ryan said she felt the land-use master plan for the mid-valley is out of step with the community and needs refinement. She noted that the Roaring Fork Valley Regional Planning Commission is prepared to look into the master plan and consider refinements.
"I don't think we're going backwards," she said.
Basalt also is looking at updating its land use master plan.
The meeting between the elected officials came on the heels of an equally contentious gathering between the county commissioners and the planning commission for the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County (see related story).