Retirement community gets favorable first look in Basalt |

Retirement community gets favorable first look in Basalt

Scott Condon/The Aspen TimesA preliminary site plan for a proposed continuing-care retirement community was unveiled for the Basalt Town Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday.

BASALT – A proposed continuing-care retirement community got a favorable, though unofficial, review in a first glance by members of the Basalt Town Council and Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday night.

A team representing the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation outlined plans for a project that will include 75 apartments and one-story cottages, roughly 20 assisted-living units and a nursing home to provide different types of care as residents age. The plan also would incorporate affordable housing for between 75 and 100 workers as well as a day-care facility to provide a connection to the community.

The medical foundation has a contract to buy the 18-acre Stott’s Mill site on the south side of Highway 82 on the approach to Basalt High School. The foundation has to commit “substantial nonrefundable monies” in early February as part of the contract, according to Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane, so officials with the nonprofit organization sought a general sense of how Basalt’s leadership felt about the project. It was made clear that the comments from council and planning commission members were nonbinding.

Four of five council members and all three planning commission members present gave the concept a glowing assessment.

“I’m delighted with the diversity opportunity this is going to bring to Basalt,” Councilwoman Karin Teague said. The Stott’s Mill site is a “perfect location,” she said.

Councilwoman Anne Freedman, a retired college professor who labeled herself the elder member of the board, said she is very supportive of the project. She particularly liked how the project is close to the high school, so it could offer chances for seniors to help with education, and intermingled with a day-care center. It’s also adjacent to the Rio Grande Trail so residents will have easy access to that leading amenity. Freedman also noted that it’s within a 10-minute walk of a major bus stop.

“I think it’s terribly important not to isolate seniors in their little ghettos,” Freedman said.

Planning commission chairman Bill Maron said the proposal was head and shoulders above the approved but unbuilt Stott’s Mill project, which features roughly 100 residences of mixed types. That little project brought a little slice of Arvada to Basalt, he said.

Kris Marsh, medical foundation president and CEO, said the organization has sought property for years. It initially investigated three sites in or near Aspen, then looked at the racetrack land at Woody Creek. The “last-ditch” effort in Aspen was the Tom Moore property, but no deal could be struck. Marsh contacted Kane, and the Stott’s Mill property emerged as the favored site.

“I think it’s really, really great that you guys got turned down up there,” quipped Councilman Glenn Rappaport. He said he likes the concept of the project because senior citizens often feel they aren’t part of the community.

Mayor Pro Tem Jacque Whitsitt told the medical foundation team the message from Basalt seemed clear.

“If you didn’t get enough feel-good from this, you didn’t really pay attention,” she said, bringing a laugh to the audience.

But she noted there will be challenges during the review. “It does get to be hard work. Most of the love is right here (in the initial gathering),” Whitsitt said.

Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer didn’t offer an opinion of the proposal but raised what everyone agreed will become a major point of discussion: Schwoerer said it is vital that some type of crossing be developed to get pedestrians from the south side of Basalt across Highway 82 to the post office, library and downtown core.

Kane said Basalt is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation on a plan. A pedestrian connection has been a major but fruitless goal in Basalt for about 15 years.

The medical foundation now must turn in a formal application for the project and go through a streamlined review process Basalt gives to nonprofit organizations.

Approval won’t guarantee the project moves forward. The project will need funding of between $50 million and $60 million to advance, according to a memo from Kane to the council.

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