RFTA won’t cozy up to developer
August 14, 2008
ASPEN ” Public-private partnerships only go so far with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s (RFTA) board of directors.
The board Thursday tore apart a proposed agreement with developers of a proposed 1,000-home subdivision downvalley. The proposed service agreement for a project ” called River Bend ” made it appear that RFTA was too cozy with the developer and was a supporter of the development plan, board members complained.
“This is not a document we could give any nod to at all,” said Dave Sturges, a RFTA board member and Glenwood Springs city councilman.
“This is ridiculous. It sounds like we are party to marketing this project,” said RFTA board member and Basalt Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt. “It really needs a cleansing.”
Providing bus service for large developments in unincorporated Garfield County always is a touchy topic for RFTA. Garfield County isn’t a RFTA member or regular funding member. All other governments from Aspen to New Castle contribute sales tax revenues to help operate the bus system.
RFTA has vacillated in recent years between taking a get-tough policy and offering no new service in Garfield County or being more appeasing in hopes of coaxing regular funding.
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Related/WestPac stumbled into that highly charged political atmosphere when it purchased property at Cattle Creek and proposed a major project between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.
The development firm, which is developing Base Village at Snowmass Village, touts River Bend as a pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented project. It approached RFTA with plans to pay for bus service, build a park-n-ride and transit center, and reimburse RFTA $390,00 for work on the Rio Grande Trail through the property.
In return, the developer wanted access agreements across the trail corridor which will influence the project’s design. Related/ WestPac wanted the deal in place before its proposal is reviewed by Garfield County government later this year.
RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship defended the proposed agreement as a way to ensure the agency gets paid for providing service. An agreement providing access was issued in 1992, although that option isn’t favored by Related/WestPac, which recently bought the land. The developer can exercise that old agreement if it feels RFTA’s new demands are too onerous “and we don’t get anything, really,” Blankenship said.
But the board members couldn’t stomach an agreement as proposed. They directed RFTA staff to rework the proposed agreement to provide access, identify bus service needed by the development and examine possible solutions. Any language suggesting they support the development should be eliminated, they said. It isn’t clear if an agreement will be reached before Garfield County starts its review.