Roaring Fork Club presses ahead with expansion plan, citing housing demand | AspenTimes.com

Roaring Fork Club presses ahead with expansion plan, citing housing demand

BASALT – The Roaring Fork Club is prepared to move ahead with an expansion plan because there is a demand for new residences there despite the ailing economy, partner Jim Light said Tuesday night.

The private golf club and high-end residential development on the eastern outskirts of Basalt is seeking approval for 13 additional luxury cabins, three single-family homes and 16 affordable housing units.

The ownership group crossed an important hurdle Tuesday, when the Basalt Town Council voted 5-0 to amend the terms of an approval granted in May 2008, rather than make the club start from scratch in the review process. That was critical for the club because it means less time for the review, and starting over would have subjected the plan to more stringent growth control measures passed recently by the town.

Councilwoman Anne Freedman, a slow-growth advocate, said the town is already known for having an “overly long and expensive” review process. In this case, she said she could support amending the approval to keep the project on track.

Councilman Pete McBride said the revised proposal was an improvement in some ways over the plan approved in May 2008. But he was concerned about setting a precedent for developers to come in and seek revisions outside of the standard process.

The club’s revised proposal increased the amount of free market and employee housing while eliminating a kids’ camp regarded as a community benefit. The number of new cabins has increased from eight in May 2008 to the current 13. The affordable housing units sought increased from eight to 16. The three single-family homes were always part of the proposal.

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The Roaring Fork Club, developed in 1999, includes 48 luxury cabins, along with an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, fishing access on the Roaring Fork River and a trout stream.

About two-thirds of the cabins are wholly owned while the remainder were sold in fractional interests. There is still “good” resale activity despite the recession and slow recovery, but no new product to offer people interested in the club, Light said. Buyers are typically friends of existing members, he said. They visit the club and become interested in spending more time there.

Daniel told the Town Council that one “pleasant surprise” has been the number of extended families spending time at the Roaring Fork Club. Owners often gather there with their grown children and sometimes grandchildren. To meet that demand, the club wants to add cabins with a fourth bedroom.

“We see adding the fourth bedroom as really important,” Daniel said.

The owners wanted to build cabins of up to 4,700 square feet. The town staff objected in preliminary discussions, so they compromised on a 4,000-square-foot maximum and a 3,700-square-foot, above-ground average for the 13 additional cabins. The existing cabins range from 2,400 to 4,600 square feet.

The council members had no issue with the proposed size or number of cabins. Basalt’s master plan contemplated medium to high density at the club. The proposal is within that range, according to town staff.

Daniel said the proposed number of cabins increased by five because the ownership group decided a small alteration would free up prime space for residential development. A maintenance facility was initially proposed in the center of the development on the north side of Highway 82. That facility will be moved to the northern edge, freeing up valuable land for cabins.

The 13 cabins would add 52 bedrooms and roughly 62,000 square feet of development to the Roaring Fork Club. The new affordable housing would consist of 14 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units.

All told, the proposed development could add 108,000 square feet at the club.

The council’s approval of the sketch plan amendments clears the way for the project to seek preliminary plan approval, which is a more detailed second step in the review process. The third and final step in review is mostly technicalities that only land-use planners and engineers can love.

Light and Daniel said they will seek approval as quickly as possible, with the next round of review possible as soon early in 2011. There is no current timeline for breaking ground. Construction financing is difficult to acquire right now, Light said, but can be achieved with pre-sales. He anticipates the demand for the new cabins will be high. They will be a combination of wholly owned and fractional units.

scondon@aspentimes.com