Stalled Basalt hotel project wants two-year extension |

Stalled Basalt hotel project wants two-year extension

BASALT – A Chicago-based developer wants an extension of his approvals for a 60-room hotel in Basalt so he can finally build or sell the property now that the economy is rebounding.

Jim Richmond’s vested rights for the Snow River Lodge along the Highway 82 Basalt Bypass are scheduled to expire in June. He and his partners in Snow River Lodge Inc. want them extended for two years.

“It’s been tough out there finding financing or buyers,” said Chris LaCroix, Richmond’s attorney. The two-year extension of vested rights are essential to positioning the project for completion.

Without the extension, the approvals would still exist, but the project would be required to follow changes to Basalt’s land-use code in the past two years. That would mean a tougher affordable-housing requirement, according to Basalt’s planning staff.

Richmond’s group got approval from Basalt in 2006 to build a 54-unit condominium hotel. It was intended to operate like a hotel, but the units would be sold individually. The units were going to be rented out when the owners weren’t using them.

The project stalled in 2008 after the concrete foundation was poured. The project went nowhere during the recession. In 2010, the approval was altered to a 60-room hotel rather than a condominium hotel.

Doug Allen, developer and an owner of commercial property adjacent to the hotel site, said Richmond’s property has been a “blight” on the neighborhood for three years. There are 10 surrounding businesses. They are probably being hurt by the appearance of the hotel site and certainly by the lack of activity there.

Allen urged the council to grant only a one-year extension of building rights and require Richmond’s group to clean the site.

“It wouldn’t look like an abandoned construction site, which is what it looks like now,” Allen said.

The site has fencing and weeds around the exposed concrete foundation. A construction trailer has sat unused for years. The site is just east of, or upvalley from, Stubbies bar.

Councilwoman Karin Teague, co-owner of an architectural firm near the Snow River Lodge site, said the fence has occasionally been in disrepair. She suggested that the extension of vested rights should be tied to keeping the site cleaned up.

The town holds $26,500 in an escrow account to clean the site to reclaim and restore the site if construction cannot be completed. Richmond’s group provided the money as part of the original approval.

Councilman Robert Leavitt said he doubts that amount of funding would be enough for the restoration if the owners abandon the property and project. He suggested that the town staff reassess whether more funds should be held in escrow.

The council ultimately voted 5-1 to grant what’s known as first reading of the extension of building rights for two years – but with conditions. Council members want to see a plan from Richmond for cleaning up the site. Second, they want to see if more funds should be held in case of the need for restoration.

Basalt assistant planning director James Lindt urged the council not to dip into the escrow account for the near-term cleanup of the site. The owners should be required to undertake that work on their own dime, he said.

The issue will be reconsidered in May.

Councilwoman Anne Freedman voted against extending building rights. She felt that only a one-year extension was warranted.

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