Taqueria time is limited in Basalt | AspenTimes.com

Taqueria time is limited in Basalt

Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

The clock is ticking on the popular Taqueria el Nopal restaurant in Basalt.

A new agreement between the town government and the Rocky Mountain Institute has the potential to shorten the amount of time before the Taqueria is evicted.

The Town Council approved on Tuesday night an updated agreement to sell land to the institute so it can build a new office and conference facility. The institute is buying property occupied by the ramshackle building where the restaurant is located.

The exact date that the restaurant will be evicted isn't known yet, but the new agreement spells out general terms of when the building must be demolished.

"The town is required to remove the building earlier to better meet (the Rocky Mountain Institute's) construction schedule," said a staff memo to the Town Council.

The town must demolish the building when the sale is completed to the institute or within 45 days of the institute obtaining its final approval, whichever is earlier, the agreement says.

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Councilwoman Karin Teague said she was concerned that the agreement could create a scenario where the restaurant is evicted and the building demolished but the Rocky Mountain Institute cannot start construction for some period of time. It would be unfortunate to force the restaurant out if construction of the institute's office is delayed for five years, Teague said.

Councilman Glenn Rappaport said he wants to see the restaurant remain at its current site for as long as possible.

The restaurant, which serves authentic Mexican and Salvadoran food, is usually packed for both lunch and dinner.

Town staff members said they are working with the Rocky Mountain Institute on refinements that will keep the restaurant on the site as long as possible. Town Planning Director Susan Philp didn't offer details of a tweaked deal, and no council member pressed the issue further. The updated agreement with the institute was approved 6-0.

The new deal increases the amount of land the institute will acquire without increasing the price. The original agreement called for the institute to buy 0.55 acres for $600,000. The new agreement boosts the amount of land to 0.87 acres for $600,000.

The amended agreement extends the institute's option to purchase from Jan. 11, 2014, to Jan. 11, 2015.

In addition, the town agreed to undertake the work necessary to remove the site from the floodplain. The town's current "Fix the Fork" project includes $119,000 budgeted to raise the elevation of the Rocky Mountain Institute's future home by adding fill materials.

Basalt acquired the Levinson property, which included the building housing the restaurant, in April 2002. It turned a portion of the site into Old Pond Park, alongside the Roaring Fork River.

The restaurant was placed on a month-to-month lease by the town government years ago, and the owners were told it was a matter of time before they would have to vacate the premises.

Loyal fans of the restaurant responded with "Save the Taq" bumper stickers. Some Basalt residents have protested the eviction and relocation of residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park, adjacent to the restaurant. The eviction of Taqueria el Nopal, when the time comes, could be met with more disapproval.

scondon@aspentimes.com