Trailer park sale means big change for the face of Basalt
A mobile home park in the heart of Basalt is under contract to be sold to investors headed by a Chicago-area businessman.
The Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park, which has provided affordable housing for decades for as many as 52 families, is under contract for $4,025,000, according to a notice given to residents.
The prospective buyers are David Fiore and his partners in Merging Rivers Place LLC. Fiore is a businessman and city councilman in Naperville, Ill. He headed a team that redeveloped the Little Red Ski Haus in Aspen this winter. They maintained it as a small lodge.
The Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park is currently owned by a group headed by Dick Downey. His land-use approval from Pitkin County requires that residents of the mobile home park be given the first right of refusal to purchase the park in case of a sale. Although the park is in the heart of Basalt, it has never been annexed into the town. It lies within unincorporated Pitkin and Eagle counties.
Tom Smith, an attorney working with the residents, was stranded in Denver Wednesday and couldn’t be reached for comment. Any purchase by the residents appears unlikely without substantial financial aid by Pitkin County or the Aspen Housing Authority. Basalt officials have said they don’t have money available to help the residents with a purchase.
Fiore said his group recognizes they have obligations to the current tenants.
“We’re not out there to run off the homeowners at all costs,” he said.
@ATD Sub heds:Basalt wants redevelopment
@ATD body copy: Both Pitkin County and Basalt have leverage to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Pitkin County officials have previously said they wouldn’t approve any change in the use of the property. Therefore, Fiore and his partners would have to seek annexation into Basalt to redevelop.
And Basalt wants the trailer park redeveloped. Its River Master Plan – a blueprint for future development along the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan River corridors – targets Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park for removal due to risks to residents from flooding. The neighborhood is in the direct path, or floodway, the river takes when it overflows its banks.
But Basalt officials have made it clear they don’t want redevelopment to come at the expense of the current residents. New regulations and policies help protect the residents.
A regulation requires 100 percent replacement of all affordable housing displaced by redevelopment. In addition, the town has affordable housing requirements for new commercial and residential developments.
The Town Council has also set a policy of compensating displaced homeowners for their equity in residences. When the town purchased the Levinson property for a riverfront park last year, it evicted the residents of trailers and cabins there but paid them fair market value for their homes.
@ATD Sub heds:Flexibility for developers
@ATD body copy: Town Manager Tom Baker said the town probably wouldn’t require new developers to provide replacement housing and pay equity to the trailer owners, then provide additional housing for all new employees generated. That would be too onerous and expensive.
“When you pile all three of those up, a developer can’t do all that,” Baker said.
Nothing in the town code currently requires developers to pay the trailer owners for their equity, but that’s clearly the preference of the council, Baker said.
Through its replacement housing regulation, the town can assure that the 52 trailers are replaced with affordable housing units elsewhere in Basalt when redevelopment occurs. However, that regulation does nothing to assure that the residents of those trailers can stay in town and it does nothing to compensate them for the money invested in their homes.
Many residents of the trailer park own their homes and rent space from Downey.
Fiore said he is open to discussing options with the town about addressing the needs of the current residents. He and his partners have an option to purchase land owned by Downey by the Basalt High School. It’s possible that land could be developed with replacement housing.
@ATD Sub heds:’Crown jewel of Basalt’
@ATD body copy: Fiore said he first started looking at the mobile home park last year and assembled investors on a team, then negotiated a deal with Downey.
Fiore said his group will close on the property as soon as next month, without waiting to see how they fare in the Basalt review process. He said he is aware of the various town regulations that apply to redevelopment on the property. They haven’t spooked him away.
He and his partners intend to propose a mix of commercial spaces and residences at the mobile home park property, which is located between the Roaring Fork River and Highway 82. He said he considers the land “the crown jewel” of Basalt. The project is important because it’s at the gateway to town.
As a councilman in Naperville for the last four years, Fiore has taken an interest in that town’s redevelopment of its riverfront property. He said he has learned some things that could benefit him as a developer in Basalt.
“I think Basalt has some unparalleled opportunities to protect its riverfront property,” said Fiore.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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