Tree farm doings the final straw |

Tree farm doings the final straw

The frustration with Eagle County that’s been building among Basalt Town Council members finally erupted Tuesday night during a discussion of the Mt. Sopris Tree Farm.

Council members expressed dismay that the time and money the town put into recreational planning at the tree farm appears to have been for naught.

“I can’t help but feel we got steered in a direction we didn’t know we were going,” said Councilman Steve Solomon. “I think we’ve been well-maneuvered.”

Midvalley factions put aside their differences about one year ago to come up with a plan to build recreational facilities and preserve open space at the 128-acre tree farm in El Jebel. The town of Basalt contributed about $30,000 to the effort. But now that the Eagle County commissioners are preparing to debate the fate of the tree farm property, no entity is being invited into the process to lobby for that plan, Solomon complained.

The results, he said, are predictable – the property will be gutted. Eagle County has already proposed carving out a five-acre site for an office building.

“It seems like we traveled hundreds of miles only to take a left turn,” Solomon concluded.

Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens said the whole midvalley has been “maneuvered” during the tree farm saga. He proposed that the town of Basalt inform the Eagle County commissioners that they still support the consensus plan. Then, he said, midvalley residents should be rallied to “put pressure on Eagle County” to make it happen.

“I don’t know how else to do it,” he said.

Later in the meeting – when the Town Council decided to seek a way to pull out of Eagle County – board members voiced numerous complaints about county commissioner actions, in addition to handling the tree farm.

Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt said she is concerned about Eagle County’s review criteria for big new development applications in the El Jebel area. She also criticized two of the three commissioners for allegedly supporting private property “takings” legislation at the state level. That legislation could limit local control of land-use issues, she said.

Councilwoman Anne Freedman was critical of Eagle County’s willingness to allow intersections in the El Jebel area to operate at a level of service “D” – one that’s barely functional.

“I was really appalled by many, many of the things they’ve done,” she said.

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