Willits project now back before Basalt | AspenTimes.com

Willits project now back before Basalt

Aspen Times Staff Report

A project that’s probably the largest in Basalt’s history – as well as the most scrutinized – will be back before the Town Council tonight.

The developers of the Willits project, formerly known as Sopris Meadows, are trying to earn approvals for a commercial core they want to build in a downtown grid-style on a wedge of land bounded by Highway 82 and Willits Lane.

Willits has already proven to be a successful residential development. Scores of homes, townhouses and apartments have sprung up like mushrooms on the land over the last 18 months.

The property is located just upvalley from the El Jebel City Market. It stretches from Willits Lane to the Midvalley Clinic and back to the Basalt Industrial park.

While the residential part of the project has flourished, the commercial portion has languished in Basalt town government’s review process. Preliminary approvals for 458,000 square feet of commercial space were granted in 1995 and in 1997 – the first two steps of Basalt’s three-step review process.

The Town Council balked early this summer at granting final approval. Board members said the proposal had changed too drastically from earlier versions while the developers claimed the town’s requirements were a moving target.

Michael Lipkin heads the ownership group of Willits. His development partners are Clay Crossland and Paul Adams of Basalt Trade Associates.

They have reworked the application to a point where the town staff believes it is ready again for review by the council.

In the meantime, the town has passed a significantly tougher master plan that places a myriad of new requirements on development projects.

A memo to the Town Council from the staff noted that the Willits project “does not have vested rights or final approvals at this time and is subject to recently adopted Town Ordinances including affordable housing, lighting, parkland and school impact provisions.”

Lipkin said Monday he couldn’t comment on the memo because he hadn’t seen it yet.

The town planning staff advises that at least four meetings will be needed for the project’s final review. Tuesday’s meeting is expected to help the board better visualize what is being proposed. Lipkin and his partners have prepared a model of the town center and additional sketches to demonstrate the character of the commercial core.


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