‘Yes’ on Pan and Fork purchase | AspenTimes.com

‘Yes’ on Pan and Fork purchase

Aspen, CO Colorado

On April 1, Basalt residents will decide the fate of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park, located by the Roaring Fork River, and in the heart of town.

Whichever way they vote, they will take a leap of faith.

Allowing the town government to buy the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park for $5 million could be considered a risk, chiefly because the details have yet to be worked out. The Town Council has promised to release more detailed plans if voters approve the acquisition, and it says it had to move fast on owner Renee Ritchie’s offer to sell the trailer park. There’s also the unanswered question of where residents of the park, which comprises 37 trailer homes, would be moved once redevelopment begins.

Likewise, if they turned down the project, Basalt residents essentially would put the future of the land into the hands of the private sector, which also could be considered a risky venture. That’s because there’s the strong possibility the would-be buyer would seek a large development approved on the part the land that is out of the floodplain, in exchange for building replacement housing for the displaced tenants.

There is risk involved no matter how this vote turns out, but we feel the lesser risk would be if the town buys the property. It will be residents’ job to keep the pressure on and make sure Town Hall follows through.

First, the town of Basalt, despite not providing the specifics voters should be armed with before heading to the polls, has assured the residents that it would take the steps needed to ease flood concerns in the flood-prone area. The town also would work with the private sector to redevelop about 1.8 acres of land along Two Rivers Road and Midland Avenue, while at the same time preserving the more flood-prone area ” the low-lying part of the property ” as a park.

We see this as a more viable alternative than one a private developer could do with this land. Indeed, it’s a chance that taxpayers would be taking, yet it’s also an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often. A good example of a lost opportunity is the Mother Lode restaurant space, which the city of Aspen could have bought (with voter approval). Instead, voters rejected the plan, and a treasured downtown space has been redeveloped and now has a listing price of $37 million.

As far as the Pan and Fork goes, the actual purchase price of the park would be $4.5 million for a piece of property that’s been appraised at $6 million. The $5 million price tag is because of the improvements that would need to be made to the trailer park’s infrastructure, as well as fees that go to the bond company. The $5 million in bonds would be paid back in 20 years, when the property tax increase would expire.

We understand why voters might feel a bit uneasy about this one, but there’s a better chance of seeing some real public benefit out of this redevelopment if the town of Basalt is in the driver’s seat. On April 1, we urge Basalt voters to vote “yes” on ballot issue A.