Andersen: Help envision Basalt’s future | AspenTimes.com

Andersen: Help envision Basalt’s future

From 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 14, I will lead a Community Conversation at the Basalt Library about the future of Basalt. The conversation is open to those who care about the direction Basalt is going. All ideas are open to a hearing.

The future of Basalt. That's a sweeping statement, but it holds true on this discussion, the impetus for which is the redevelopment of the site of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park and two other related parcels. This opportunity, like few others, has become a watershed land-use challenge for the town's government and its residents.

Sides have formed. Coalitions have merged. Stakeholders have come forward. Debate is in the air. This is a good thing. It shows that Basalt is blessed with dynamic energy, an expression of caring, an engaged populace.

The town government is receptive, inviting and open to ideas. If one thing points to the future with promise, it is this level of engagement. Such is the essence of democracy in small-town America.

Rather than divide the community, this debate has the power to unite Basalt with a range of new opportunities, partnerships and alliances that go beyond the Pan and Fork to include other key downtown parcels, which are also slated for redevelopment.

The de facto groups that have come together on this issue represent another gain for Basalt's civic spirit. By working together — or even apart — the exchanges necessary for a respectful dialogue provide cohesion. They form the glue that is a bonding agent for a cohesive community.

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One thing to celebrate in whatever outcome arises is knowing that town residents care deeply about this place. And they should. Basalt is a gem, a beautiful, peaceful, eclectic town whose roots are deep in the valley's history and whose future is ascending toward … ? Toward whatever future the collective public manifests.

In my column six weeks ago, I quoted Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon as saying the redevelopment plans would result in a "mega project" that would define Basalt for years. Scanlon told me later that "mega project" was not a direct quote. It was an editorial summation from a news report attributed to him. Mea culpa!

Call it what you will. The redevelopment of three key parcels will create the warp and weave of what Basalt is becoming, and the effects will be lasting. Those who weigh in on the shape of these plans today will help set the tone for the townscape of tomorrow. This is what caring people do.

The relocation of the Pan and Fork residents has been a touchy matter. It is certainly one of the most charged issues overshadowing the redevelopment plans. I wrote a column about that, too, and won't revisit it here.

Suffice to say that the rationale is based on valid floodplain concerns addressed by the town. Now that Scanlon is in the driver's seat on the relocation, it will be expedited. His motive is utilitarian, and it would be mean-spirited to suggest a duplicitous or hidden agenda based on racial or ethnic discrimination.

Meanwhile, options identified for redevelopment include a riverfront park, a nonprofit educational campus, a hotel site, office space and commercial/retail uses. Other new and innovative ideas are being generated from within the community, one being a theater where Clark's Market stands today.

The Community Conversation on Oct. 14 will set out to comprehensively address the full range of redevelopment possibilities that will collectively redefine Basalt's downtown core. The idea is to generate a positive, constructive town dialogue before the Nov. 5 bond election that will determine funding for the riverfront restoration.

Attend the conversation. Listen, learn, and share ideas, concerns and visions — all within the bounds of a constructive, civil dialogue. The public is invited, and all stakeholders are urged to attend. It's time to lay out ideas that will help plot the future of Basalt.

Paul Andersen's column appears on Mondays. He can be reached by email at andersen@rof.net. Connect with him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/paul.andersen.9003.

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