A new vision shapes up for the Pan & Fork | AspenTimes.com

A new vision shapes up for the Pan & Fork

The Basalt Town CouncilAspen, CO Colorado

We are writing to share with the community our reasons for supporting the Town of Basalts proposed purchase of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. In our capacity as members of the Basalt Town Council, we voted unanimously to seek voter approval for this purchase at the April 1, 2008, Basalt Municipal Election. We write today as concerned citizens to urge the community to support this purchase. The Pan & Fork property sits at the heart of old town Basalt. The property is an exceptional piece of land because of its extensive frontage along both the Roaring Fork River and the towns commercial core on Midland Avenue and Two Rivers Road. Our vision for the property, which is reflected in the language of the ballot question, is twofold. First, the town will convert the majority of the property to a riverfront park. The objective is to restore the towns natural connection with the river and provide a seamless park from the Midland Avenue Bridge through Old Pond Park. Our rivers are Basalts greatest natural asset, and we believe this uninterrupted river park will be a signature feature of Basalt enjoyed by generations to come. Second, the town will be free to redevelop the area of the property along Two Rivers Road. Approximately 1.8 acres of the property adjacent to Two Rivers Road is suitable for redevelopment. Should the voters agree to purchase the property, the town can solicit competitive bids from the private sector to redevelop this area of the property. A publicprivate redevelopment partnership should allow us to recoup much if not all of the taxpayers investment. Such funds then would be available to pay down the remaining bond principal. We therefore believe the long- term financial burden on the towns taxpayers will be greatly mitigated. We also believe that redevelopment of this site will energize our downtown core and generate substantial amounts of affordable housing in an ideal location, close to transit and services. Obviously, before any of this redevelopment occurs it will be necessary to relocate the residents of the existing mobile homes on the property. The town code requires that all affordable housing lost in redevelopment of properties like the Pan & Fork be replaced. In the last two years, the Town Council has granted preliminary approvals to plans that will generate nearly 100 units of affordable housing within the Towns Urban Growth Boundary. While these units will not be available immediately, many of them, when constructed, will provide an opportunity to relocate residents of the mobile homes. Development of affordable housing on other townowned properties including redevelopment of the Pan & Fork property itself will provide yet more opportunities for replacement housing. This will not happen overnight. It might be five to 10 years before redevelopment of the property ultimately is complete. But when the owner of the Pan & Fork contacted us with an offer to sell the property at a purchase price $ 1.3 million below its appraised value, we immediately recognized that the voters deserved an opportunity to accept the offer. For years, residents of Basalt have spoken of the importance of relocating these mobile homes out of harms way, reducing overall flood risk and restoring the Roaring Fork River. This offer provides an opportunity to put those words into action in a way that the private sector alone has been unable to deliver. Our experience tells us that without town involvement, redevelopment of this property might not happen in the foreseeable future. Why? Because the town, unlike a private developer, can ensure that once a mobile home resident leaves, that persons unit will not simply be rented to another person. Past proposals to relocate residents from the mobile homes have been incapable of securing this same arrangement. Moreover, the town continues to work with the development community to ensure that replacement housing is made available in new developments. None of us is wild about a tax increase. But we believe this one deserves our support because, first, it allows for minimizing the longterm financial burden on taxpayers by using redevelopment revenues to pay down the bond debt. Second, it delivers truly outstanding community park and redevelopment benefits that will define Basalt for generations to come. We hope the community will join us in supporting Ballot Issue A on April 1.The Basalt Town Council is Leroy Duroux, Glenn Rappaport, Laurie Dows, Mark Kittle, Amy Capron, Gary Tennenbaum and Chris Seldin.