Relocating homes to benefit the community
As a resident of the mid-valley and member of the Emma Caucus, I value concepts of protecting open space and applaud our elected officials for seeking to control growth of the town boundaries. But I fear that putting an end or an absolute “stop” to geographical expansion may also put an end to other important community goals – namely, the relocation of mobile home park residents who are living in a flood zone, the creation of affordable housing in Basalt, and an opportunity to create a vibrant public park at the confluence of our town’s two gold-medal rivers.For more than a decade, town government has identified two worthy public policy goals: (1) Preserve open space; and (2) Move the tenants of the town’s two trailer parks out of harm’s way while creating replacement units that are affordable. The goals are tied together by the long-standing community objective to open the riverfront to the public. This was reinforced in a recent study conducted by the town. I think the town is on target here, but should avoid shutting the door on limited opportunities to solve the challenges associated with these two goals.Today, on Wednesday, July 11, the Town Council and Planning and Zoning Commission will be discussing policies governing the town’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). Part of the discussion, which begins at 6 p.m. and is expected to include public comments, will look at redrawing the UGB. I understand they will be doing that to avoid creating economic hardship from a situation whereby parcels may be partially in and partially out of the UGB. Finding just reasons to expand the UGB makes good planning and economic sense to the community and its residents. I would submit there is at least one other parcel next to the high school that they should avoid prematurely closing the door on without a fair public hearing.I am an investment partner of Western Peak. We are owners of both the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park and control the Downey parcel tucked up against the hillside just to the west of Basalt High School. The Downey parcel is now referred by our group as “Sopris Chase.” We have been working in partnership with Archdiocesan Housing, Inc., an affiliate to Catholic Charities, to come up with a plan that allows relocation of our mobile home park residents into new, safe, affordable housing to Sopris Chase. If that can be achieved, we would then develop the mobile home park with a mixed-use development and a 4-acre riverfront park.Archdiocesan Housing has $2 million donated by the late Fritz and Fabi Benedict to put toward 60-unit rental units at Sopris Chase. Western Peak is prepared to build another 55 affordable-attainable ownership units there. That’s 115 deed-restricted affordable housing units available to teachers, firefighters, retail workers, ski instructors and other people who make Basalt the great place that it is.Once residents of Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park are relocated, we hope to redevelop the land in a manner that reflects the needs, desires and vision of the community with mixed-uses integrating the 4-acre public park that we would donate at the confluence. We refer to this development as “Merging Rivers Place.” The park may include amenities capturing the town’s history through sculpture and art, a kayak launch, trails, or gardens and park benches. The mixed-uses, undoubtedly, will add signature restaurant space with outdoor dining at the confluence. The vision is there for the community to develop!Our partnership with Archdiocesan Housing provides a way to use private dollars to help the town meet its goals for affordable housing, mobile home park relocation, and river access. Western Peak and Archdiocesan Housing cannot solve this without the town’s blessing. We plead for a fair hearing from the town of Basalt with the support of Pitkin and Eagle County officials.We have looked hard for a new site, but have been unable to locate a suitable site within the UGB that can handle the type of development needed to replace the mobile home park. The Sopris Chase site may not meet the desire to limit geographical expansion, but it does help the town meet several other important goals. Western Peak and Archdiocesan Housing are open to roll up our sleeves to work with the town officials. We simply ask for the opportunity to advance this important dialogue with a fair hearing for Sopris Chase and Merging Rivers Place.Thank you to all of our community, to those of you lending encouragement to the Council, to balance these important public policy matters impacting open space, affordable housing, etc. Anyone who feels the need to be heard should come to today’s meeting or call their council members.David Fiore is president of Western Peak, owners of the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park in Basalt.
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