Guest Column: Community divide in Basalt should be a bridgeable gap
I’m trying to gain perspective on how divided we really are on the Pan and Fork land use.
As the debate between people wanting growth versus a riverpark is getting ugly and pitting otherwise friendly neighbors against each other. I believe we should all take a deep breath and recognize our commonalities and that our divide is more than likely a bridgeable gap.
Taking the issue to referendum is certainly a democratic thing to do, but it also is breeding an unfortunate anxiety, upset and anger among us. We are setting up for winners and losers. Either way, a divided community represents a big loss for a small town.
Most of us were very excited during the Our Town planning sessions. They invigorated our imaginations and inspired great hope for Basalt’s possibilities. The exercise unfortunately opened Pandora’s Box and has left most of us feeling disgusted, deceived or dismissed by our leadership and the planning process that later appeared flawed and then aborted with the arrival of a developer.
There is deep resident upset that seems to source from fear of lost economic opportunity or uncontrollable scope-creep by a developer. While that is often the case with proposed change, we are a small town, and I believe there is a way for most objectives to be harmoniously and profitably met.
Most of us want a public park on the river. We are just debating how large it should be.
Most of us love and want to preserve our rivers and quaint-looking mountain town.
Most of us want our shops and restaurants to thrive.
Most don’t mind a boutique or high-end hotel or affordable housing. We are just debating where to locate it, on or off the river.
Most don’t mind development on the river. We are just at odds over maximum building height and maximum square footage and public versus private use.
The debate doesn’t seem to be growth versus park. Most who want a community-oriented riverfront are not anti-development. The conversation is about where growth is best and what’s the most distinguished use of the last and most central piece of riverfront in town. When I hear the difference between growth versus park, the divide seems to boil down to a difference between 45,000 square feet of structure development and height maximums differing by a floor or two. That to me sounds more like a bridgeable gap than a divide.
May I suggest it’s time for leadership from our paid and elected officials? Go back to the original Our Town planning objective and design Basalt with a grand vision on our terms. You have made a good start with the proposed master plan, have plenty of excellent community input and certainly have an evolving idea on what the community can emotionally and economically digest. We need you to apply the professional discipline of the town manager and Planning Department and give us a picture, a visual with density parameters that fit our town desires and needs. We are all filling the void with fear and trust is lost. Please remove the fear with a vision that balances economic needs, quality of life and preservation that we can get excited about.
I suspect an exceptional plan will both allure and appease both sides. Maybe we can avoid a costly and upsetting referendum.
This is our town. Please do your work and keep it a lovely peaceful place to live.
Suzanne Dreyer is a Basalt resident. She sent this guest column as an email to Basalt Town Council members and staff.
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