Letter: Basalt can benefit from the right type of development

I am a 12-year Basalt resident. I also worked for the U.S. Forest Service years ago and lived in affordable housing (a run-down converted garage). I left the valley because it was obvious that I could never get ahead if I stayed. There were few well-paying, professional positions, and most were like mine — temporary. Not much has changed.

I wince when people say, “I hope my children will live here when they finish school.” Unless they have family money, how can they? Where are the good jobs that would allow them to have careers and some measure of financial security? I would rather see Basalt working to bring more professional “clean tech” opportunities to the valley and diversify our economy than building more not-so-affordable housing. Why not facilitate clean-tech-based clusters of innovation around our unique asset, the Rocky Mountain Institute? Instead of building more not-so-affordable housing, let’s encourage business formation and growth and attract investment and higher-paying, permanent jobs.

If we must consider more affordable housing, Basalt should be flexible. It should not be a deal-breaker to locate affordable housing in the downtown core.

We need to draw more out-of-town visitors to Basalt on a year-round basis if restaurants and retail businesses are going to thrive. Berating local residents to support local businesses will not make a dent in the problem. How many hand-embroidered silk shirts and bottles of Gaja Barbaresco do you expect us to buy? The Rocky Mountain Institute’s facility and the Roaring Fork Club’s River Center promise to drive more traffic downtown, but they are insufficient. We need hot beds filled by people who want to go out to eat and shop.

I support development of a hotel and condos on the riverfront site provided that:

• Most if not all condos are available for rent when not owner-occupied.

• Hotel and condo units are developed concurrently.

• Development includes a main-floor riverfront restaurant with substantial outdoor seating.

A rooftop restaurant would also be a terrific asset for hosting in-town events.

A park is not going to draw people to Basalt on the consistent basis we need. The valley is mostly open space already. I also don’t believe the town has the capacity to organize and hold a series of events at this location that would consistently draw large crowds — particularly in the winter. Nor do I believe that downtown residents would be happy with the noise, trash and traffic in the long run.

When I view Lowe’s proposal for the riverfront park, together with the plans for the Old Pond and Midland parks, I am not troubled by the amount of open space. I like the way it folds into the Midland Spur woonerf (a good idea), maintains a view plane to the river from downtown and improves Lions Park (another good idea).

Basalt — we have spent over a year on this effort. Let’s make some decisions and move forward!

Rose Ann Sullivan