Letter: Basalt in need of vitality | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Basalt in need of vitality

Old town Basalt is a special place and is in need of some special help. Our community went through an extensive visioning project last summer that resulted in our community’s expectations and desires for our downtown core and, in particular, for the development parcel along the Roaring Fork River.

That process was an inspired example of inclusive community planning and resulted in our development plan. While that process did not include any zoning changes or official Town Council approval, the result was clearly a collaborative effort by our community to plan for our future.

Yes, we do already have empty commercial spaces in downtown Basalt. This, however, is not an argument for stopping more development. The empty commercial spaces in Basalt are the direct result of the development in Willits and especially of the residential construction in Willits. Those retailers and service providers followed the beds to Willits.

What is going to restore old town Basalt to the vital community we all remember is beds, beds, beds. The development proposed by Lowe Enterprises goes a long way to helping our community get back into balance. I agree that open space is important, especially along the river. Our community-approved plan, adopted by the Lowe plan, does provide for that open space. Between the open space around the proposed development, the open space around the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the open space around the Rocky Mountain Institute and the open space along the river, more than 70 percent of the old Pan and Fork trailer park is being converted to open space. At the same time, Basalt is getting a much-needed shot in the arm with the hotel and condos.

Any vibrant small town needs diversity and especially economic diversity. A perhaps unfortunate but obvious truth is that community core and prime riverfront property is too valuable in our valley to qualify for affordable housing. At the town hall meeting hosted by Lowe Enterprises recently, its representatives told us that they expect to provide an affordable-housing component to the development. Let’s hope that our civic leaders also recognize that Basalt needs economic diversity and doesn’t force that affordable-housing development downvalley to Willits or beyond. Ideally, that affordable development would be located within convenient walking distance of downtown.

Is the current Lowe plan perfect? Of course not, and in fact it might be a bit boring, but let’s give Lowe the opportunity to make it so.

Pat McMahon


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