Letter: The Basalt dilemma
Twenty-five years of planning, and the Basalt Town Council still can’t decide what the town should be when it grows up. The citizenry has spoken many times with a consistent and resounding message: We want downtown to develop into an active and vibrant place, to protect the river corridors, to minimize traffic and to promote downtown business. It’s been a repeating theme through six community planning processes, making it appear the council has a vision or an agenda that is at odds with voters. How is this apparently never-ending dilemma to be resolved?
Here’s a suggestion. Have each council member write (or, even better, draw) their vision for downtown and present it in the public forum. It’s not acceptable for council members to say their vision is based on what the electorate wants because that has already been demonstrated to be a false premise. Also unacceptable are generalities such as “My vision is a balance or economically, environmentally and socially healthy growth.” The vision must be specific, addressing the four primary components of town planning: open space, buildings, circulation and parking.
Here’s an example. My vision for downtown is the following:
• Create parks along both rivers, the edges defined by floodplain but with a minimum width to allow comfortable pedestrian circulation.
• Provide public open space corridors from the plaza to the rivers of sufficient width to invite pedestrian circulation and visually connect the rivers to the plaza.
• Make Lions Park the town plaza.
• Surround it with streets with on-street parking both sides.
• Surround the plaza and street with high-density mixed-use buildings with commercial/retail at ground floor and housing above.
• Buildings must front on the right of way.
• Buildings not to exceed three stories.
• The open space corridors may pass through the ground-floor level of buildings.
• Midland Avenue and Two Rivers Road must retain on-street parking.
• No off-street parking lots may be visible from these streets or the plaza.
• Off-street parking, open space corridors and service/fire access must be provided with each private development project.
• Commercial uses should be allowed along open space corridors on private development projects.
It is important for each council member to address all four fundamental physical community building blocks to avoid the inclination to focus on a single component: context as paramount. All four elements are intimately related, decisions made regarding each reverberating with the others. Responsible visioning must balance the four if an achievable outcome is really the goal.