Letter: Work together in Basalt

I was thinking about responding to the letter that appeared July 4 in the Aspen Daily News (“Regaining control of Basalt development”). Instead, I went to our town planning website and listened to the taped program of the Downtown Area Advisory Committee report held at the library and moderated by Paul Andersen.

After rehearing that meeting from beginning to end, a meeting that was transparent and open to the community, it’s hard to respond to that segment of the population that was AWOL for over a year, who now blame the greedy developer for hijacking the property, lecture the public for “permitting the process to go forward,” faulting the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. for trying to get its investment back and encouraging the town to “find” the resources to purchase the entire site (as long as it doesn’t require a personal contribution).

“There is still time for the town to slow down and influence things,” is a comment from a resident who is unaware of the planning process that has gone on for 20 years and, I suspect, has just awakened to the realities and needs of our growing town and valley. Michael Kinsley’s comments were particularly poignant when he talked about actually increasing density in the developable portion of the Pan and Fork and protecting the wide swaths of open space up and down the valley from future “paving over.”

I always wonder where these naysayers stood with the $5 million bond issue when we were supporting the clearing of the trailers and shoreline mitigation where 250 people lived in 37 trailers, one-third of which were in harm’s way. Do any of them actually have and/or have they verbalized a vision for what Basalt, as a town, could or should look like? What’s missing from our present state of affairs? The map that the advisory committee worked with that was designed by Julie Kolar was a huge step forward in attempting to answer that question.

As you’ve pointed out, losing a performing-arts center to Willits is a huge loss! It could have been a defining amenity of the town. But without control of Frank Taverna’s property, it’s a distant dream while the Mariner development team steamrolls forward with plans and money from our treasury.

We’ve spent nearly two years in this recent effort to engage the public. The outcome was not that different from what had been decided multiple times over the past 20 years. Does our council have a vision yet? Rick Stevens and Herschel Ross certainly seem to and were optimistic at that moment in time — and at least were not afraid to take a stand. How some (Jacque Whitsitt) could ignore the more than 400 people who actually showed up and participated, not to mention the hundreds before since 1996, is beyond me. Even at that important meeting, none of these people either bothered to show up or otherwise express a divergent opinion. Lowe Enterprises was really responding to a public-generated response, including forgoing the one-third of the property in the “big V.”

Chris Touchette, an architect with Cottle Carr Yaw and a resident of Basalt with two kids in our schools, was first selected for the Downtown Area Advisory Committee, then the firm was hired by Lowe, then he was selected by the town to work with Planning and Zoning, and the town is now considered guilty of a conflict of interest by some. And the mayor has said or inferred as much as she responded in kind to some of her constituents. It’s just insane!

If the council members would go back, as I did, and listen to the recording, perhaps they would come to the same conclusion that so many of us have reached. Lowe and Cottle Carr Yaw are not the enemy! It’s time to get off their respective hands and reach out to this development team as partners and move the town forward.

Steve Chase