Get with the program? There is no program in Basalt | AspenTimes.com

Get with the program? There is no program in Basalt

Get with the program?

Has it become that obvious? There is no program!!

We’re now nearly four years into the process and we are seemingly no closer to developing a utilization plan for the Pan Fork property that serves the entire community than what was supported by a year and a half of public input and the results of the failed bond issues for purchase of the land and a $9 million plan to landscape the parcel. The portion along the river that has been called “a little sliver” is actually the size of two football fields laid end to end and the screened in site is a reminder that that portion is presently owned privately by investors with the Community Development Corp.

The investment made through the Community Development Corp. was expected to be returned to them through a purchase of the land for some commercial development which has been part of the long-term vision of previous master planning and well-publicized public input. Presently, the town has nearly $7 million invested with no clear chance at recovering any of that money or for that matter any support for a revenue producing proposition for a portion of the property that has been supported by our own Plannig and Zoning Commission and even this present council.

By failing to give clear guidance to any potential developer and “down zoning” the property for a diminished commercial footprint, the town council has substantially reduced the possibility of the Community Development Corp. to recover its investment. So now we’ve waited more than a year — maybe two — just to get grass growing on the riverfront.

Without an investment in mature foliage and benches, the riverwalk will continue to be a parched, overheated bank that discourages casual visitors except for the diehards and their pooches.

Three years ago, a developer volunteered to return a substantial portion of park space at the corner of Midland Avenue and Two Rivers Road to the town, for free, as a first stab for working with the town for the privilege of developing the rest of the property as suggested by previous plans. Rather than begin a dialogue to shrink the proposal to better fit the town’s vision, we’re stuck in this quagmire of no man’s land. The most recent proposal from a developer included building the superstructure of our Art Base along with commercial development of that portion of the property closest to the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Both of these would leave the one-acre corner at Midland Avenue available to the town. It seems like a wonderful opportunity to support our town’s identity declaring art and culture as key to our mantra!

It’s time to ask, what do we expect of a park space? In the past, we have contracted with professionals to conduct music festivals and the like on behalf of the town to the tune of $50,000 — and they were well done. Did any of our remaining businesses profit from the events? Did anyone stay overnight in our lodging? How would our maintenance team deal with the trampled lawn and debris left behind by the hoards that are expected to attend such proposed events? Are we willing to commit nearly 25 percent of our downtown commercial core to entertain the public on eight or 10 evenings during the summer, while it will otherwise lie unused for six months of the year?

I don’t like the screened-in area any more than any of my fellow Basaltines! Clearly, with the help of our talented design community we can make more of this opportunity than an open field of dreams, and encourage our town councilors to once and for all seek a solution that would work best for ALL of Basalt and live up to its new mission statement that includes progressive as who we are.

Steve Chase

Basalt


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