Letter: A watershed decision
Everyone recognizes the importance of Basalt being a true “river town” and the opportunities this provides for its vitality and economic sustainability. The acquisition of the Pan and Fork property has opened up some great opportunities as a community asset from its open space and recreational access to the river, to potential lodging and condos.
Basalt’s challenge is to seek a balance — protecting and enhancing this natural resource in itself as an economic driver as well as determining what, if anything, should be built to further the vitality of the community.
In the 2014 institute-planning survey commissioned by the town, 40 percent of respondents said they would like to see the rest of the Pan and Fork property adjacent to Two Rivers Road be developed into a park. Twenty-five percent responded to redevelop with buildings but smaller than those at the riverside plaza. Options favored for development included 36 percent for restaurants, 29 percent for a hotel, 27 percent for an active park with no building and 15 percent for housing. These data provide useful information to help the Town Council determine the future for this unique parcel.
The town’s advisory committee’s top goals were to “preserve the rural, small-town values, accommodate economic development and social vibrancy and keeping Basalt small, intimate and vital.” Lowe Enterprises’ current hotel proposal really falls short based on the surveys and public forums. A four-story, 60-room hotel plus 12 residences at 149,500 square feet along with 40 high-end condos at another 85,000 square feet is not in keeping with those goals. As Scott Condon reported in The Aspen Times based on Paul Anderson’s observations, “It is not only missing small-town character but also is lacking a component for community vitality as it relates to social diversity.”
A four-story boutique hotel may be a good fit in Denver, but it is way out of scale for Basalt and certainly not suitable this unique property. High-end condos may work well in Base Village, but again, really? In Basalt? Underground parking may solve one problem, but given the size of this development, it could lead to another: that of traffic congestion. Based on a recent consultant’s report for the town, more affordable housing is clearly needed in Basalt. The town should not compromise nor reduce any employee housing requirements, regardless of a project’s size. Importing a workforce while exporting paychecks is not a good economic model.
Finally, we know that development never really pays its way. Although Basalt would realize an increase in property taxes and sales taxes, these will not completely cover the additional demands placed on schools, public safety, health and human services or the impacts on the environment.
Basalt Town Council should not accept this proposal as presented. We always hear about what developers need to make their numbers work. Town Council’s responsibility is not to make a developer’s numbers work, but to look after the long-term health, safety and welfare of your community. Lowe’s proposal may be a good development for “AnyTown, U.S.A.,” but Basalt can and should do better, especially on this prime riverfront property.
This is truly a watershed decision for the town.
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