Letter: Letter to Mayor Whitsett | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Letter to Mayor Whitsett

Letter to Mayor Whitsett

Editor’s note: The following letter originally was sent to Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsett.

I was extremely disappointed to see the article in The Aspen Times this morning regarding your comments on the redevelopment of the Pan and Fork site. I was not at the meeting (and actually no longer even live in Basalt), however I feel compelled to write due to the years of efforts that the town, the chamber, the BDBA and numerous other groups formed by the town have spent to get us to where we were yesterday, before these comments.

Think of all of the waste that you would be responsible for if you turn this full site into a park. I would love, and actually demand, a full accounting of the following: Town money spent to purchase the site in conjunction with the Roaring Fork CDC, prepare the site for development, all of the site costs associated with brining the proposed redevelopment parcel out of the flood zone, fill, bulldozing costs, zoning changes, staff time, elections, Paul Anderson and the speaking engagements, rents paid to rent space in the Three Bears Building to display all of the “ideas,” the school teachers’ time and student “learning” time wasted providing their ideas to this process, and the list goes on and on and on). Then to top it off, you have to pay an increased value for the site that you just improved to purchase it from the CDC! Then, numerous other groups have spent significant resources, such as the Basalt Downtown Business Association and the Basalt Chamber, to help support the business community.

It’s been a multiple-year process to engage citizens in building support to redevelop the site.

Downtown Basalt needs vitality. A riverside park site is already owned by the town, and can bring plenty of additional vitality within the park-site already owned. Thus, that vitality opportunity is already “built-in” to the existing redevelopment proposal. Downtown Basalt needs additional residents. A hotel would be a wonderful way to expose thousands of new people to downtown Basalt. The hybrid approach proposed only helps fill downtowns shops and restaurants with a steady stream of new customers needed to stay in business and be successful.

There has been so much talk about downtown Basalt being left out of the economic recovery that Basalt has experienced. Doom and gloom, the sky is falling. You yourself have stated that downtown Basalt is of significant importance to you. Many people feel the recent “pain” experienced in downtown and the BBC is at the expense of the success of Willits. I have never agreed with that sentiment. In my opinion, Willits is actually the biggest opportunity Basalt has seen since the railroad was put in. Willits brings people to Basalt who would not otherwise visit. The challenge is, and has been, the desire of residents and visitors to move between the “districts” and then how to move people from one area to the next. I have always maintained that Basalt has a place for all of the various “districts” and all of the wonderful diversity they bring to Basalt’s economic and experiences they provide to visitors’ and residents’ lives. Don’t take away a reason for people to want to visit, explore, discover historic downtown.

Honestly, you should be absolutely ashamed of your comments and even the thought to switch gears at this point. It would be an absolute disgrace and waste of your constituents’ tax dollars to abandon a well-thought-out plan and desire to redevelop the Pan and Fork site. If you want to “kill” historic downtown Basalt and any/all momentum the business community has made over the past seven years, this is absolutely your opportunity.

There is actually nobody, NOBODY in town that should support such a stance at this time. It’s an absolute waste of time and money to switch gears now. It’s time you get back in touch with the business leaders in Basalt. Or, propose a giant property tax increase on residents to pay for your 5+ acre park and everything else you desire in a ghost town with no business community and no sales tax revenue.

Cole Sjoholm


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