Letter: Questions about Basalt land-use debate | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Questions about Basalt land-use debate

In our ongoing debate in Basalt over the community’s desire to have a meaningful river park and the desire of our private development partner to make a profit from its investment, I don’t agree that our choices are so stark — either to let the developer have the economic pattern they claim to need or buy them out to make the park of our dreams. This developer says it began with the Advisory Committee recommendations, but Greg Shugars’ letter alleges that they have departed from it significantly. The negotiation has barely begun, apparently. It’s a delicate balancing act, and I’m confident our community can handle it, and I hope we will. Of course, we must try and understand the developer’s desires, but we must consider the desires of the community first. Developers are capable of creating wonderful projects, but it’s only a few years after completion until everyone forgets about them and literally a lifetime that the community lives with their project.

When I walk to our downtown bus stop, I can’t help but admire the view of the Roaring Fork River that has been hidden from this viewpoint for longer than I have lived here. It really sings out that we are a river town. When we have lived with a land development pattern for so long, the pattern of land owners closing off view and access to rivers, it feels like an enormous breath of fresh air to suddenly see such a beautiful stretch of river from a fairly large part of downtown. I want to keep that vista open with only river, landscape and people in it. I want to participate in a brave community act, to give a large piece of our most precious land back to the community for its enjoyment.

But how do we do it? We need to unpack the deal, to understand where the lines are; not just the lines of view planes, but the lines between the developer’s need to make money and its willingness to help this community create something we will all be proud of, developer included. Toward this, I have a few questions:

Is there any room for a compromise in terms of land boundaries between the public and private parcels? Would the developer be willing to consider a purchase of part of its parcel to ensure the view planes and park size the residents want? Can we afford to buy part, if we can’t buy all of it? Can we look into ways this might work, or is it all or nothing, someone wins and someone loses?

I’ve read opinions that are on both sides of the height issue — some willing to consider more building height in exchange for less building footprint and others who consider this off the table, unfit for discussion. I think that the people who live in the homes on Homestead Drive that look out over both parcels should not have their views of the river compromised, but that there may be some additional height that can be used on the private parcel, above our height limit, without obstructing their view of the river. Have we looked into this, and can we try to find some balance using this idea, if it might help? Give the developer some extra height for an additional story to make more land area available for the park?

Why does the private parcel have to be the repository for everything, the hotel and the new, free-market housing as well? Why is this the best location for the hotel? If we have a hotel on this parcel, for how long will we have a thrift store for home furnishings at the old City Market/Clarks Market building right in the center of town? Many people wished for a hotel to go there. Is that such a bad idea? Are we locating a hotel on the river parcel because it works for the developer of that parcel or because that’s the best place for a hotel?

If neither of these ideas are capable of working, what others might? Our community has a lot of talent to help find the balance that will work here. The developer is right to step to the sidelines while the community comes to an agreement on what we are willing to let it build. Let’s create something to make our future community proud — that’s our real job here.

Michael Thompson​

Basalt


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