Letter: Stand up to the Basalt mayor
To the Town Council of Basalt,
At what point would you stand up to the mayor on behalf of the public process and those individuals from all walks of our town who spent many hours (3,400 in total) exploring, discussing and documenting their ideas on paper? Your failure to do so speaks volumes about your nearly total disregard for public input. Some of you have cherry picked rhetoric or documented results — often out of context — to support your position.
As a member of the Downtown Area Advisory Committee, I can tell you that our exercise, which originally was to put meat on the bones of Option 2, expanded to include a mini master plan for the whole town, which was way beyond our skill level — particularly when Chris Touchette left the committee. Our charge then became, “If money was no object, and if all these privately owned properties were fair game, what would you like to see?” That was about as naive as your apparent dismissal of the economic realities of purchasing the whole Community Development Corporation parcel for a park. Pointing to nearly any part of the Downtown Area Advisory Committee report as validation for nearly anything that you are depending on (limitation of building height on the Community Development Corporation property was never discussed among us) is a great error in judgment. Without Touchette’s seasoned and professional input, anything that came out of that report was no longer meaningful. Half of us (Shugars, Moffroid, Terwilliger and Chase) had no prior experience or credentials that would supersede any other lay public input. Dragging the process through yet another layer of public input did nothing other than place the results of the original planning process in the “round file.” But it did allow our mayor to rally a group of individuals who apparently never participated in any of the opportunities to be heard over the past year, until she heard something that supported her position. This was a huge disservice to the public process and a total lack of respect for all of the efforts that had gone on during the year.
The developer of Willits has not only had the benefit of repurchasing the property at a discounted rate, but then received as much as $1.5 million in giveaways from the town. It’s no wonder that commercial space in old town has trouble competing for potential lessees. That, as well as what appears to be a total lack of “architectural review,” has skewed the playing field beyond recognition. You may not have intended for the downtown commercial core to collapse, but if you fail to see that process as it is going on, you’re even more out of touch than I thought. You may want “a nonprofit campus” or “public art and dancing fountains” or “wide open spaces” or smaller, shorter buildings or nothing that would give the appearance of providing residential opportunities for other than the needy, but your failure to act on the realities on the ground and “kick the can down the road” truly questions your capabilities of serving the public good. This is the town of Basalt with all of the amenities of a small town — at least it was before 2008 — even with no access to the river and a slum in the middle of town. It is not a park, it is the commercial core of a city — a town surrounded by millions of acres of Bureau of Land Management land, wilderness, national forest and two gold-medal trout streams. The town is on life support while you envision a place to throw a Frisbee — a town where the average home price is nearly $200,000 more than the neighboring community to the west. It’s time you lent credence to all of the demographics that are trying to be part of this town. You actually could do much of that if you will take a path that is sensible and responsible and not place the treasury of the town in jeopardy. Further investment in the Pan and Fork property would never pass a vote of the community if it was to be funded by further taxation. Your disrespect for the developer and the architectural firm is embarrassing! We should be so lucky to have had this opportunity to have local, talented and nationally recognized individuals willing to go through the charade that you have created.
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