Basalt officials dream big for town’s future land uses

The new Basalt master plan will examine ways to enhance the best qualities of the town's charming downtown. Ideas include making downtown more pedestrian friendly, like downtown Grand Junction.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Some Basalt officials are thinking big when it comes to the town’s future — from creating a pedestrian-friendly downtown similar to Grand Junction’s to buying a critical property to spur redevelopment.

Although the Town Council has been stuck in neutral while trying to decide the fate of the Pan and Fork property, that hasn’t derailed efforts to update a broader master plan that could dictate the town’s growth for decades.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is heading the effort to rework a community master plan last updated in 2007. They are determined to hire a consultant that will create something visionary.

“I was involved in the last two master plans,” said Bill Maron, chairman of the planning commission. “It helped us determine what we don’t want. It didn’t help us advance goals for what we do want.”

Basalt has a reputation for being a place where land-use applications go to die a slow death. The reputation was gained because of the slow land-use review process of numerous applications, most notably ideas for the Pan and Fork property just west of downtown. The council finally made headway on a plan last month with a developer after seven years of discussion with various parties.

To ensure the master plan spells out what the town wants this time around, the planning commission aims to hire a consultant to focus on a base plan of practical goals and planning issues as well as a “high aspirations plan.”

The base plan will examine challenges such as accommodating young adults.

“We want Basalt kids to be able to return here after college to live and work,” said a request for proposals being polished by the planning commission.

“Our housing costs prohibit many people from living here,” the draft RFP continued. “Look at housing solutions that attract young people.”

Another focus of the base plan will be generating a plan to connect trails through the various neighborhoods and advance on the long-discussed plan to build a pedestrian trail along Two Rivers Road west of downtown, along the Roaring Fork River.

The master plan also will attend to the nuts-and-bolts planning issues, such as determining what future uses would be desirable on several undeveloped pieces of land.

But the planning commission also wants to think big with a high-aspirations plan.

“This could be Basalt’s big vision for the next 30 years,” the planning staff wrote in a memo to the planning commission.

One goal is to improve the Midland Avenue streetscape.

“Can we create an experience such as downtown Grand Junction, remove loading from the middle of the street, wider sidewalk dining areas and pedestrian crosswalks?” the RFP said.

Another goal is to spur redevelopment of the former Clark’s Market space, which was most recently Habitat for Humanity’s Restore.

“Study the feasibility of the town taking radical measures to redevelop parts of historic downtown such as purchasing the entire Basalt Center Circle property, building a new road through that property for truck movement and loading, and providing a structured parking garage for downtown use; or more modest activities such as paying for legal fees and processing fees to allow reorganization of buildings and parking in the common-owned property, subsidizing the necessary infrastructure, or providing tax incentives for desired uses,” the RFP said.

The planning commission will check in with the Town Council on Nov. 13 to make sure they share the same general vision. They will also discuss the budget for the project. If they agree on the approach, the RFP will be issued and interested consulting firms will have until Jan. 17 to submit plans.

In theory, a plan will be adopted by December 2019.


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