‘Vasectomy zoning’ argument fails to sour Basalt council on project

This image shows the mixed-used building approved for 525 Basalt Ave. It will combined two industrial spaces and parking on the ground floor with eight one-bedroom apartments split between the second and third stories.
Black Shack Architects/courtesy photo

The majority of the Basalt Town Council approved a development project Tuesday that allows residential uses in a predominantly industrial area despite concern from one board member who said it is an example of “vasectomy zoning.”

The council voted 5-2 to approve the mixed-use project at 525 Basalt Ave., a site between a parking lot for the Basalt bus stop and Myers & Co. Architectural Metals. The project will mix two light industrial spaces of 3,985 square feet on the ground floor with eight one-bedroom apartments split between the second and third stories of the building.

Four of the residences will be deed restricted as affordable housing, which currently limits the rent at $1,623 per month. Basalt’s code only required such restrictions on two of the units.

The project didn’t require any zoning changes or land-use code variances. There will be no government subsidy for affordable housing.

The project earned the initial nod of approval from the council Jan. 26. Board members said then they thought the project by Patrick Keelty was a perfect example of transit-oriented development. Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s major bus stop for Basalt is about one block away from the site.

But some nearby property owners expressed concerns in January that the site is too enmeshed in a neighborhood that includes metal fabrication, a body shop and automotive repair. They claimed that residences don’t belong in the area.

Basalt’s regulations prohibit households in industrial zones from having children 16 years of age and younger as a safety measure. Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle said Tuesday such restrictions have been labeled “vasectomy zoning” because it creates childless neighborhoods in favor of couples without kids and single occupants.

Riffle said she supports construction of affordable housing but felt the industrial area was the wrong site.

Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer agreed.

“It’s not a place where I would want to live,” she said, citing the lights in the parking lots and noise likely to come from the industrial businesses.

Councilman Ryan Slack said he’s lived in industrial neighborhoods without a problem from noise or other inconveniences.

“It’s not as bad as you guys make it out to be,” he said.

Most council members didn’t wade into the debate. Schwoerer and Riffle voted against the motion for approval. Slack, Mayor Jacque Whitsitt and Councilmen Auden Schendler, Bill Infante and Gary Tennenbaum voted in favor.