There are times when one feels that circumstances are coming to a head.
Last Tuesday in Basalt, the Town Council
to clarify uses of the five-acre Pan and Fork park and development site between Two Rivers Road and the Roaring Fork River. They voted to start work on site zoning, look at ways to purchase more of the private land for a park, consider pending development options and amend the 2007 downtown master plan to better reflect current conditions.
The Council's actions stirred displeasure among those attending: low development advocates voiced concern about "urbanizing" downtown while revitalization proponents felt that the vote narrowed planning options. It is an interesting phenomenon that objections rang out on both sides.
Meanwhile Town Manager Mike Scanlon has
challenged the Town Council and community
to set aside their focus on bricks and mortar, height and square footage, and recapture a bigger picture analysis. Scanlon believes that Basalt can have both great development and a great park and it's in the relations and connections between the two that Basalt will see future and long-term vitality.
While the gem that is the former Pan and Fork site has captured the community focus, there's an even bigger picture to consider. The Aspen Times recently published an
describing up to 1,000 new residences and commercial development along the Highway 82 corridor from Basalt to south Glenwood Springs.
Of these, a majority are in the Basalt area: the 164-unit Stotts Mill project proposed for Southside, the 98-residence Fields project across Highway 82 from Blue Lake, continued development at Willits Town Center and the nearby Tree Farm project designed for up to 400 residences and 135,00 square feet of commercial space. Each of these development proposals is in various stages of municipal review. Each assures myriad impacts which will affect our quality of life and community for years to come.
Projects on the drawing board if designed correctly could bring much needed "affordable housing" to the mid-valley and sufficient density to support long-term economic sustainability, yet if done poorly could leave Basalt with a tangle of intolerable traffic woes, school and child-care crisis and imbalance the housing scale even further.
Regional Planning & Collaboration is Imperative
The Basalt Chamber feels that an optimal outcome can only be achieved by looking at development and "growth" from a regional as well as a local perspective. Just as downtown Basalt can not be shaped by decisions on a single hotel - whether 37,000 square feet or 75,000, three story or four - it would be a mistake to review the disparate mid-valley development proposals, the potential opportunities and the certain impacts of this level of development in a vacuum.
Last May, Basalt, Eagle County and Pitkin County officials met here in what was called a "historic meeting." They vowed to take a regional approach to the major issues affecting the Roaring Fork Valley, particularly Basalt which straddles the county line. We'd like to see how that collaboration is progressing and to begin to develop more concrete strategies that further engage the School District, RFTA, chambers of commerce, tourism boards (where they exist) and others. (Current
MidValley Area Master Plan
, adopted April 4, 2013.)
It has been a stellar year for Basalt businesses, but it would be short-sighted to sit back. Ultimately, we need to work together to create a foundation for a healthy, sustainable long-term economy that weathers the peaks and valleys as well as the seasonal slumps. The opportunities before us are unprecedented. We'll see our greatest success as a collaborative, creative, dynamic regional planning team.