Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon informed Town Council members Monday night that he will ask them later this year to consider easing affordable-housing requirements so that redevelopment of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park becomes a reality.
In an informal work session with the council, Scanlon said housing is "the single piece that has made the redevelopment virtually impossible over the last 20 years." He said the council must look at the town land-use code and reconsider refinements.
Basalt has two types of housing requirements. One provision says that when affordable housing will be lost through a redevelopment, an equal number of units must be provided elsewhere. In the case of the Pan and Fork, that means all 38 mobile homes must be replaced with affordable housing either on-site or elsewhere. The Pan and Fork is located along Two Rivers Road, just west of downtown and east of the Taqueria el Nopal restaurant.
In addition to replacement housing, Basalt requires developers to provide housing when they build commercial or residential projects. That mitigation housing is meant to offset the demand generated by new employees.
While no council vote was taken, the five members who attended the hearing expressed support for reconsidering the 100 percent replacement-housing requirement.
"I've never been in favor of the 100 percent replacement," Councilman Glenn Rappaport said. "It was a no-growth strategy that worked really well."
Mayor Jacque Whitsitt agreed that "100 percent is crazy" but that the town cannot pick some "arbitrary number."
Councilwoman Anne Freedman said she has consistently expressed concern that the replacement-housing requirement was snuffing desirable types of development. However, she asked whether the town could change it now that redevelopment of the Pan and Fork is being discussed.
"We've created those expectations," she said.
Whitsitt also referred to the potential problem of tinkering with the land-use code while a project is being reviewed.
"Changing the code in the middle of the discussion seems odd to me," she said.
No one specifically mentioned that it could appear the town government is giving itself a break that other developers haven't received. The town teamed with the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. to buy the Pan and Fork property. The development corporation is a nonprofit organization that is aiming to sell a large portion of its land to a for-profit developer. That developer wants to build a hotel, retail shops, restaurants and some residences.
The town government will concentrate on creating a park along the Roaring Fork River at the Pan and Fork site. However, the town government is also responsible for helping provide the replacement housing. Changing the code would ease the town's responsibility.
Scanlon pledged to come back within the next two months with options on how the current residents of the mobile-home park could be assisted without making redevelopment financially impossible.
Changing the code to ease mitigation housing for the employees generated by the project appeared to be a tougher sell. Councilman Herschel Ross said he wants to see the hotel project work, but the upper Roaring Fork Valley has built a successful affordable-housing program that's eased some of the impacts of growth. Housing in Aspen reduces the number of employees commuting, for example. He indicated that he favors keeping the mitigation affordable housing in place because conditions are sure to change and housing shortages will reappear.
"I don't want to change code to throw things out," Ross said.