The clock is ticking on the popular Taqueria el Nopal restaurant in Basalt.
A new agreement between the town government and Rocky Mountain Institute has the potential to shorten the amount of time before the Taqueria is evicted.
The Town Council approved on Tuesday night an updated agreement to sell land to RMI so it can build a new office and conference facility. RMI is buying property occupied by the ramshackle building where the Taqueria is located.
The exact date that the restaurant will be evicted isn’t known yet, but the new agreement spells out general terms of when the building must be demolished.
“The Town is required to remove the building earlier to better meet RMI’s construction schedule,” said a staff memo to the Town Council.
The town must demolish the building when the sale is completed to RMI or within 45 days of RMI obtaining its final approval, whichever is earlier, the agreement says.
Councilwoman Karin Teague said she was concerned that the agreement could crate a scenario where the Taqueria is evicted and the building demolished, but RMI cannot start construction for some period of time. It would be unfortunate to force the restaurant out if construction of RMI’s office is delayed for five years, Teague said.
Councilman Glenn Rappaport said he wants to see the Taqueria remain at its current site for as long as possible.
The restaurant, which serves authentic Mexican and Salvadorean food, is usually packed for both lunch and dinner.
Town staff members said they are working with RMI on refinements that will keep the Taqueria on the site as long as possible. Town planning director Susan Philp didn’t offer details of a tweaked deal and no council member pressed the issue further. The updated agreement with RMI was approved 6-0.
The new deal increases the amount of land RMI will acquire without increasing the price. The original agreement called for RMI to buy 0.55 acres for $600,000. The new agreement boosts the amount of land to 0.87 acres for $600,000.
The amended agreement extends RMI’s option to purchase from Jan. 11, 2014 to Jan. 11, 2015.
In addition, the town agreed to undertake the work necessary to remove the site from the floodplain. The town’s current “Fix the Fork” project includes $119,000 budgeted to raise the elevation of RMI’s future home by adding fill materials.
Basalt acquired the Levinson property, which included the Taqueria building, in April 2002. It turned a portion of the site into Old Pond Park, alongside the Roaring Fork River.
The Taqueria was placed on a month-to-month lease by the town government years ago and the owners were told it was a matter of time before they would have to vacate the premises.
Loyal fans of the restaurant responded with “Save the Taq” bumper stickers. Some Basalt residents have protested the eviction and relocation of residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park, adjacent to the restaurant. The eviction of Taqueria el Nopal, when the time comes, could be met with more disapproval.