Affordable-housing project in Basalt advances following a risky move by developer |

Affordable-housing project in Basalt advances following a risky move by developer

Basalt blinked first.

A faceoff between a development company and the town government was averted, at least temporarily, when the council voted Tuesday night to give the second of three approvals needed to a 110-unit affordable-housing project.

The council majority warned the MSP Development Group on Sept. 9 that it wouldn’t approve its Stott’s Mill development proposal unless it added more deed-restricted affordable housing.

The developer called the bluff. The development team returned to the council Tuesday and politely but firmly replied it wouldn’t make the requested changes.

“We think we’ve got a good affordable-housing plan,” said Mark Chain, the land-use planner for the developers. Every unit in the project has some type of restriction, he noted.

Stott’s Mill includes 23 units that are restricted to buyers with limits on incomes and assets. The other 87 units must be purchased by full-time occupants of the Roaring Fork Valley. Of those 87 units, 15 have appreciation caps. That resident-occupied, or RO, housing is designed to prevent construction of pricey second homes that are unaffordable for local workers.

The developers also are donating space for a 3,500-square-foot day care center. Stott’s Mill is located in the South Side neighborhood, along the road to the high school.

Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux warned his fellow council members Sept. 9 that they ran the risk of killing the Stott’s Mill project ” and losing the opportunity to add much-needed affordable housing ” if they raised the requirements.

Briston Peterson, a partner in the development team, said Tuesday that Duroux’s observations were correct.

Councilman Chris Seldin didn’t buy it. He said he would grant all necessary approvals for the project only if deed-restricted housing is added.

“You came back and said ‘no’ [to the additional units], and we’re coming back and saying ‘yes,'” Seldin said. “I won’t vote for this in the form it’s in now.”

Seldin has consistently taken the position that projects must present extraordinary community benefits if they want annexation into the town. The Stott’s Mill site is outside current town boundaries and needs annexation into town. The town government has extra leverage ” and an ability to ask developers for more amenities ” in annexation negotiations.

Seldin took the initiative to avoid a make-or-break conflict and to buy time for compromise. He made a motion to grant the second-round approval but warned that the developer and town staff needed to alter the affordable-housing plan before the review begins for the third round of approval.

The motion was approved 4-0, but it was unclear if other council members shared Seldin’s view. Council members Pete McBride and Amy Capron couldn’t attend the meeting. Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt disqualified herself from the discussion and vote because she said her husband’s law firm does work for the developers. Whitsitt participated in the discussion on Stott’s Mill two weeks ago and raised a variety of concerns. She said Tuesday she had just learned that her husband’s firm represents the developers, and had for some time.

The Stott’s Mill developers will be back before the council several months from now with final details to seek final approval.

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