Basalt approves land-use amendment for domestic-abuse shelter

Josie Taris  The Aspen Times
A draft rendition of Respone's proposed domestic abuse shelter in Basalt.
Courtesy of Chris Bendon, BendonAdams and 2757 design co.

The upper valley is one step closer to getting a domestic-abuse shelter.

The Basalt Town Council approved the first reading for an amendment in the planned unit development at the Basalt Business Center-East, 325 East Cody Lane, at Tuesday’s town council meeting. The amendment will define “domestic-abuse shelter” as the primary use for the parcel of land.

Response is a nonprofit that serves survivors of domestic abuse and currently operates out of Aspen. The organization has plans to construct a building that serves as a shelter and primary office at the lot on Cody Lane. They are currently under contract for the purchase of the lot.

Shannon Meyer, executive director of Response; Chris Bendon, principal and co-founder of the consulting firm BendonAdams; and Erin Wackerle, studio/marketing manager and project assistant at BendonAdams presented Response’s case to the council. 

Meyer laid out Response’s role in serving survivors of domestic abuse and their need for their own space to provide transitional housing. Bendon discussed property specifications, potential hurdles like the floodplain, as the property is adjacent to the Roaring Fork River, and community response. 

The property is located next to Isberian Rug Company, High Tone Auto Body and High Tone Automotive & Tire. The primary complaint that Bendon heard from the potential neighbors, he said, was that the clients that utilize transitional housing at Response might complain about the noise and smells coming from the businesses next door. Meyer said they do not anticipate that complaint from their clients. 

Several community members attended to express support for Response. 

Stephan Isberian, owner of Isberian Rug and vice president of the BBCE HOA, told the council that the HOA was in favor of Response’s presence on Cody Lane. Betsy Crum, the housing director for Snowmass Village, and former Basalt mayor Jacque Whitsitt also commented in favor of the amendment. 

A caller who identified himself as John Fitzpatrick and owner of the building that hosts the auto shop, expressed concern about the safety of children that would stay in the shelter on a street with businesses like mechanics. He also raised concern about how the building would be used should Response ever relocate to another property. 

Ultimately, the council voted unanimously in favor of the land use amendment. A second reading is scheduled for December 13. 

Meyer was heartened by the support. 

“I’m excited,” she said, “Really great feedback from council … everyone on the council being so supportive of our use and recognizing the importance of what we do and what we’ll bring to the town of Basalt.”

Still, Response has a long road ahead of them before the new facility will become reality. 

According to James Lindt, the Town of Basalt’s assistant planning director, Response still faces some hurdles before official approval to break ground on Cody Lane. 

“I think it’s a promising sign,” he said of the council’s approval of the use application. But, Response and BendonAdams will still need to figure out how to build on the floodplain, comprehensively address security, plan for parking, and other code requirements. That will all come up in the special-use review process, which currently has no set timeline.

M. is a domestic-abuse survivor and used Response’s services when getting out of an abusive relationship. (Her full name has been removed to protect her privacy and safety.)

She said the presence of a shelter would bring domestic-violence awareness to a community that does not always acknowledge that it exists here.

“I think that it’s not talked about, and it has to be talked about,” she said. “And, not to discount what happened to me, but it pales in comparison to what other survivors and victims are going through. And, this is a much, much needed facility in our community.

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