Basalt setting path on growth, housing; citizens can weigh in Wednesday
BASALT Basalt residents will get an opportunity Wednesday to determine how large their town grows over the next decade and whether or not it adopts tough new regulations for affordable housing.The Town Council will review a proposed master plan update at 6 p.m. at the Eagle County Community Center in El Jebel. Community volunteers on the planning commission have worked on a draft master plan for months; now it goes before elected officials.One of the biggest issues facing the booming town since the last council election in spring 2006 is the urban growth boundary – or the size to which the town should be allowed to grow.A council majority recently determined they want to maintain the boundary established in 1999. They want to strictly follow that definitive border rather than allow flexibility for individual projects.
“This would send a clear message to the public and developers where development would occur within the next five to 10 years with the town,” said an overview to the plan written by the master plan consultant.Critics contend such a policy could snuff good projects that are just outside the town’s fringe. David Fiore’s Sopris Chase project, for example, proposes an affordable housing neighborhood west of Basalt High School.The boundary, as proposed, would prevent the town from considering Sopris Chase because it is outside the urban growth boundary.Critics also say sticking to a tight urban growth boundary helps drive up prices because the supply of land for development is so limited.Supporters of a tight urban growth boundary contend enough development is already approved or could be approved as infill to allow Basalt to grow at a healthy rate for years.They also claim a tight boundary maintains a rural buffer around the town.The proposed master plan update also sets a high standard for developers who have property inside the urban growth boundary but want it annexed into Basalt city limits. Under the proposal, half of all residential units proposed would have to be affordable housing.Currently, the town has a requirement that 20 percent of a project’s housing must be affordable, regardless of whether or not annexation is sought, according to Town Planner Susan Philp. The council has established a policy in recent months of demanding more affordable housing in return for annexing a project.Annexations are typically coveted by developers because town regulations allow higher density developments than in Pitkin County and, in some cases, even Eagle County.Wednesday’s meeting will include time for public comment.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Construction for the South Midland project is on schedule, though crews will continue to work on weekends to keep the course.