Basalt council, developer hash out general direction for Pan and Fork plan
The Aspen Times
After years of debate, community battles and frustrated developers, the Basalt Town Council appeared to finally make progress Tuesday on a plan for the Pan and Fork property.
Six council members and the latest developer of the high-profile property just west of downtown traded ideas Tuesday night and produced a plan to move forward on a potential compromise development.
Councilman Auden Schendler said the public must be given a chance to comment, but he was optimistic about the progress Tuesday.
“I like the direction and think we’re getting someplace where we can potentially agree,” he said.
Tim Belinski, a local businessman heading the development group, also expressed hope for a meeting of minds.
“I don’t think we want to see this opportunity dissipate,” he said.
Belinski’s group, Basalt River Park LLC, has an option to buy 2.3 acres of land along Two River Road, adjacent to a park the town is developing along the Roaring Fork River. The group submitted a plan earlier this year that did little to enthuse the council. Tuesday, the council tried to provide more feedback so Belinski and his team can refine their proposal.
The council’s general direction was for Belinski’s group to provide a mix of free market and affordable housing on the west side of the property, closest to Rocky Mountain Institute’s Innovation Center. The majority of the board members expressed support for small affordable housing units. They said they realized the plan would require some amount of free-market housing so that the developer could recoup funds.
A central part of the development would feature commercial space. Belinski said he didn’t think retail shops would be successful at the site. Instead, his team is thinking of office or nonprofit space. Selling property to the ArtBase for an arts center remains an option, Belinski said.
The council majority supported a proposal by their staff for a community building on the east side of the development. It would feature community-meeting space on an upper story and up to three small restaurant spots on the ground floor where people could grab a quick bite to eat or a beer. The key to the spaces would be integration into the adjacent park, said Town Manager Ryan Mahoney.
Although details are to be worked out, the community-serving building might be sold to the town so Belinski’s group isn’t saddled with a component that drains funds in the short-term.
The plan continues to feature the sale of roughly 1 acre of open space from the developer to the town for expansion of the park.
The proposal requires compromise on both sides. The developer would refine the initial plan for 22 large, free-market units and six affordable housing units. The council direction was for smaller units and an increase in affordable housing.
The town council majority would agree to allow more housing overall then some initially preferred on the site.
“Everyone’s going to have to compromise on this in a painful way, me included, if we’re going to get this done,” Schendler said.
No decisions were made Tuesday night. Although the meeting was held in public, it was designed as a less formal discussion to let the elected officials and developer exchange ideas. They did so for about 2½ hours.
A formal public hearing, with the developers’ refined proposal, will come back before the council on Nov. 13.
The fate of the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park property has been debated since it was purchased by the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. in August 2011.
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