Basalt council votes 4-2 to approve Aspen Skiing Co. affordable housing at Willits |

Basalt council votes 4-2 to approve Aspen Skiing Co. affordable housing at Willits

This image shows where Aspen Skiing Co. is proposing an affordable housing project in Willits Town Center. Whole Foods is in the upper center of the photo. Highway 82 is on the upper end. Willits Lane is off the photo on the bottom end.
Courtesy image

The Basalt Town Council voted 4-2 Tuesday night to approve Aspen Skiing Co.’s controversial proposal to build an affordable housing project in Willits.

The 46-unit, 150-bedroom proposal faced considerable neighborhood opposition for alleged inadequate parking and for creating a “dorm” that would be out of character with the area.

The most biting criticism was that the project is an example of a big upper valley employer looking in the midvalley to solve its problems.

Councilman Gary Tennenbaum wasted no time during council deliberations to address that issue. He said the project is a model for addressing the regional housing crisis. It is a private company using its own funds to build transit-oriented affordable housing that is within walking distance of grocery stores, bars, restaurants and public bus stops.

“We shouldn’t talk about Aspen’s problems, Basalt’s problems,” Tennenbaum said. “It’s a regional problem.”

Neighborhood criticism and feedback from the council forced Skico to refine the project twice and kept the vote somewhat in doubt. The council was deadlocked 2-2 in a vote last month when not all members were able to attend a hearing.

Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan attended Tuesday’s hearing to lobby for the proposal.

The council had all six members who were eligible to vote on the issue present Tuesday. Councilman Auden Schendler recused himself because he is a Skico executive.

The project was supported in the first of two required votes by Tennenbaum and council members Bill Infante, Katie Schwoerer and Jennifer Riffle.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt and Councilman Ryan Slack opposed it. Both opponents said they wanted to see a larger, more diverse project that supplied housing for more members of the community.

“Make this thing bigger, make it more diverse,” Whitsitt said. “That would make it community housing. This is Ski Company housing.”

A second reading will be held in July.

(For complete coverage, see The Aspen Times online.)

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