Critic of Basalt downtown plan wants to say ‘none of the above’
The Aspen Times
The town of Basalt closed its first round of voting for downtown development scenarios Monday as part of a community planning effort and will now get into the nitty-gritty with interested residents.
Town Manager Mike Scanlon said the online voting over the first three weeks of June would eliminate one of the three options that were presented to any interested midvalley resident or Basalt visitor. Architects working for the town will take the two options that received the most votes and use them to create more detailed drawings. There will “probably” be a third option added that proposes development at a denser level than contemplated thus far, Scanlon said. Participants will be asked to vote again once they see how the concepts look as detailed streetscape views.
A new option with greater density is just the opposite of what longtime Basalt resident Gerry Terwilliger is lobbying the town to include. Terwilliger protested earlier this month that the planning process assumes residents want some level of growth. Community surveys in the past indicated the majority of residents wants slow or no growth, he said.
Terwilliger wants options in the planning process that allow a person to vote for less development than the current options contemplate. He didn’t like any of the three options up for vote through Monday. He said he wanted to vote “none of the above” but that wasn’t an option.
“If you’re going to add a more-dense option, you need to add a less-dense option,” he said.
Scanlon responded that the town launched what it calls the “Our Town” planning process to determine what residents want to see developed on five key downtown parcels. Doing nothing wasn’t included in the options because the town wanted to see what the residents want to accomplish.
The three options that residents voted on were prepared by using more than 300 maps turned in by people participating in the process, he said. The options reflected the general themes conveyed by participants.
Scanlon claimed that some of the options will accomplish what Terwilliger seeks — more open space.
“We’re not going to have less than what we had before,” Scanlon said. The town purchased part of the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site and has committed to building a park alongside the Roaring Fork River.
“We pick up a lot of green space that we didn’t have for 50 years,” he said.
Some development is contemplated on the Two Rivers Road side of the property, which is being raised with dirt and fill to remove it from the floodplain. However, Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said she would like to see options presented that keep more “physical and visual access to the river.”
“There is plenty of room for redevelopment that isn’t on the river,” Whitsitt said.
Terwilliger wants the town to survey either all residents of Basalt or all residents of Old Town about the downtown development. It needs to be a mail survey to get more people to participate, he said. The Our Town planning process has engaged people who enjoy community planning, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect the community mood, according to Terwilliger.
“I really think they should do a mail-in survey,” he said. “People who go to these meetings are the rah-rah people.”
Where there appears to be agreement between Terwilliger and Scanlon is a desire to slow things down and not get in a hurry to develop. Terwilliger said he doesn’t want to see the town overreact to the hangover from the recession and the maturation of Willits Town Center, where Whole Foods Market has primed a commercial pump in the west side of Basalt.
Scanlon said he wants to slow down the Our Town planning process to make sure the right decisions are made for the town’s long-term future.
He wants to proceed with a new process — where ideas keep getting refined and culled as the participants offer feedback — that would add six to nine months to the planning. Ultimately the goal is to come up with a blueprint that tells developers what the community finds acceptable on the targeted parcels. The Town Council will be asked Tuesday night if it wants to follow the extended process.
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