Developer urged to ‘bring it on’ at Basalt’s Pan and Fork property
The Aspen Times
Now that Basalt voters rejected a proposal to buy 2.3 acres of land at the Pan and Fork site, it’s time for a developer to emerge with a plan, some Town Council members suggested Tuesday night.
The town proposal to buy 2.3 acres from Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. for as much as $3.1 million failed, 900 to 977, at the Nov. 8 election. Lowe Enterprises, a development firm with a major presence in Aspen, has an option to buy the property.
Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said the development firm has the right to come forward with a proposal.
“I say bring it on, for sure,” Whitsitt said.
Councilman Bernie Grauer said the council is “facing the option of negotiating with a developer” after the outcome of the election.
“I wasn’t placing any money on which side would win. I knew it was going to be close,” Grauer said.
The political reality is the community is split close enough that coming to consensus will be tough if a proposal for the private property doesn’t have something for both factions, Grauer said.
“There’s an absolute possibility either side could stalemate this, and I don’t want to see that happen,” Grauer said.
The town already owns about 3 acres along the Roaring Fork River at the Pan and Fork site, though not all of it is usable. Grauer spoke in favor of moving ahead next year to get that usable space in shape as a park. He said completing that park is his top priority for funding among Basalt’s parks issues.
Councilman Mark Kittle said he felt the town could add sod and sprinklers for about $100,000.
“We don’t have to go the Cadillac route right off the bat,” he said.
Grauer countered that the property is a centerpiece of the town, so it needs more than grass and sprinklers.
Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer was brief in her post-election assessment.
“The public spoke and we’ll move forward,” she said.
Councilman Gary Tennenbaum supported moving ahead with development of the park on the land the town already owns and “deal with what comes in” on the private property.
He didn’t read an anti-park sentiment in the election. People just didn’t want to pay for the additional land, and everybody has the best interests of Basalt in mind, he said.
“I am quite OK with what happened,” he said.
Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle said the community needs to find a way to recover from the election in a civil way.
One of the council’s harshest critics agreed with the mayor about the future process. Stacey Craft said Basalt has a process in place for handling development. In that standard process, the developer submits a proposal, the staff makes sure it’s complete, the planning commission makes a recommendation and the council votes. The public also gets to weigh in.
That process has been “shot down,” she said, but needs to get back on track. She asked each council member to “step back from this goofy park thing.”
Basalt tried to depart from that traditional model under the suggestion of Mike Scanlon, the former town manager. He helped launch a planning process where the community would come to consensus on what it wanted to see on the property, and then a developer would deliver. That consensus has proven elusive so far.
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