Final fallout surfaces from Basalt’s Pan and Fork resident resettlement
The Aspen Times
The last resident to leave the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park during a resettlement required in 2014 said Monday he believes the town has violated the spirit of a deal with him.
Ralph Vazquez said the town agreed to provide alternative housing as part of his family’s departure from the Pan and Fork. The town leased him and his parents a one-bedroom apartment in March 2013 and renewed the lease for Vazquez, who now lives there alone. He was notified in November that his lease won’t be extended beyond Jan. 31.
The unit at the Harry Teague Architects building at 129 Emma Road along the Basalt bypass was intended to be a temporary solution. Vazquez was told he would have priority to get into affordable housing constructed by the town government alone or with a private-sector partner. Vazquez and his family paid about $3,500 to secure a future unit. So far, no affordable housing has been built.
Vazquez is paying $600 per month for his apartment. He said it will be impossible to find another apartment at that price in Basalt, where he works.
“There’s nothing out there, and it’s the middle of winter,” Vazquez said. “I’m going to have to couch it.”
Town Manager Mike Scanlon confirmed that Vazquez was given notice he must move out by Jan. 31, but he denied it breaks any agreement. Vazquez was told when the original lease was signed and renewed that the town might need the unit for one of its own employees. The lease clearly notes that the town has the right to remove Vazquez with 60 days notice, Scanlon said.
The town needs the unit for an employee who requires housing, Scanlon said. He said he understands the housing market is tight and that Vazquez will likely have to seek an apartment in Glenwood Springs or further down the Lower Colorado River Valley. Scanlon’s research indicated the market rate is $1,000 to $1,100 per month for a unit similar to what Vazquez has now. The town government, he said, is willing to assist Vazquez with rent during a six-month transition time.
For example, if Vazquez finds a new unit for $1,000, the town would be willing to cover the difference — $400 per month — for up to six months, he said.
The town will also refund the first, last and security deposit that Vazquez and his family pre-paid for a future affordable housing unit, Scanlon said.
Vazquez and town officials didn’t always see eye to eye on the original relocation effort. Vazquez helped form a citizens’ group that resisted removal from the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. The trailers were removed and the residents offered assistance with relocation after the town and nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. bought the mobile home park.
About 170 residents were relocated from 31 owner-occupied trailers. They received financial packages of $15,000 to $25,000 per household. Roughly the same number of renters in trailers received smaller resettlement packages. The town spent about $800,000 on resettlements.
Vazquez’s group explored a legal challenge, but members ultimately accepted the financial relocation packages offered by the town. Vazquez said he was willing to settle because the town gave him a priority for future affordable housing. Now it appears that housing won’t materialize.
Scanlon said it was difficult to find alternative housing for Vazquez and his family because of their lack of credit history. The town leased them one of its units, but always with the understanding it might be needed for a town employee, he said. Scanlon doesn’t believe the town has any obligation to continue assisting Vazquez under terms of resettlement from the Pan and Fork. The town is voluntarily offering to help.
“He’s the last one that hasn’t found what I’d call permanent housing,” Scanlon said.
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