Report advises Basalt to ‘rebalance’ with Pan and Fork developer, get another $750,000
The Aspen Times
A financial consultant for Basalt town government is advising the Town Council that a developer’s plan for the Pan and Fork property relies too heavily on direct and indirect money from public coffers.
Bruce Kimmel, a senior municipal advisor for the firm Ehlers, wrote in a report released Friday that the town should negotiate to “rebalance” funds spent by the town and the developer, going forward. The developer’s plan “has the fiscal capacity to shoulder roughly $750,000 in rebalanced costs and maintain its opportunity to achieve net profits appropriate to this development plan,” the study said.
A company called Basalt River Park LLC has an option to purchase the Pan and Fork property from the current owner for $3.2 million, the report said. Basalt River Park is headed by Tim Belinski of Snowmass Village.
The town had Ehlers go over Basalt River Park’s pro form a to see if the firm has a realistic financial plan to accomplish the project and to assess what the developer wants from the town government. Kimmel’s report is the first disclosure of what Belinski’s group is expecting. Those proposals, which the town hasn’t ruled on yet, include:
• The town’s purchase of roughly an acre of the land near downtown Basalt for $2,049,160. The bulk of that property would be added to an adjacent park the town already owns along the Roaring Fork River. It would also include property the town is eying for a community building. Belinski is also asking the town to buy vacant land to provide a corridor between his development and Rocky Mountain Institute’s Innovation Center.
• The town’s purchase of a 5,000 square foot footprint pegged as the future home for the Art Base, a community arts center. The price is $160,000. The town would sell the space when the nonprofit arts group is ready.
• The town pays for all design, construction and operations of a community building.
• The town would pay the bulk of the cost of rebuilding and improving Two River Road in front of the Pan and Fork Parcel. The work on sidewalks, parking areas and a bus stop in the town right-of-way is estimated at $1.1 million. The developer and Art Base would pay $238,000 for on-street parking.
• The developer wouldn’t pay for any past work completed by the town on its property. The town paid to place rock and dirt on the site to raise it out of the floodplain and it shouldered the entire cost of relocating residents of a former mobile home park on the property.
Kimmel’s report said some of Basalt River Park’s requests and assumptions “will provoke consternation among council members.” He stressed that Ehlers was not endorsing or criticizing the proposals, but only advising the town on a response.
“Ehlers believes that the BRP project, as proposed, demonstrates a fiscal capacity to take on more of the above direct or indirect costs, and that the Town should therefore seek to rebalance certain ‘forward-looking cost,’” the report said.
Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney said Friday he believes the “rebalancing” Kimmel referred to needs to focus on future expenses. When the town performed work on the Pan and Fork site, no contract or cost-sharing agreement was made with the property owner, the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp., Mahoney said. So the town has no leverage to recoup those funds, he said. That work was performed prior to Mahoney becoming manager.
The total expense on public and private land was about $6.5 million, according to the town’s research. He noted that much of the work undertaken had a public benefit — river stabilization, flood control and parks on both sides of the river. The town carried out the work on the private Pan and Fork parcel at the same time the contractors were mobilized for work on the public property.
When looking at future expenses, the town government has to ask what’s fair and what the parties can realistically pay, Mahoney said. The developer wants to make sure it’s a project that makes financial sense.
“Tim’s looking for something that pencils,” Mahoney said.
As it stands now, Basalt River Park is seeking approval for 11 river cabins, two free-market apartments, six micro-apartments and four deed-restricted units. The residential component would total 23,435 square feet of market rate housing; 3,650 square feet of deed restricted housing; and 11,500 square feet of office space and associated uses.
Belinski said Friday he would comment on the study next week. Kimmel presented it to Belinski prior to the public release.
The report will be presented to the council at its meeting Tuesday night at Town Hall. There will be time for questions from the public, Mahoney said.
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