Basalt, county eye blockbuster property deal
Aspen, CO Colorado
BASALT, Colorado ” The governments of Basalt and Pitkin County are trying to assemble a blockbuster land acquisition deal that would add riverfront open space and a site to relocate residents of two imperiled trailer parks, officials confirmed Wednesday.
The Basalt Town Council has held numerous closed-doors sessions, sometimes with Pitkin County representatives, throughout this year on land acquisitions. Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux and Town Manager Bill Kane acknowledged that the two mobile home parks in the heart of Basalt are a focus of the talks.
“The whole start and the implementation of the River Master Plan has to involve getting the mobile home parks out of harm’s way,” Duroux said.
The River Master Plan is a land-use planning document that is sacred to most Basalt officials. It is a blueprint for easing the flood risk to residents along the Roaring Fork River and converting more of the riverfront to parks and open space.
Studies connected to that plan show the two trailer parks, home to about 90 families, are at high risk of flooding. Both parks are located along the Roaring Fork River, below its confluence with the Fryingpan River. They are in the floodway, where the highest waters would go in a major flood.
Neither Kane nor Duroux would discuss details of the land acquisition discussions, which they labeled preliminary. Other sources familiar with the discussions said the governments also are looking at purchases of the Jadwin and Sopris Chase sites on the fringes of Basalt.
Jadwin is located along the Roaring Fork River between the Basalt post office and the Basalt Sanitation District’s wastewater treatment plant. The owners have applied to build 83 residential units on 8.5 acres, but the review has stalled, in part, because of questions of how flooding would affect part of the property. Ted Guy, a local architect and planner who has represented the Jadwin owners, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
The Sopris Chase site is 25 acres adjacent to the Basalt High School. The owners, who include Basalt businessman David Fiore, have applied to Pitkin County to build an affordable housing project. Basalt has opposed development on that site because it is urban-style growth outside the town’s designated growth boundary. Fiore declined comment Wednesday.
Sources confirmed that the Sopris Chase property and the river frontage of Jadwin are being eyed for preservation as open space. A portion of Jadwin would be developed as affordable, replacement housing for residents of the mobile home parks. The imperiled parts of the trailer parks would be converted to open space. It was unclear if part of those properties could safely be developed.
The complex deal would cost the governments several million dollars. Basalt had a contract to buy the Pan and Fork mobile home park alone for $4.5 million in 2008, but the proposal was narrowly rejected by voters.
Sources familiar with the negotiations said the funding stream could include Pitkin County’s open space fund and a separate county housing fund, Basalt’s open space fund and possibly Eagle County.
Dale Will, director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, wouldn’t confirm or deny that his department in engaged in acquisition talks on those properties.
“We’re very proud of the work we’ve done so far to protect river frontage in the midvalley,” Will said. The department will always look at additional opportunities to preserve more river frontage, he said.
A significant portion of land along a 2.5-mile stretch from the Upper Basalt Bypass Bridge to the Emma store is already in public hands. The addition of the mobile home parks and Jadwin would greatly enhance the public’s holdings.
The Sopris Chase property is fertile pasture land and wildlife habitat between existing open space ” the Grange Ranch ” and a hillside held by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Kane said a lot of different pieces have to fall into place to complete the deal. Duroux agreed, labeling it extremely complex.
“I’m hopeful, but it’s not going to happen quickly,” Duroux said.
Snow usually comes and goes in this part of the state. A forecasted storm is expected to stick around for a while. Forecasters are calling for snow to persist throughout the weekend in the high country, with a prospect of a couple of feet of powder by the time the storm starts to diminish on Monday.