RV park, tiny-home cabins roll nowhere with Basalt Town Council
The Aspen Times
TOBACCO TAX GOING TO BALLOT
Basalt will follow Aspen’s lead by asking voters in April if they support placing a local tax on the purchases of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
The question will go onto the April 3 ballot, which also features the races for three town council seats. The council voted 6-0 to pop the question.
In a separate action, the council indicated it would pass an ordinance later this year approving an increase in the required age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21 years from 18.
“I think it’s the right thing to do for our community and our youth,” said Councilman Bernie Grauer, who headed the effort to get the issue to the ballot.
Basalt would be the second town in Colorado to pass a tax on tobacco. Aspen voters approved a tobacco tax in November. The tax and increased purchasing age were implemented Jan. 1.
If voters approve the question, it would come with financial implications, according to a staff memo. Basalt currently receives about $16,000 annually from its share of the state tobacco tax revenues. Those funds wouldn’t be forwarded if the town raises the buying age or passed its own tax, according to Town Manager Ryan Mahoney.
On the other side of the ledger, the local tax would generate an estimated $29,000 per year, Mahoney said. The tax would add $2 to the price of a pack of cigarettes and increase the price of other tobacco products by 40 percent. The town would also require each of the nine retailers in town that sell cigarettes to get a license for $500.
The town staff would take on additional expenses for enforcing the new laws, collecting the tax and administering the licenses. Mahoney said he felt the extra duties could be absorbed by the staff.
A proposal for an RV park and tiny-home enclave in Basalt died a quick and unceremonious death before the Town Council on Tuesday night, Jan. 9.
The board apologetically voted 5-0 to deny the application by Brent Lough on behalf of the property owner, Linda Jadwin and Jadwin Properties LLC.
Councilman Auden Schendler said he feels “bad and embarrassed” when an applicant spends time and money on a proposal only to see it denied. He urged the town council to come up with a better process of working with applicants to let them know what would and wouldn’t fly with a land-use application before they spend time and money.
Lough came in for an informal, nonbinding pre-application discussion with the council in April. He outlined his plan for a 9-acre property west of the Basalt post office. The council members at that time were neither supportive nor dismissive of the project.
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Lough went ahead and submitted a formal application seeking 23 RV pads for short-time use and 18 tiny-home cabins, also designed to turn over quickly. The plan included a 4,000-square-foot office, laundry and general store, with three units of employee housing.
“The (Planning and Zoning Commission) had considerable discussion about the use and its appropriateness for the location,” said a planning staff memo to the council members. The P&Z ultimately voted 4-2 to recommend approval. The application advanced to the council Tuesday for the first round of review.
“Generally speaking I think the P&Z does a good job, but I think they missed on this one,” Schendler said.
When the project was presented informally to the council in April, Schendler said he wasn’t able to clearly identity what issues he had with it. Since then, it’s become clear.
The project is traffic-oriented at a place where RVs and vehicles of short-term renters of the cabins will be at odds with trail users along Emma Road, he said. In addition, the project exacerbates transience.
“It’s the opposite of what the town ought to be encouraging, which is permanence,” he said.
Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said she had “strong concerns” that the proposal varied so drastically from the town’s 2007 master plan. The Jadwin property is identified as appropriate for high- and medium-density residential development in that planning blueprint.
At odds with the master plan
Whitsitt was critical of the town staff for not pointing out to the council earlier in the process that the application was at odds with the master plan’s envisioned uses. She said compliance with the master plan is always a major criteria for Basalt’s land-use reviews. The council couldn’t apply different rules to the RV park proposal.
“I just can’t support doing business this way,” she said.
Whitsitt said Lough wasn’t to blame for submitting the application. Like Schendler, she apologized to him that it wasn’t made clear earlier that the proposal was at odds with the master plan.
Council members Bernie Grauer, Gary Tennenbaum and Jennifer Riffle also voted against the application. Council members Mark Kittle and Katie Schwoerer were absent.
The vote puts Lough and his family in a bind. While the Basalt master plan envisions high- and medium-density on the property, an earlier town council rejected a proposal for 80 residences at the property about 10 years ago because it is in the 100-year floodplain. It would be cost prohibitive to raise the property to a level where building would be possible.
“If this was not in the floodplain it would be the perfect place for high-density residential,” Tennenbaum said. He said the town should revisit the master plan in general and reconsider what is appropriate on the Jadwin property.
Lough accepted the relatively abrupt decision without comment.
“When we figure out what our master plan is going to look like, we’ll call you,” Whitsitt said at the conclusion of the hearing.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.