Prior to its regular meeting, Basalt Town Council held a joint work session with the Eagle County Commissioners. Mayor Bill Kane introduced the council and emphasized Basalt’s commitment to conserving open space and containing development. Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll opened with a discussion about purchasing a parcel of U.S. Forest Service land near Crown Mountain. Due to various complexities of ownership, this may not be resolved any time soon.
Next, Town Manager Ryan Mahoney introduced the topic of affordable housing, highlighting the possibility of Basalt purchasing land or already built properties for the purpose of developing affordable housing. Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry noted that Eagle County has already spent $10 million on converting county-owned properties into workforce housing, one part of various programs to incentivize workers to move to the Eagle River Valley.
Gail Schwartz, president of the Roaring Fork Valley Habitat for Humanity, also attended the session and spoke about Habitat’s plan to build 20 net-zero homes in Rifle and up to 18 homes in Glenwood Springs, specifically for ownership by lower-income families who will live, work and retire in their communities.
A quick pizza break led into a scheduled update on climate efforts, with Shroll mentioning plans to bring Eagle County Regional Airport to net-zero emissions. The final item on the session’s schedule was a brief discussion on child care, with Mahoney introducing Blue Lake Preschool’s intention to construct a large facility to provide care for infants to toddlers, with one of the hiccups being housing its potential employees.
Eagle Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney also mentioned that a 2% lodging tax to support housing and child care was recently (and overwhelmingly) approved in Gypsum. The majority of the tax revenue — approximately $3 million — will be diverted toward child care.
The session quickly turned into a regular council meeting without any initial public comment. Both the general council and Manager Mahoney’s reports related to the upcoming development along Midland Avenue, emphasizing the communication that’s been taking place between various agencies and businesses in anticipation of what looks to be a construction-heavy summer.
This led into another discussion of childcare, this time focussed on a space within Stott’s Mill, adjacent to Basalt High School. First approved in 2017, town staff has been unable to find a willing operator for the potential daycare center. MSP1 LLC, the current developer of Stott’s Mill, requested using the space for four deed-restricted rental units. Briston Peterson, a MSP1 partner, stated that the primary issue with finding a daycare provider had been housing.
Alternatively, town staff expressed interest in developing a recreation center considering Basalt is the sole municipality in the Valley without one. Ordinarily, it was stated, the greatest hurdle for developing a rec center is not having a space ready to occupy.
Peterson highlighted the urgency of the situation, stating that the site would be ready to go in September and that the lot stakeholders at Stott’s Mill were not happy with the idea of a rec center in their community instead of a daycare.
Michaela Idhammar-Ketpura, executive director of Aspen Youth Center, attended to inform the council about the services they provide, and also that their organization can’t raise funds to develop in Stott’s Mill on such short notice.
Although no conclusion was reached, the issue sparked conversation about development of a youth center in Basalt and creating out-of-the-box systems of subsidizing or incentivizing its development.
Moving into regular council actions, the first order of business was the interview and unanimous appointment of two Basalt High School (BHS) seniors to the Basalt Green Team — a town committee dedicated to sponsoring sustainability projects. Congratulations to Connor Hoffman and India Butchart, founders of the BHS Environmental Club, for their short-term appointments to the Green Team!
Another brief interview followed with Jack Trembath for his appointment to the Public Arts Commission, as well as the reappointment of current members Liz Bell and Karyn Andrade. This motion was also carried unanimously.
The final item was a hearing for the subdivision of 563 East Sopris Drive into three lots, unanimously approved for a second hearing with only a brief discussion on restoring its rather treacherous driveway.