Whether or not a town park, nonprofit campus, hotel and retail space ever materialize on the current site of the Pan and Fork mobile home park could depend on the outcome of tonight’s Basalt Town Council meeting.
The council is set to vote on several pieces of legislation that are critical to the future of a proposed redevelopment project on the Pan and Fork property.
Among them is a housing rule change that would relieve the project’s backers of their obligation to build replacement housing for the roughly 122 residents living in the trailer park. Without that relief, the cost of building new housing for the residents would likely hamstring the project, backers say.
The Basalt trustees also are expected to sign off tonight on the final language that would appear on the Nov. 5 election ballot, when the town plans to ask voters for permission to issue $5 million worth of general obligation bonds. That money would go toward essential infrastructure improvements on the Pan and Fork property, including efforts to mitigate the fact that much of the parcel sits in the 100-year flood plain.
Basalt town staff have estimated the project’s total cost, including relocating the residents, at around $7.5 million.
The flood mitigation work would take place on riverfront property that’s classified in the town code as an “environmentally sensitive area,” (ESA).
Yet tonight, Town Manager Mike Scanlon also will ask the council to grant a waiver from strict review requirements that are generally required for projects conducted in those areas.
In a memo to the council, Scanlon wrote that the town code allows such waivers for projects involving erosion control, bank stabilization, or other flood control measures.
Repeated requests for comment from Scanlon on why the waiver is necessary or justified went unanswered Monday. (In addition to tonight’s meeting, the public will have one more chance to weigh in on the proposed waiver and the housing rule change at the council’s Sept. 10 meeting).
Town officials have told the residents of 13 out of the 38 trailers in the park that they’ll have to leave this fall, so that flood mitigation work can commence.
Initially, town staff had only been trying to relocate eight families this fall, but “an additional five trailers have been identified that could be relocated,” according to a memo from Scanlon to the town council.
At tonight’s meeting, Scanlon will ask the town council to approve an expenditure of $237,353 to relocate the first 13 families. He’ll also ask the council to sign off on the formula that he and town staff have devised to compensate residents of affordable housing who will be displaced by the redevelopment project.
Under that formula, the Pan and Fork residents would be paid for the time they’ve lived in the park ($100 per year) and the number of people in their household ($500 per person). They also would be given a year’s worth of free rent at the rates they’re currently paying, along with a $5,000 lump sum moving payment and $7,500 in exchange for their trailers.
The formula would be permanently written into Basalt’s code, and would apply to any redevelopment project in the future that affected the residents of at least four “lower income housing units.”
Under the town’s rather arcane definition, such units are those deemed affordable to someone who was making $50,000 in the year 1999.
The new rules would require any developer who wasn’t willing or able to provide relocation assistance to displaced residents of low-income housing to replace 45 percent of the affordable units affected by their project. The current rules call for 100 percent replacement.
“The current requirements … may be cost prohibitive,” reads the ordinance that the council is expected to vote on tonight. “As a result, redevelopment is often discouraged and substandard housing is not upgraded or replaced.”
Juan Alvarado, a resident who lives in the trailer park with his wife and three children, is one of the 13 families that have been asked to leave the trailer park this fall.
Although Alvarado doesn’t yet know where he’s going — a trailer that his family was looking at in Lazy Glen recently fell through as a possibility — he said his neighbors have reported seeing workmen in the trailer park in recent days examining the river and removing trees.
“We’ve seen a lot of workmen walking through,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re doing.”
Alvarado, who has been a vocal critic of the town’s reversal on its pledge to build replacement housing for the Pan and Fork residents, said he plans to attend tonight’s meeting.
“I don’t understand why they don’t take that $5 million they’re asking for from the voters and use it to buy a piece of land where we can all move,” he said.
Despite the lack of response from town officials on Monday regarding the Pan and Fork project, another item on tonight’s agenda suggests that they are moving ahead with river improvements at full speed.
Scanlon is asking the town council to approve an expenditure of $146,750 for rock that will be used in flood mitigation work on the Pan and Fork parcel.
A total of $780,175 has been budgeted for rock purchases, according to a memo from Scanlon to the council, but town staff will have to ask the trustees for the rest of the cash at a future meeting.