basalt center circle

Basalt Center Circle conceptual rendering. 

The fifth time was the charm for BCC Basalt, LLC on Tuesday night. At its regularly scheduled meeting, Basalt Town Council members approved — in its fifth public hearing on the matter — the sketch plan for the three-story Basalt Center Circle. It will include a 9,000-square-foot grocery store with 67 residential apartments on the top two floors. Councilor Elyse Hottel did not vote and has recused herself from all discussions on the matter for the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The long-awaited approval will fill the vacant commercial space once occupied by Clark’s Market and the Habitat ReStore. The council resolution hinged on BCC Basalt agreeing to complete the grocery store no later than the apartments receive their certificate of occupancy, or alternatively, have a signed lease with the grocery tenant and deposit $250,000 in escrow with the town as an incentive to get the store operational within nine months of residents moving in upstairs.

Another key factor in the approval was that BCC Basalt agreed that 100% of the apartment leases would be for no fewer than six months. In earlier versions of the mixed-use plan, short-term rentals of 30 days had been included. “With all units subject to a six-month minimum lease, we are addressing valley-wide housing issues,” said Mayor Bill Kane.

“This is long-term workforce housing,” said Andrew Light, who is a BCC Basalt principal partner with Tim Belinski. Emergency responders, school district employees and grocery store employees would have priority for the 17 deed-restricted units, according to an Oct. 21 letter from BCC Basalt to the town council. Fifty of the apartments will be studios, about 430-square-feet each.

Before voting “aye,” Councilor Bill Infante urged Belinski and Light to pursue “a more liberal use of the word grocery store.” A national chain “is absolutely, positively antithetical to what this town needs,” he said. Infante asked the developers to think of the Denver Center Market as a model, where there are independent food stalls and places to dine. Belinski assured the council that BCC Basalt was considering a “relaxed definition” of a grocery store.

BCC Basalt has been talking with Skip’s Farm to Market, BLT and Jimbo’s Liquor, the town’s longest continuing business, about moving into the new space. While most of the public comments on the final Basalt Center Circle plan were extremely supportive, complaints about parking and the mass and profile of the building persisted.

Workforce housing, a variation on the equally buzzworthy term “affordable housing,” occupied much of the council’s time. After the BCC Basalt vote, the final site plan for Front Fork Basalt LLC, the second workforce housing project of the night, sailed through with unanimous approval. Ramsey Fulton, principal architect with the firm Bldg Seed Architects, told the town council that leases under six months would be prohibited in the 12 one- and two-bedroom units, to assure that they would be occupied by people who work in the valley. The project will occupy a 12,000-square-foot site on the east end of Emma Road, close to downtown. At this final stage, no public opposition was expressed.

While Front Fork will not qualify as “net zero” in terms of its carbon footprint, Fulton answered council questions about the solar panels and air source heat pumps that would be installed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Another energy-saving feature is that Front Fork will be “transit-oriented,” Fulton said, meaning near the bus stop so having a car is less necessary.

Front Fork will provide what Planning and Zoning staff define as “community benefits,” including the extension of the Ponderosa Trail, picnic tables and benches.

One matter that must have made council members happy was that the Basalt Forward $17 million bond initiative was passed by voters on Nov. 2. This will allow the town to sell two series of general obligation bonds to build still more affordable housing, redesign a Midland Avenue Streetscape and fund various green energy projects. Bruce Kimmel, the town’s municipal advisor with Ehlers Public Finance Advisors, said via Zoom that he anticipated the taxable and nontaxable issues would receive a Standard and Poor’s rating of AA+. The 2022 bond issuance is scheduled for Dec. 15. The longest-term issues will run until 2046.

For the board’s last action of the meeting, councilors approved 7.5% water rate increases. Town of Basalt residential rates will go up to $55.57 for 10,000 gallons used. Carbondale residential rates for the same in-town water usage are $48.42.