Monthly Archives: February 2007

Basalt wrestles growth

When you are the first town downvalley from Aspen and Snowmass Village, and stradle the boundary between Pitkin and Eagle Counties, you would expect some challenging planning and community development situations.

Nowadays, just about every where the Town of Basalt turns presents another significant challenge. For example:

  • Last month, one Basalt’s two downtown affordable hotels, The Green Drake Inn, sold for $4.4 million to an investment group that could repeat the trend in Aspen of converting small lodge and hotel rooms to fractional ownership luxury units;
  • The town is working to connect the older part of town to the newer south side with an underpass, since the 6-lanes of State Highway 82 presents a formidable barrier between two parts of town;
  • The booming second-home market is creating a shortage of affordable housing and every undevelopmed parcel in Basalt’s urban growth boundary has a development proposal in the review process; and,
  • The town hopes to complete the update its of 1999 urban growth boundary and master plan by this summer.

No wonder a recent Aspen Times Weekly article by Scott Condon asked ‘What’s happening to my small, quirky town?’

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Housing prices continue upward

The national housing market may be stagnant, but housing in the mountains continues on an upward trajectory. According to a recent article in the Aspen Times, the average price for a three-bedroom home jumped, often substainally, throughout the region in 2006.

Basalt: $694,880 (up 21%)

Carbondale: $476,000 (up 4%)

Glenwood Springs: $383,932 (up 21%)

Rifle: $231,851 (up 14%)

The median income for a four person household in Garfield County was $62,300 in 2005.

System versus Silo Thinking

Neal Peirce writes about the the “green revolution” happening in America’s cities and towns in the January, American Prospect

Peirce describes a number of cities (Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle) that are re-connecting the commons (parks, roads, rivers, and everywhere there is public investment) through public infrastructure investments to create heatlhy places.  The projects are bold, exciting, and hold promise for state and national policy.  But, he points out, the work ahead requires a change it the way we think and approach problem solving.  He writes,

“[…] there’s the challenge to the professionals — the architects, planners, designers, engineers, builders, utility representatives, city and county housing officials, and others engaged on the front line of building and reshaping communities. Historically — and often, still today — they have worked sequentially, first doing the land planning, then the underground pipes, then roadways and buildings and so on.

In a smart 21st century, that won’t do. It costs too much and it misses opportunities for better aesthetics, energy efficiency, and quality of life. The time’s at hand to move from silos to systems [emphasis added]. It’s the right moment to ask the professionals to start thinking more broadly, to work closely with colleagues from the other disciplines from start to end of any project.”

Deja vu commuting in the Roaring Fork Valley

A decade ago, writing about the hellacious commute many put up with to get into Aspen, was almost a daily occurance. It looks likethe region is heading into another similar cycle of concern

As Charles Agar writes in the Aspen Times Weekly,

Perhaps the most obvious human cost of the upper valley’s stratospheric real estate market is the ever-longer commutes from affordable homes to higher-paying jobs in or near Aspen. Long commutes cost time and money; they pollute the environment and erode people’s sense of community. Most of the those who spend hours of each working day on Highway 82 have accepted the commute as a necessary trade-off, but it’s getting harder for upper valley employers to find the help they need . . .

More and more Aspen workers are commuting over the Grand Hogback, an area named for a ridge along Interstate 70 west of Glenwood Springs, to towns like New Castle, Silt and Rifle.

“Ridership is going through the roof,” said Dave Iverson, operations manager with Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. Statistics for city transport in Aspen and Glenwood have increased sharply, and the number of riders traveling the length of the valley and along the Hogback are rising steadily. In December 2006, nearly 23,000 riders made the round trip to Carbondale, and nearly 6,000 made the trip through the Hogback area, he said, a rise of 13 percent since 2005 . . .

Aspen faces a shrinking labor market, and even Aspen’s affordable housing program, which provides the option of lower-cost home ownership in Aspen, is not enough to entice many to the area. Many home-buyers choose the free market, even if it means moving to western Garfield County, over the 3 percent appreciation caps on employee-housing units in the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

Read the full article . . .