For more than 30 years, St. Vincent’s Catholic Church has stood as a major downtown Basalt gathering space.
But, three decades of wear and tear and the need for more space brought the church to Town Council with plans for a 2,400 square foot addition for a Parish Multipurpose Hall.
The proposal will move education classes from the basement to the first floor. As Pat McMahon, representing the parish, explained, the location is accessible only by a staircase and only a few emergency exits are there now. In addition, he said people with mobility issues have trouble getting to and from classes.
“We want to create a safer environment,” said McMahon, and a more flexible space for people to chat casually and also discuss important issues.
“We have approximately 300 parishioners coming to our three weekend services,” said McMahon.
Worship is conducted in English or Spanish. McMahon stated space is at a premium now, especially when it comes to parking. This addition will also add overflow seating.
St. Vincent and the Diocese of Denver are requesting a rezoning from C-2 (downtown business district) to P (Public) Zone District which allows for a waiver on required community housing mitigation. Ordinance 17, which includes rezoning, site plan review and modifications to existing parking requirements, was approved unanimously on first reading with conditions.
Basalt Planning and Zoning reviewed and approved the application in early August and recommended town council approve the development review requests, subject to conditions. Basalt Affordable Community Housing (BACH) Commission also recommended approval.
Town council’s second reading and public hearing is set for Tuesday, Sept. 8.
The project will demolish the existing rectory building — McMahon noted the building is in very poor condition right now — and also tear down a garage used just for storage. Storage Items will first be moved to the soon-to-be vacated basement area.
“We don’t anticipate any real change in our operation,” said McMahon.
Parking will be reconfigured as the new addition will move the church 10 feet closer to the street.
Although St. Vincent does not have bats in the belfry, a colony of these beneficial insect eating animals do live in the rectory. All council members agreed the bats need to be saved. The plans call for one way exits for the existing bats, and, importantly, new nearby bat housing. Bat experts emphasize that without somewhere to go, they will be forced into a nearby building or house where they could face displacement, extermination or a pre-existing colony. If the colony is killed or forced out of the area, it will directly impact the local bat population.
According to James Lindt, assistant planning director, the applicant previously applied for a similar expansion in 2007 and received sketch plan approval, but the sketch plan approval lapsed and expired.
That plan included the potential to operate a small daycare and was
in the approvals. While not in this new proposal, town staff has included a draft condition providing authorization for the P&Z to review a future special review application for a daycare in the event that the church ever desires to operate an accessory childcare out of the church facilities.
Additional conditions include saving and protecting several large trees, being sustainable with a “green” building — solar panels will be on the addition’s roof — and working with neighbors to finalize privacy fencing concerns.
Lindt noted the height of that type of fencing is limited to eight feet.
In other business, council approved wildfire mitigation regulations affecting new developments including other provisions from the Colorado State Forest guidelines.
Planning Director Susan Philp reported the entire town is considered in a hazardous fire zone.
Philp noted these changes require structure hardening and will prevail over Home Owners Association covenants.
Council member Glenn Drummond emphasized, “There are certain things we need to do as homeowners.”
It takes community support to keep The Sopris Sun shining.