At Basalt Town Council’s final meeting of the year, Dec. 14, Town Manager Ryan Mahoney reported that Standard & Poor’s global rating of ‘AA stable’ “was very successful,” and provided independent affirmation of Basalt’s fiscal policies over the last few years.
The updated rating came just ahead of the town’s issuance of $17.6 million in general obligation bonds for Basalt Forward 2030, which just went up for sale. The money raised will finance affordable housing, photovoltaic installations and energy efficiency programs and Midland Avenue’s landscape improvements. Mahoney said that Basalt will also apply for grants to supplement the new revenue.
With the bond issuance done, 2022’s nearly $50 million budget decided and no multi-million dollar developments dominating the docket, council members were able to listen to presentations on a variety of comparatively small-ticket items.
The most consequential item heard, for which no vote was required, was from the Basalt Green Team Green Code Committee, headed by Basalt Senior Planner Sara Nadolny. She and committee members Amanda Poindexter, of Full Circle Construction, and CORE Community Sustainability Manager Phi Filerman, spoke about major building code changes that take effect in 2022, when the town adopts the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).
According to the Green Team’s Road Map to Net Zero Development, presented at the meeting, net zero is “a building that annually produces as much energy as it consumes for heating, cooling, water heating and basic electrical loads, including lighting, plug loads and fans.”
A zero energy building will have no natural gas infrastructure by 2031 under the IECC code, and all-electric batteries — not fossil fuels — will provide backup energy in the event of power failures. Nadolny said that buildings in Basalt “remain the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” at 62% of the total. Transportation comes in second, she said, at 23%.
Under the new IECC code, 25% of energy must come from renewable sources in 2022 for new commercial buildings. In residences, electric panels and breaker sizings must accommodate future electrification conversions, said Poindexter.
Councilor Ryan Slack asked if there had been any “pushback” from contractors because of how sweeping the changes are. Basalt Chief Building Official Mitch Miller responded that “for the most part, contractors are accepting the move,” and there will be public hearings as well as educational outreach to explain what’s going on, and why.
Poindexter said she’s “been shocked by the acceptance” in the construction sector. What may make the transition smoother, if not simpler, is that zero energy requirements will be pretty much the same throughout the Roaring Fork Valley; all county and city building departments in the area are adopting the IECC code this year. That each municipality is requiring such a major shift at the same time is “pretty unusual,” she said.
In other business, the council approved a resolution authorizing $25,000 for the design of an Early Childhood Facility on Sopris Meadows PUD Parcel 2. The Town engineering staff chose Land+Shelter Architecture and Alan Ford Architects for the work. Councilor Bill Infante voted against the resolution. He said he thought the Basalt Early Childhood Coalition should consider other sites for the new center.
The council also voted to postpone its approval of a new fermented malt beverage license for the Willits General Store. Four Dogs Fine Wine & Spirits Manager Robbie Bella-Smuts protested the granting of the new license because it could reduce sales at his store next to Whole Foods.
Councilor Elyse Hottel said it might be necessary to “hold a broader discussion” on how many liquor stores Basalt needs. Mayor Bill Kane said he was puzzled by “the concept of what a needs assessment is when it comes to buying alcoholic beverages,” and said he was inclined to approve the new license at the next public council meeting. Councilor Glenn Drummond voted against granting the postponement.
The council gave resounding approval to the proposed wall mural of a combination Scottish Highlander/Texas Longhorn cow at Free Range Restaurant’s new Basalt River Park home, where council members had gone for the ribbon cutting prior to the meeting. Council approval for the mural was deemed necessary by Basalt’s Technical Review Committee, which regulates signage, because of its large size.