The proposed four-lane Castle Creek Bridge would line up with Main Street, just two blocks south of the current bridge. Courtesy rendering

A work session occurred prior to Basalt Town Council’s regular meeting on Dec. 13 and was mostly dedicated to an informative presentation about the ongoing Entrance to Aspen project, specifically in regards to the Castle Creek bridge. Constructed in 1961, the bridge — while still safe — is nearing the end of its 75-year projected lifespan, and notably has been under construction for much of this year, causing traffic to build up. There will be a vote to decide whether the city of Aspen should continue to repair the existing bridge, or begin construction on a wider, four-lane bridge into town.

The meeting began without any remarks by the public, but with multiple presentations. The first was by Lt. Aaron Munch of the Basalt Police Department. On Nov. 4, 2022, a vehicular accident occurred on Two Rivers Road in which a father and two young daughters crashed into an embankment and rolled into the water. Jared Dalstead and Armando Rivera were the first to stop at the scene. They directed traffic and rescued one of the children from the water then kept all three soaked crash victims warm in their truck while awaiting emergency services. Munch recognized and thanked these two men for their heroism. 

The next presentation was an update on the Midland Avenue Streetscape Project by Mitzi Rapkin of Full Light Communications. The project was founded with the intent to improve coordination and communication between Midland Avenue business owners and the town. A full communication plan for the project is now penned, and the main ongoing work is to continue meeting with business owners and residents to keep them in the loop with town projects that may impact business sites. 

The third presentation was Basalt’s third quarter financial report. In terms of revenue and expenses, the only expense that went over budget was the funding for a pool, but this was covered by the quarter’s strong revenues.

The next item was a brief interview for the appointment of Katie Hostetler to the position of Basalt Planning and Zoning Commissioner. Hostetler has been living in the area for four years, and with unanimous approval by Town Council will be serving on the commission for the next three.

Following was a series of four second readings and approvals. The first concerned last meeting’s ordinance to amend the municipal code to include licensing of short-term rentals, along with a plan to use tracking software. 

Second was a hearing to approve a PUD for a domestic abuse shelter on currently vacant land along Cody Lane within Basalt Business Center East. As previously discussed, the shelter is designed to provide secure short-term housing for survivors of abuse and their families while they are helped to find independent housing away from their abusive partners. There have been no changes to the ordinance since its last hearing. 

Next was an ordinance to adopt rules and regulations for the Basalt Fairview Cemetery, and the last was to approve a new fee schedule to include short-term rental licensing and the new cemetery regulations. All four motions passed unanimously.

Then, there was a first reading to approve various amendments to clean up the Basalt Municipal Code, specifically within chapters about zoning and public property, as well as amendments to the Basalt Community Housing Guidelines. For the latter, a stopgap measure was proposed to allow tenants of community housing to use their past two years’ income in their annual housing requalification. This measure was proposed due to various instances in which small boosts in income resulted in citizens becoming unable to qualify for their housing. These amendments were unanimously approved for a second hearing on Jan. 10.

This was followed by a resolution to repeal and replace the town’s current salary schedule for its employees, shifting each salary grade by 2% (notably different from the recommended 6% cost of living increase). A step plan was included to improve police salaries by 4-5% per step, citing difficulties to both hire new officers and maintain their employment. Each salary step would reflect experience and qualifications within a chosen career path. This motion was carried unanimously.

An application to transfer both ownership and location of the LOVA retail marijuana store to 701 E. Valley Road — the same building as the Willits General Store — was approved unanimously.

The final items for the meeting were a set of budgetary resolutions. The first was the adoption of the 2023 budget itself in accordance with the Basalt Strategic Work Plan, which focuses on both reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving community communication, providing affordable housing and supporting local businesses. In 2023, $700,000 worth of projects will tap into the town’s reserve, but the reserve is ample and will be augmented by the rest of 2022’s surplus revenue. The final resolutions were ancillary to the main budget and approved unanimously.