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Basalt report: So far, Basalt’s green initiatives fall short

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The Town of Basalt is “far from reaching both goals” of a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2025, and an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, according to the Town’s combined 2019 and 2020 GHG Emissions Inventory Report released this week. 

Senior town planner Sara Nadolny delivered the disappointing news to the Basalt council members at their regular meeting Tuesday, June 14. Since the last inventory was conducted in 2014, emissions have increased 15%, Nadolny said. Commercial, industrial and residential buildings accounted for 48% of GHG emissions, with transportation contributing 36%. Landfills were the source of nearly all of the 15% of emissions apportioned to a category that included various forms of waste. “We are not on track,” she said.

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“We’ve done a whole lot of mitigation, but obviously growth occurred so it has been one step forward and two steps back,” said town manager Ryan Mahoney. To that point, Nadolny said that the 40% increase in total waste aligned closely with the 34.5% increase in the number of housing units built since 2014. Mahoney asked whether the town’s solar installations, We-Cycle and pool improvements had been good investments “or not as effective as we had hoped?” 

Nadolny said that Basalt was doing a good job but was learning that it was taking “too small of bites” and needed to “take a bigger jump forward.” 

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“I didn’t mean to bring doom and gloom,” she said, adding that there are “opportunities” to do much more, including: building electrification, implementing sustainable building codes, better incentivizing owners of existing homes to install energy-reducing appliances and regulating construction and demolition.  “It takes time and patience,” she said.

Phi Filerman, director of climate impact for CORE was Nadolny’s co-presenter. Filerman said that a major reason for a dramatic jump in transportation emissions was a change in the methodology used to calculate them. “We can’t compare apples to apples,” she said. 

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The new method gathers cell phone signals to gauge vehicular trips in the Highway 82 corridor and is considered a more accurate way to collect data. Filerman said one good thing about the switch to the new method is that all municipalities in the upper Roaring Fork Valley — Snowmass Village, Aspen, unincorporated Pitkin County and now Basalt — are using the same measure. She predicts that this will help with addressing emissions on a regional level. 

“It’s unfair,” said Councilor Ryan Slack, referring to the change in data gathering. It makes Basalt look like it’s not implementing green initiatives when “Basalt is head over heels into green initiatives.” 

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Basalt, said Filerman, “isn’t alone.” No municipality in the region has made sufficient progress, she said. When the number of metric tons of CO2 emissions per person are considered, Basalt “is doing better than most.” The amount calculated for Basalt in the GHG Emissions Inventory is 17.4, compared with 27.6 metric tons of CO2  per person in Pitkin County, according to its latest GHG Inventory. The national average is 20 metric tons, while the reduction target is 13 metric tons per person, according to the Inventory.

No Council action was required on Nadolny’s GHG report. 

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Public hearings continued on the Sopris Meadows Parcel 5 proposal for 155 homes between Willits Lake and Willits Lane. Developer Possumco, LLC requested an expanded definition of affordable housing. It initially planned for 46 units in Parcel 5 to all be affordable rentals. At the May 28 council meeting, Mayor Bill Kane had pressed Possumco representative Michael Lipkin to build some units that low-income residents could affordably buy, not rent. Lipkin had responded that at some point, the Basalt Council should add middle-income homes as a priority, otherwise Basalt, like Aspen, would “have no middle class.” 

Possumco’s amended plan seemed to address both the council’s insistence on expanded home ownership opportunities in Basalt and Lipkin’s warnings about the “missing middle.” Two-income families earning $200,000 to $250,000 as health care practitioners, lawyers or small business owners would fit into his definition, he said, yet they wouldn’t qualify to buy property in Basalt’s current real estate market. 

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Assistant Planning Director James Lindt noted that Basalt Affordable Community Housing (BACH) opposed Possumco’s reducing units for the lowest earners. Councilor Elyse Hottel, who attended the meeting remotely, also objected to Possumco’s building homes for higher wage earners to purchase. Projected prices for two and three-bedroom units in Parcel 5 would be between $485,000 and about $1,000,000.

Lipkin said he wants to build “Basalt-centric” housing because currently Aspen workers live in about half of Basalt’s rental properties. “Basalt does not need more of this product,” he said. He was also adamant that Possumco be given ten years for “vesting,” or completion of all 155 units — rather than seven years — due to worker shortages, supply line snarls and the possibility of an economic recession. 

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The Council voted 5-1 in favor of a heavily amended motion allowing Possumco to proceed with its revised preliminary plan. Councilor Elyse Hottel voiced the no vote. Councilor Dieter Schindler was absent. 

Tags: #affordable housing #Basalt Colorado #green initiative
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