Mid-Valley residents will have one more chance this spring to sound off on Basalt’s master plan update when the Let’s Talk Basalt citizen engagement process comes to the Rocky Mountain Institute May 30 for the third of three public open houses. Coming on the heels of an April 25 event at The Temporary and a May 9 event at Basalt High School that helped the planners gather feedback, this final open house will take that data and suggest possible solutions to some of the issues Basaltines have identified as important to them.
Presented by the planning team from CTA Architects Engineers, which has offices in Denver and elsewhere, and Basalt’s own Connect One Design, Thursday’s open house promises to be the most interesting one yet.
“You don’t want to miss open house three,” said Dave Dixon, a planner with CTA’s Denver office, who is one of the leads on the project. “This is the exciting one. I think this is going to be really important. We want to have everybody who came before and everybody who hasn’t come to an open house yet. It’s a great opportunity to have this conversation.”
The prior two open houses asked participants to offer up their views on issues like growth, vitality, jobs and transportation. From their responses, CTA and Connect One have crafted what Dixon referred to as “big, visionary ideas” that they will unveil to the public tonight. Attendees will get to look over the team’s findings, and then the planners will give a presentation recapping what they’ve learned and outlining their suggestions for moving forward.
“We’ll start with a little bit about who’s been responding, where they’re from and what they’ve said, particularly how the attendees have prioritized certain things,” said Dixon. “And then we’ll be doing a live-polling question-and-answer session.”
Tonight’s attendees will be able to use their mobile devices to chime in and answer questions, and the whole room will get to see live in real time how everyone responds to the things that are being talked about.
“We’ll have a projector and be presenting these questions,” said Dixon. “People can type in on their phones, and the live answers will come up. We’ll ask compelling questions about town-wide growth, mobility, density, vibrancy – getting really specific about where and what things may happen.”
Among the top priorities revealed in the first two open houses were vitality in Old Town – “enhanced arts and culture, all these things that people see in other places” – embracing the rivers and connectivity between Old Town and the Willits/El Jebel area.
“That’s a big one that has many different ways to approach it,” said Dixon, “providing alternative, non-car connections between east Basalt and west Basalt.”
Armed with that knowledge, the planning team has come up with some ideas, but Dixon stressed that any solutions will involve certain trade-offs.
“We need to make sure everyone understands that if you do one thing, something else will happen,” he said.
While tonight’s open house will be the last one for this round of planning meetings, Dixon noted that the CTA-Connect One team is far from done with its citizen engagement process.
“After this we really get into plan making,” he said. “The open house will kind of close out this first absorption, and then we’ll have another round of events and chances for people to see what some of these things might turn into.”
It’s a process that seems to be working well so far and is doing a good job of making the discussion around the issues more civil and productive than it has been in the past couple of years. That alone has been a welcome benefit, as things had gotten rather contentious, but while some might think that the planning team walked into a rare hornets’ nest in Basalt, Dixon disagreed.
“There are some things that Basalt, geographically, has challenges with, but this is not very uncommon,” he said. “I think, however, that the planning outcomes will have to be extremely unique to this situation.”
And as for the local infighting, “I’ll use something I heard at open house two from folks who just moved to town. They, essentially, had moved to Basalt after looking at many, many other towns in the West, and they said, ‘We left the town where we came from because these issues were so much more amplified there.’ It’s good to hear those voices to really show the importance of what this process means to everyone – people who’ve been here a long time and people who just arrived here.”