The relocation of families living in 38 mobile homes in Basalt is moving forward. Last night Basalt’s City Council passed several measures designed to move the residents out of the trailer park as a step towards redevelopment of the property. As Marci Krivonen reports, the meeting room was packed with people on both sides of the plan.
Town leaders are calling the massive effort the “Fix the Fork” project. Ultimately, they want to replace 38 trailers alongside the Roaring Fork River with a public park. They’d like to reduce the chance of flooding in the area and make improvements to the river that would help aquatic life, like fish.
The problem is, more than 120 people live in the trailer park and moving them is proving to be difficult. Mike Scanlon is Town Manager.
"There are seven or eight of the people who have lived there for 20 years-plus, they’ve been in this community for a long time, and you’re asking them to give up really the only thing they’ve known as home. And, it takes patience, persistence and compassion," he says.
He met with council members prior to the packed meeting. He says the project, years in the making, is finally moving along.
"We are geared as an organization now, to get this project done," Scanlon says.
When the meeting began, community members filled every available chair. Some were left standing. Council pushed forward five items related to the project.
First, they approved taking nearly $240,000 from the General Fund to help relocate families in 13 trailers. These would be the first households to move. And, there’s an urgency because the Town would like to start work on stabilizing the riverbank this fall. Mayor Jacquie Whitsitt supports the measure.
"I feel like when the government has a hand in displacing people, the government needs to have a hand in helping them get on their feet someplace else. In many cases, they cannot move those trailers and they may still owe money on those trailers and they’re very dependent on us," she says.
The council also unanimously approved language for a ballot question voters will see in November. It asks for permission to issue $5 million worth of general obligation bonds. That money will help pay for most of the $7.5 million project.
The board also gave the initial green light to changing requirements for replacement housing. Under the Town’s code, developers must build new housing for people displaced by a development. The proposal though, would change that. The property owner would instead provide relocation assistance to displaced residents. So, in this case, the Town would be buying out the residents of the trailer park neighborhood.
Juan Alvarado who lives in the neighborhood told council members the money being offered isn’t enough to be able to afford buying or renting another place in Basalt.
"(Have you) ever gone to the trailer park to see how we live in there? We are not rich and it’s not fair what you’re trying to do," he told them.
Still, town council approved the measure. It’ll get a final vote on September 10th.
After the meeting, a woman who wouldn’t speak on tape said she supported the project because it will improve downtown and bring new life to the area. A hotel and non profit campus may eventually fill the space now occupied by the trailers.
Outside Town Hall, several families gathered under a tree for protection from the rain. They live in the trailer park and Alvarado says he represents them.
"I feel so bad because we have lived there for 17 years and we don’t want to move because we’re part of the community."
He says he doesn’t want to move his three children out of the local school system. He thinks he may be forced to do that under the relocation strategy.
Despite concerns, things are moving ahead. Town officials say new homes have been found for six of the initial eight families asked to move. It’s unclear whether those homes are in Basalt.