Basalt town manager proposes new solution for Pan and Fork residentsDecember 10, 2013
Last week, nine families soon to be evicted from Basalt's Pan and Fork mobile home park to make way for the town's renovation of the area formed a coalition called Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt. With help from the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, the group hopes to stave off their removal from the trailer park until the town finds alternative housing for them in or near Basalt. At a meeting Monday night, Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon announced he would try and build a new housing project for the town's displaced residents. KDNK's Ed Williams reports.
Hard feelings have been simmering among many of the people living in the Pan and Fork, ever since residents there learned they would have to vacate their homes to make way for riverbank renovations under the town's river master plan. At a meeting at Basalt town hall last night, a group of families from the Pan and Fork calling themselves Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt, demanded an immediate halt to evictions from the trailer park until town officials can find a way to keep the Pan and Fork's low-income residents in the mid-valley area, and keep their kids in their current schools.
The residents say Colin Laird of the Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation—the group initially in charge of managing the residents relocation, before that responsibility was taken over by the town of Basalt—promised them that they would have new affordable homes in town available for them to buy after their trailer park was demolished.
The residents at the meeting say they were not informed of the town's decision to abandon that plan months ago, and now with the April deadline for vacating the trailer park fast approaching, they have nowhere else they can afford to live in the Valley. One trailer park resident said she had sold her trailer under pressure from her impending eviction from the park, only to lose the money she had invested in the home. She now rents a subpar trailer in a flood zone of the Roaring Fork River.
But in a surprise twist Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon announced a new possibility for trailer park residents. He said he had a plan to build a new affordable housing complex in or near Basalt where the Pan and Fork residents would eventually be able to purchase homes.
"I'm not going to make promises that I can go build housing," Scanlon said. "But I think if given the opportunity and with your help, and with the help of some agencies around here, there's the possibility that we can. Now can I get it al build in the next 4 months? No. Can I get it built in the next 12? Possibly."
Scanlon said the plan would not be easy to carry out, and that IF the plan worked out as he hoped, displaced Pan and Fork residents would have to find temporary housing until the new housing project is completed. And he said he would need the families from the Pan and Fork to be a persistent presence at future town council meetings for the idea to become a reality.
Pan and Fork residents at Monday's meeting said they were pleased with the idea of building more affordable housing in the mid-valley area, though they said they mistrusted the town's commitment to the plan. Felipe Martinez is a member of Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt.
"Things still seem a little unclear," Martinez said. "The group wanted something more concrete and secure, because we need it—because we work in this area, and our kids have been in school here for so many years. We can't afford to move from here. I feel a little uneasy, because they've promised us so much but they haven't followed through with their promises. But if they follow through with this new idea of building us homes, it would be just what we need."
Martinez says he hopes residents will be able to buy the new homes rather than rent them, so they can have some level of stability and investment locally. Juana Linares, another Pan and Fork resident, says she too is pleased with Scanlon's proposal.
"If this is true, if it's really possible, it would be good for us. This is just what we're fighting for. It's a good idea," Linares said.
Ricardo Gonzales, one of the most vocal members of Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt, said he was open to the plan, but said the town had lost credibility with the trailer park residents.
"It seems like a good idea to me, but with all we've been through and all the promises they've made to us in the past, I need to see something concrete before I can believe it," Gonzales said. " Maybe when I see them building the houses specifically for the families from the Pan and Fork I'll believe them. But right now the promises to build us homes are just words."
Scanlon brought these issues to the table at Tuesday's Basalt Town Council meeting, where he received the support of council members.