With the town of Basalt looking to acquire more property for affordable housing, local officials also want to bring on a professional real estate broker to assist with those future transactions. 

Last Tuesday, Basalt voters overwhelmingly supported increasing the town’s debt by $18 million — with a maximum repayment cost of approximately $23 million — in order to increase the town’s supply of affordable housing, complete infrastructure improvements on Midland Avenue and finance green projects like vehicle charging stations.

“We really went the extra mile to reach out to the public to make sure people understood it and understood the rationale for it,” Basalt Mayor Bill Kane said Monday concerning ballot issue 3A’s passage. “I think it paid off. It got pretty strong support from our voters.”

With millions more in the pipeline for future town projects, and a healthy percentage already earmarked for affordable housing property acquisitions, town staff has requested hiring a real estate broker. 

“For the land deal side of this, we’re going to need help from a local real estate agent,” Kane said. 

Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney said the town issued an request for proposals for real estate broker services several weeks ago but that it garnered only two responses, including one from Ted Borchelt of Sotheby’s International Realty. 

Staff has recommended that a contract with Borchelt be approved during tonight’s regular council meeting. 

Mahoney declined to comment on who else responded to the town’s RFP seeking real estate brokerage services.

If approved by council and ultimately hired by the town, Borchelt would earn a commission of between 5-6% on real estate transactions. 

“We may be doing some property acquisitions and these are properties that are yet to be known or identified,” Mahoney said. “Using the services of a Realtor, in this instance, makes some sense for the town.”

Borchelt declined to comment for this story.

Last December, the Basalt Town Council approved spending $1.6 million on just over 1 acre of land off Highway 82 near Willits to accommodate the town’s new public works facility. At the time, the town did not hire a real estate broker but instead relied upon Town Attorney Jeff Conklin and members of its public works and planning departments to facilitate the sale.

“From a town perspective, it’s pretty normal for attorneys to do land transactions,” Mahoney said. “I would defer to the expertise of our public works director to know what they want and what they need.”

Mahoney stood by the town’s previous decision to purchase the Shelton property but said moving forward — pending council approval — a real estate broker would be utilized in instances concerning affordable housing property acquisitions. 

Mahoney also denied that the town was bringing on a real estate broker in response to criticisms over the Shelton property purchase. Instead, Mahoney said it was directly related to 3A’s passage.

“These ‘real estate 101’ norms just were not followed in the [Shelton property purchase],” Stacey Craft, a real estate adviser with Engel and Volkers, said Monday. “A broker and a lawyer complement each other in a [real estate] purchase. But, a lawyer is a lawyer and a real estate agent is a real estate agent and we’re not supposed to cross lines.”

Councilman Bill Infante — the only councilmember to have previously opposed the new public works facility site purchase — believed better properties existed and for significantly less money. At the time, the town’s public works department operated out of a 1-acre space on Fiou Lane in east Basalt. 

“You don’t hire a broker unless you’re buying property. So, I suppose there is a proposal to buy property,” Infante said Monday of the town’s new desire to hire a broker. “If this is somehow related to affordable housing, then I think there is going to be a long debate.”

Infante was critical of what he believed to be a lack of specificity in the ballot issue 3A and hoped the town would utilize extreme due diligence on any future property purchases.

He has long been an opponent of the town, itself, operating affordable housing.

“Our experience has been very, very poor and I would use that as the evidence why we should leave to the private sector what the private sector does very well,” Infante said. “We should stick to the purposes for which we have a government which are to oversee, to regulate and to provide the laws that guide private action.”

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