ASPEN - The purchase of a Basalt townhome that will serve as employee housing won final approval from Pitkin County commissioners Wednesday after a neighbor was assured the unit won't turn into a government-subsidized "flophouse."
Michael Stern, who lives in an adjoining condo project, said he and others in the Elk Run neighborhood have concerns about the designation of an employee unit in their midst.
"I think it is the concern of owners ... that you're going to turn it into a Pitkin County flophouse," he said.
County Manager Jon Peacock said he envisions the unit being rented for use by a qualified employee with a family and assured Stern that the county would abide by all of the homeowners association rules, including a prohibition on short-term rental arrangements.
"I think you can rest assured you're not going to have multiple rentals or seasonal rentals in this location," he said.
"It's important that we be good neighbors. ... I'm confident that will occur," Commissioner Jack Hatfield added.
Commissioner George Newman took issue with the term "flophouse" to describe the housing that has allowed Aspen and Pitkin County to retain its work force.
The Elk Run townhome, a three-bedroom, 31⁄2 -bathroom residence with two parking spaces (not one as commissioners were previously told), is under contract for $342,000. It was appraised at $355,000, according to Peacock.
The county is also negotiating the purchase of two other residences - one in the Basalt area and one in the vicinity of Aspen, Peacock said. He suggested using one of the Basalt properties to house a county government employee. The other two units likely would be made available to the general work force.
All three residences would be maintained as rental units with no deed restriction that limits their use to employee housing even though that's the intention, he said. That way, the county can more readily sell them if it wants to at some point in the future.
Whether the Elk Run townhome will require subsidized rent has not been determined. Only if it's rented at the lowest income category for worker housing would that be necessary, Peacock said.
County officials have been looking at real estate opportunities in the upper valley with the goal of investing some of the county's more than $10 million in accumulated housing funds in units that can serve either county government employees or other qualified Pitkin County workers.