The Aspen City Council gave its approval Monday to the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority to move into a larger, more expensive space, after fielding concerns from neighbors about the department’s impact on the complex it will move into.
The housing authority has been given notice that it must vacate its current 530 E. Main St. space — which it rents from Pitkin County for $43,000 a year — by January. Including homeowners association fees, the housing authority will pay $65,000 a year for its new 1,563-square-foot space located at 210 E. Hyman Ave., known as the Park Central West Condominiums.
Of five options that it looked at, housing authority Director Tom McCabe said, “This one was the most attractive to us mostly because of the space that was offered most nearly equates to the space we have currently, so we would have enough room to operate,” adding that Park Central West is about a half-block west of the Crystal Palace.
Residents of the condominium complex, as well as a few representing the homeowners association, expressed concern that housing authority operations will have a negative impact on their quality of life. Their concerns included the increase in foot traffic from people looking for the housing authority; impact of parking from cars and bicycles; a question of what the land-use code allows for, in terms of commercial versus residential uses; and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance issues.
Lee Schumacher, the property landlord, said the problem is that the commercial space has been vacant for four years, and condo owners have grown used to its vacancy. Before that, he said his own law practice operated in the space, with a handful of employees. The housing authority anticipates six employees working in the space and one vehicle, which will have a designated parking spot.
Crook said that the housing authority will work with the homeowners association to ensure that proper signage is posted that conveys where the offices are located. Additionally, McCabe said his department is not a “high-traffic” office, and he will work with neighbors to resolve any issues that may arise.
Some of the residents who spoke asked that council members conduct a site visit to form their own opinions about the compatibility between a government office and condominiums.
“It does seem an odd combination, maybe not the most appropriate,” Councilwoman Ann Mullins said. “Just to have commercial there, it’s an odd spot for commercial, but that said, that’s how it’s zoned. Whoever established that originally was thinking a little differently than I’d be thinking about it. But it’s a tough argument to make if it’s already zoned to be that use.”
Councilmen Art Daily and Adam Frisch, as well as Mayor Steve Skadron, agreed with Mullins’ assessment.
“The zoning is appropriate, and I’m confident that APCHA would not be placing itself in a location that would be desirous of creating any kind of conflict with the neighbors,” Skadron said. “And I happen to think having this office in your building is actually a good thing, comparatively.”
The lease will commence May 1, and the housing authority is expected to be moved in by June.