Council OKs Puppy Smith housing | AspenTimes.com

Council OKs Puppy Smith housing

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Despite fears that the public will reject it at the polls, the Aspen City Council voted 4-1 Monday to endorse a three-unit housing project on its Puppy Smith Street property.

The project appeared headed for defeat yesterday, but Mayor Helen Klanderud changed her mind and threw her support behind the conceptual proposal. Councilwoman Rachel Richards voted for it, too, though she argued forcefully against it.

Richards said she opposed the project, but cast her vote in its favor in order to send it to city voters, who must authorize the sale of open space in order to allow the housing development. The city’s parks and open space fund must be reimbursed $250,000, and the city must replace the open space with another equivalent property.

“I just finished with a pro-development council … I am just amazed the three of you would want to pursue a motion like this,” said Councilman Terry Paulson, voting against conceptual plans for the housing.

The initial plans for the property at 220 Puppy Smith St., east of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, called for extensive renovations to an existing cottage at the site, and the construction of a duplex. All three units were to house city employees.

“Cannibalizing” open space for city government’s housing needs won’t fly at the polls, Richards predicted.

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“By putting this forward, the city just ends up with egg on its face,” she said.

Several members of the public urged the city to build its planned wetlands behind the proposed housing first and hold off on the residential development. Others suggested the housing would be incompatible with the wetlands.

“I do not see this as incompatible with this fantastic wetland development … however, I don’t feel it has a chance at the ballot,” Klanderud said.

The mayor said she would vote against the project, but Councilman Tim Semrau changed her mind with his suggestion that only the existing cottage be reserved for a city employee. It houses city workers now.

The other two units should be put into the general housing pool for the public, he said.

“I could do that,” Klanderud said.

“I believe this is a great space for three little houses,” said Semrau, suggesting the plan for a duplex be scrapped in favor of two new cottages. “We’ve talked for years about small affordable units in town. This is a perfect place for it.”

“Quite frankly, I like this project,” Klanderud later agreed, after the council approved the ballot language that will go to voters in November. “The voters will tell us – what do we have to lose?”

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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