County dusts off Stillwater plans
April 14, 2003
Pitkin County is dusting off the plans for its Stillwater Ranch housing project now that the recent condemnation of the Shadowood Apartments has scuttled a proposal to acquire them instead.
Meanwhile, the 10 Shadowood tenants who were evicted on short notice after the Aspen fire marshal declared their building unfit for occupancy have apparently all found a place to sleep. One couple accepted the local Housing Authority’s offer of its Marolt seasonal housing as temporary quarters, while another individual accepted the offer of a free week in a unit at Aspen Highlands Village before moving into her next home.
Stillwater, a 17-unit project off Stillwater Road east of Aspen, has been mired in delays for two years and appears destined to miss its third construction season, though some commissioners have expressed hope that work on something will occur this year.
That something could be the long-planned Stillwater worker housing or it could be a housing project that replaces nearby Shadowood.
“The tenor of the conversation is, we’re going to go ahead with Stillwater,” said Commissioner Shellie Roy, though she wasn’t ready to rule out a project at Shadowood.
“Where can the county produce the better deal and the better project?” she said. “I’m no longer married to either solution. Which gives us our best bang for the buck?
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“If I could have a perfect world, I’d build on both,” Roy added.
The county needs to make a decision and move forward with housing at one of the sites, said Jack Hatfield, commissioner chairman.
“We are going to move forward with one of these projects in short order,” he declared. “I will not sit on this later than this spring. It’s time to move forward.”
Stillwater, a combination of one- and three-bedroom townhomes slated for about four acres overlooking the Roaring Fork River, has been the focus of a legal battle with neighbors and a fight over roofing materials.
Shaw Construction was selected last year as the contractor for the $4.3 million project, but construction was put on hold while the county engaged in talks with neighboring property owners Stewart and Lynda Resnick.
The Resnicks own a mansion off Stillwater Road, as well as the Shadowood complex. After losing the first round of their legal challenge to Stillwater last fall, they began negotiating a deal with the county to acquire the Stillwater lot in exchange for Shadowood and money.
The county was to get the 19-unit Shadowood, which it eyed as a rental property, plus the ability to construct some additional units on the property, located across Highway 82 from the Mountain Valley subdivision. In the process of inspecting Shadowood before accepting the property however, the county discovered its shortcomings. Inspectors noted multiple code violations that resulted in eviction of the tenants for safety reasons.
“It’s unfortunate the condition of that building doesn’t permit a trade, but it doesn’t,” said Commissioner Mick Ireland.
Shadowood consists of three buildings – two small ones that have been renovated and remain occupied, and the vacated main building, which has not been updated since its construction in 1969. The property also overlooks the river, to the east of Stillwater Road. The county’s property is on the west side of the road.
No talks about acquiring Shadowood in order to raze it and build a new project have taken place in the wake of the fire marshal’s order to vacate the building, commissioners said.
“If they [the Resnicks] want to talk to us, I’m sure they will,” Ireland said.
But commissioners have directed staffers to pull out the final plat approvals for Stillwater, which expire in May, and start work on amending the plans.
By pulling the buildings out of an established setback from Stillwater Road, the roofing material for the complex could become a non-issue, according to county officials. The move, however, could result in the loss of a couple of units, Roy noted.
Covenants require “natural” roofing material for buildings within the setback, but the county isn’t anxious to spend money on costly slate roofs and won’t use flammable wood shingles. Several attempts to settle on an alternative that satisfied the Resnicks were unsuccessful.
If significant changes are made to the Stillwater designs, the project will need to be rebid, according to Brian Pettet, the county director of public works. With a recent slowdown in the construction industry, the county may want to rebid it anyway in hopes of getting a better price, Ireland added.
It’s unlikely construction at Stillwater could start this spring, but it’s possible site work could begin before the year is out, Pettet said.
“Right now, we’re moving forward with Stillwater. That’s my charge at this point,” he said. “I think it’s too late to assume Stillwater could be constructed in 2003.”
If the county were to pursue construction of new housing at Shadowood instead, it would have to begin a whole new planning/design and approval process. If that’s the case, Ireland said he’d like to see that work begin soon.
“Either way, I’d like to get started on something this spring,” he said.
While the county gets moving on Stillwater, Hatfield predicted the commissioners would entertain a proposal for Shadowood if one is forthcoming.
“I would say we’re still open to negotiations that would result in more housing than we could build at Stillwater,” he said. “My bottom line at either of those sites is maximizing the units.”
Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org