Proposed housing faces fight | AspenTimes.com

Proposed housing faces fight

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A proposal to build affordable housing on open space along Puppy Smith Street may face a dog fight at the polls.

Aspen resident Bert Myrin is organizing a lobbying group that plans to encourage residents to vote against a three-unit housing project on the land east of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Myrin said he objects to using open space as a solution to whatever issue is most pressing – in this instance, affordable housing.

“It seems wrong for government to weigh the value of open space and the hottest thing at that moment,” Myrin said. “It’s a slippery slope. That’s like if we protected Smuggler Mountain right now, but in 20 years decided to build 1,000 houses there.”

The 10,249-square-foot parcel was purchased in the early 1980s with open space funds, which means voters must authorize the sale of the space for a housing development. Aspen’s parks and open space fund must be reimbursed $250,000, and the city must replace the open space with equivalent property elsewhere.

Initial plans for the property at 220 Puppy Smith St. called for renovations of an existing cottage at the site and construction of a duplex; all three units would house city employees. But the City Council voted last Monday to set aside one of the units for the general housing pool, and another for a public use.

This project has been in the works since August of 2000. Much of the land in the area will be retained as a wetlands.

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Myrin said his lobbying group will bring awareness to open space purchases – specifically that they should be protected forever rather than traded away when something else is considered more valuable.

He said he would support an initiative in the future that makes it necessary to get 80 percent approval from voters to change the use of open space property, rather than just a simple majority.

Myrin is hosting the first meeting of his group this Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 1 p.m. at his home, 218 N. Monarch.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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