A one-time opportunity | AspenTimes.com

A one-time opportunity

Dear Editor:A recent statement regarding Burlingame affordable housing that “we shouldn’t cover up the remaining lands near Aspen” needs to be addressed. First, the Burlingame affordable housing proposal and Bar/X Ranch annexation will dedicate 181 acres out of 252 acres for open space. This places more than 70 percent of the land in permanent conservation. Secondly, defaulting on the annexation contracts with the Zolines will leave the city with very little control over their land’s eventual development because they will remain in the county. The zoning on 116 of the 146-acre Bar/X Ranch is AEF-2, one house per two acres, which allows for the construction of up to 60 large, luxury homes with the purchase of Transferable Development Rights (TDRs). The Pitkin County TDR program protects our backcountry by moving development inside the Urban Growth Boundary. Without a “landing area” for these building rights, the program would be an unconstitutional “takings” of private property. The Zolines’ land is the definition of an appropriate landing area per county code. It’s flat land, inside the UGB, near utilities and zoned one house per two acres. Bottom line, the ranch won’t be “saved” by breaching our contracts, but it may end up looking a lot like Aspen Glen or the townhomes at Tiehack. Development pressure has increased with Joe Zoline’s passing and resulting estate taxes. The certainty of getting any of the land placed in conservation, a 25-acre site for housing and limits on the free-market development to 13 additional residences will vanish if Aspen reneges on its contracts, signed after the 2000 advisory vote of 60 percent in favor of this proposal.While we’re fortunate to attract workers valleywide, the second-home market is rapidly eroding the ability to buy or live anywhere near Aspen, and the expanding valley economy offers more and better jobs than ever before, without the 20-hour weekly commute. The 400,000-foot commercial development in Glenwood of Pier One, Lowe’s and Target will claim thousands of employees. Long-range, it’s as foolish to depend on an imported work force as it is to depend on foreign oil. Aspen jobs won’t disappear simply because we don’t build affordable housing. In fact, not housing our work force locally translates into far longer car trips and greater greenhouse gas emissions.Sustainability has many elements. Hosting events like Jazz Fest or the X Games requires hundreds of local volunteers, as do our arts, cultural and nonprofit organizations. Moderately priced year-round restaurants need off-season local patrons. Community vitality isn’t created by marketing ploys; it comes from people who are committed to Aspen, families and individuals who live, work, volunteer and play here year-round.The Burlingame/Zoline master plan evolved over seven years; it protects 181 acres of open space in total. The affordable housing designs exceed national green building standards. The free-market elements are limited to a quarter of what they might otherwise be. The contracts were signed in good faith after a public vote, and represent a one time opportunity to achieve multiple community goals. Rachel RichardsAspen

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