ACES-city land swap makes great sense |

ACES-city land swap makes great sense

The whole community should line up in support of a possible land swap between the city of Aspen and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. If consummated, this deal will yield a set of community benefits and avert a possibly contentious election battle.

The Nov. 4 Aspen ballot includes a measure proposing that the city convert a $250,000 piece of open space to housing; the Referendum 2D proposal is to renovate an existing residence on the parcel and add two other units, for a total of three. One would be reserved for a city employee and the others would go into the general housing pool.

Some citizens have already spoken up, opposing the conversion of public open space to housing. They have a point.

A month of argument and acrimony could be avoided through a land swap explained in Tuesday’s edition of The Aspen Times.

Here’s the rough sketch of the proposed deal. ACES would take over the open space in question at 220 Puppy Smith St., and transfer to the city a chunk of land behind the Aspen post office that’s now used for parking. The latter location is a better housing site anyway.

In addition, ACES appears willing to grant permission for the city to construct a wetland in nearby Jenny Adair Park. The wetland would act as a much-needed filtration system for storm water that now flows directly into the Roaring Fork River.

Construction would not be permitted under the park’s existing restrictions, but a functioning wetland would help solve a longstanding pollution problem and further ACES’ mission. If ACES indeed takes ownership of the nearby open space, then the property could host a viewing platform over the wetland.

On Oct. 14, city staffers are expected to ask the City Council to withdraw the question from the election. It’s too late to remove the referendum from the actual printed ballots, but, if the Council agrees, then any votes cast would not be counted.

Officials from ACES and the city say they have a conceptual agreement, but the deal must first be blessed by the Paepcke family, who placed deed restrictions on the entire ACES property for conservation. We hope the Paepcke descendants will see the wisdom of this proposed trade, which furthers a number of worthy civic causes.

First, the city adds to the affordable housing inventory without having to develop dedicated open space. Second, ACES will expand its conservation-oriented domain onto property with higher open-space value than the existing dirt parking lot. Third, cleaner storm water would drain into the Roaring Fork.

Let’s seize this opportunity.

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