ACRA throws support behind Burlingame
Acknowledging its importance to both the business sector and the community in general, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors unanimously endorsed the controversial Burlingame Ranch employee housing project today.
Board member Molly Campbell, general manager of The Gant, urged her ACRA colleagues to take a stand on the housing project, which may be headed for another public vote before it proceeds.
“I think it is important for the board to take a position on this issue sooner rather than later,” Campbell said.
Initially, other members weren’t so sure.
“I hate giving the ACRA endorsement for political things. It doesn’t have the greatest track record in the world,” said Mike Taets, president of Timberline Bank, noting the board’s past political endorsements haven’t necessarily held much sway. Voters rejected a planned Main Street visitor center last year, for example, though the ACRA board endorsed it.
“I think this is a business organization and I think we should stick with things related to business,” added Jay Magidson, owner of Magidson Fine Art, calling the Burlingame endorsement “inappropriate.”
“I disagree with you,” countered Patsy Malone, the board’s employee representative. “We need our employees in this community to make it a diverse community.”
“I think employee housing is critical to the economic viability of this community,” agreed ACRA President Hana Pevny.
Several board members suggested the ability to house workers locally is critical to doing business here. When shopkeepers are asked why they don’t keep their doors open later, the response is often that they live downvalley, or their employees do, noted Mayor Helen Klanderud.
“I have so many employees who go downvalley,” Campbell said. “You want messy vitality, go to downtown Basalt. We support Burlingame because we think it will re-establish a vitality and a family element in our community.”
The resort has done a good job of providing housing for seasonal, winter workers, but recruiting and keeping middle management is “brutal,” said board chairman Rick Jones, a local tax attorney.
“If we want employees up here, which I think we all do, I think the options are limited,” Taets agreed.
Ultimately, no one cast a vote against the proposed endorsement.
Burlingame may wind up back on the ballot as the result of referendum petition now being circulated that seeks to overturn the city’s recent annexation of lands associated with the housing development. City electors endorsed the housing project with an advisory vote in August 2000.
Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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