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Additional Burlingame units deserve consideration

We hope the homeowners out at Burlingame Ranch give due consideration to the recent offers from the city of Aspen, because this town needs every affordable residence it can get.

Aspen is now feeling the sting of this recession, but the time will come again when local workers race their friends and neighbors for a chance to buy an affordable housing unit. And Burlingame is one of the last places where Aspen and Pitkin County will ever have the chance to house hundreds of working locals and their families.

Here are the rough details: Last November, voters endorsed the idea of boosting density at Burlingame in order to fit up to 300 total units on the site, versus the originally approved 236. But voters don’t have the final say on this matter; in fact, the existing homeowners at Burlingame do.



Recognizing that additional homes will make Burlingame more crowded, City Hall has offered a number of incentives to the homeowners in exchange for agreeing to 272 units (a compromise between 236 and 300). Among these enticements are eliminating a $60-per-month transit fee, forgiving a $65,000 debt owed by homeowners to the city, increasing the per-unit number of parking spaces, and handing management of the parking program to the homeowners, among others.

Some homeowners have referred to these offers as “blackmail,” but we don’t see any extortion here. The city is merely trying to negotiate its way to an agreement, and that means convincing the other side.




That said, we do understand the homeowners’ skepticism about City Hall. Burlingame has been troubled by everything from massive cost overruns to construction flaws, and allowing 36 unseen units into their neighborhood must feel to homeowners like a dangerous, black-box investment.

So the city owes the homeowners as much information about the design and configuration of these potential units as it can muster.

Given attractive designs and due candor from City Hall, we hope the homeowners will answer with a thumbs-up and open the door to more housing at Burlingame.

In the end, it will help to reduce the per-unit cost of the development to taxpayers, but there also are short-term benefits.

Construction costs are low and the local economy could use the jobs. If homeowners can get the deal done in 30 days, as the city has requested, then the city can complete its site planning this summer, ask voters for financing approval in November and break ground next spring.

Those additional units, if they come to fruition, will make a huge difference to dozens of Aspenites.


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