AMFS: What’s on the drawing board? |

AMFS: What’s on the drawing board?

It defies reason to wonder how the Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) was able to win approvals from Pitkin County for a massively rebuilt campus off Castle Creek Road without any contribution ” whether bricks and mortar or cash-in-lieu ” to the local affordable housing inventory.

The Pitkin County commissioners say their code doesn’t allow them to extract housing from a land-use applicant that isn’t generating any new employees; the AMFS claims that it has a severely constrained site that functions as the Aspen Country Day School campus for much of the year and isn’t appropriate for affordable housing.

We question all of these explanations and agree with various critics who have asked how these two organizations could have permitted such an obvious oversight ” especially when the AMFS was receiving generous variances for its large new buildings.

How, after perhaps years of internal planning by music festival officials and months of review by local government agencies, can the county approve a $60 million project, which essentially will double the size of the habitable space on campus, without a single room devoted to housing?

The music school might not be adding new employees with this development, but problems concerning the housing of faculty, visiting artists and students are well-known and long-standing issues.

To its credit, the AMFS participated in both the Marolt and Burlingame seasonal housing developments, but neither could ever be called a complete solution to the problem. The school continues to struggle against the rising tide of real estate inflation and second-home ownership that bedevils this entire community.

AMFS CEO Alan Fletcher said this week that the board discusses the housing issue at every one of its meetings, and mentioned vague hopes for involvement in one or more possible affordable housing projects at sites such as city-owned parcels on Castle Creek Road and at the former BMC West location next to the Aspen Business Center.

We submit that, after receiving this latest gift from the Board of County Commissioners, the AMFS owes the community a full explanation of what exactly it is discussing. What’s on the drawing board? What can the music school bring to the table in whatever potential partnerships that exist? What does the festival and school intend to do about this community’s (and perhaps the festival’s) most vexing problem?

Aspen and Pitkin County cannot afford to squander opportunities for new housing. We hope the commissioners don’t let another one like this pass by.