Aspen City Council tees up June 6 showdown on Lumberyard project |

Aspen City Council tees up June 6 showdown on Lumberyard project

The final design for the Lumberyard affordable housing project.
City of Aspen/Courtesy image

The large Lumberyard affordable-housing development lumbered to its next step in a years-long gauntlet Tuesday, as the Aspen City Council teed up a public hearing and possibility — however remote — of passage on June 6.

But not without a fair amount of discussion and a flurry of votes aimed at inching the project along while keeping the city’s options from here as open as possible at least until then.

Councilman Bill Guth — a developer and real-estate professional in his day job — praised the staff work on the development and said he supported it. He just didn’t think it was a good idea to approve entitlements, contract with a construction manager, and other aspects — and thereby lose flexibility in the future.

He was convinced eventually that passing a first reading of the development would advance it to the second reading and attendant public hearing, where the council members and public could better wrangle together with questions and debate the best path forward.

All but Guth voted for this option. He said his interest is in maximizing flexibility and options, along with seeing if a better private-public partnership could be found for the project.

Everyone voted against what had begun as a consent agenda item to contract Dynamic Program Management as construction manager and adviser on the Lumberyard, reasoning that they could better change course after June 6 this way. Consent items are typically non-controversial items passed together without comment.   

An artist rendering of the Aspen Lumberyard affordable-housing project.
Cushing Terrell/Courtesy

And in another vote, Guth, Councilman Sam Rose, and Mayor Torre vetoed a proposed Lumberyard development next-phase outline in the name of keeping options open for the June 6 session.  

Ordinance 10, the main legislation in question, includes amendments to the zoning map, planned development project review, and detailed review; major subdivision review; transportation and parking analysis; and growth management review. 

The Planning and Zoning Commission weeks ago recommended approving the request on the condition that the applicant completes additional air-quality studies and installs proper filtration equipment for indoor spaces. On transportation and parking, the commission expressed concern about traffic on Highway 82 and higher pedestrian and bicycle activity in the Aspen Business Center.

In a memo, city staff supported passage, citing that affordable housing in the area has been discussed since the 1990s, the development fits the Aspen Area Community Plan, and it meets land-use code standards.

Upon completion of the land-use application process, construction could begin in 2024. The $400 million project would be completed in phases, with the final phase beginning on Building 3 and the subgrade parking garage in 2030 to be completed in 2031. 

The city-owned Lumberyard development site is 11.3 acres next to the Airport Business Center. The city purchased the land over several years with the intent to build deed-restricted units to address the affordable-housing crisis in the upper valley.

The development application comes after four years of public outreach, community engagement, and City Council work sessions to determine conceptual and schematic designs for the project.

Since 2019, the city has conducted several rounds of outreach, including stakeholder meetings, pop-up events, surveys, community open houses, networking, online interactions, emails, fliers, and other engagement tools in which hundreds of people participated.

“The design of the buildings and everything about this project is underpinned by community outreach,” said Chris Everson, the city’s affordable-housing project manager. “We listened to the community and brought that feedback to City Council. Council prioritized to have as many units as it could responsibly fit on the site while incorporating amenities and priorities that were most important to the public.”

The planned development includes 100%-accessible, four-story buildings that would be certified as sustainable, with solar panel rooftops and green building techniques that would result in a 75% energy-use offset, city officials said. Other amenities include underground and surface parking, communal spaces for residents, new public streets, pedestrian and bike trails, and improved access of Highway 82.

“We have spent considerable time getting this project to where it needed to be based on public feedback, and we arrived at this place through a well-thought-out process that looked at our values, and we made tradeoffs to address the community’s priorities,” Torre said before the perhaps final stage to approval these past couple of months. “I look forward to hearing more input during the public hearing process.”

If the Lumberyard is approved, the city will begin construction of infrastructure in 2024 and seek competitive public-private partnership proposals from developers for financing, construction, and long-term operation of the housing facilities.


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