Aspen Mass: housing, parking, something? |

Aspen Mass: housing, parking, something?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The future of Aspen Mass, the $1.65 million property Aspen and Pitkin County purchased for affordable housing, remains unclear.

The City Council and county commissioners met behind closed doors last week to discuss what should be done with the bench of land near Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road.

The group was presented with several options, including at least one that elected officials aren’t yet willing to divulge.

“The only thing that was totally in agreement was that we’re not going to sell it,” said City Councilman Tim Semrau.

Nor, apparently, has housing there been ruled out.

“It’s not high on the list [for housing], but it’s not off the list,” said City Attorney John Worcester.

“We will put housing there rather than sell it,” confirmed Commissioner Shellie Roy.

The city and county bought the 30 acres in 1997. The city put up $1 million of the purchase price and spent $75,000 on a competition to produce a winning design for 120 units at the site, which includes a flat bench above the Roaring Fork River and steep slopes extending down to the water. The parcel is not served by sewer or water utilities; a well and an on-site, waste-water treatment facility would be necessary if it is developed.

Earlier this year, the county was poised to draw an urban-growth boundary around Aspen that would preclude the use of Aspen Mass for high-density development, but then the countywide rezoning proposal fizzled.

Now, the city is back to wondering what can be done with its investment. The land is located in unincorporated Pitkin County, and its development would require county approval.

“It’s like buying a car and then being told you can’t drive it,” said Councilman Tony Hershey.

“We haven’t made a final decision yet, what we’re going to do with it,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “I think in general, the city and the county are in agreement on the possibilities.”

While one elected official hinted that an “exciting” alternative for the property is being explored, others confirmed they would like to create additional parking in the area.

“We still have to solve the Cozy Point parking problem,” Klanderud said.

The city has expressed a desire to quit using its equestrian facility at Cozy Point as a massive parking lot for special events at Buttermilk.

The housing plans for Aspen Mass require a piece of land to the south owned by the Colorado Department of Transportation. It is situated between Aspen Mass and the CDOT park-and-ride facility at the Brush Creek Road intersection. Currently, there are ponds and a giant pile of dirt on the parcel.

Acquiring the CDOT land would facilitate either the housing project or development of a new remote parking lot, noted several elected officials.

“Fundamentally, we can’t do any housing out there unless we acquire the CDOT property,” Semrau said. “Its viability as a housing site is significantly improved with the CDOT land.

“Nobody has said that they want to kill it [Aspen Mass] and nobody has said that they want to sell it, so it’s in play.”

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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