Aspen quality-of-life issues arise during project talk with council | AspenTimes.com

Aspen quality-of-life issues arise during project talk with council

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

A developer and city officials continued their discussions about plans for a South Aspen Street property during Monday's City Council meeting.

The developer, ASV Aspen Street Owners LLC, has a vested right to build 31 multifamily units — 14 free-market and 17 affordable-housing units — on three parcels of land at South Aspen Street, near Deane Court and Gilbert streets, just north of Lift 1A.

However, Aspen Street Owners is looking to scale the project down despite recent objections from the city's Community Development Department. The latest proposal asks for an amendment to change the "entitlements" for the property to 24 residential units: 14 free-market and 10 affordable housing.

The city's Community Development Department does not support the changes as a whole. Its staff has recommended that the applicant consider more density, with more affordable-housing units, and a development that better relates to the town grid.

"More affordable housing on-site will contribute to a more lights-on neighborhood and the potential for more year-round activity and life in that neighborhood," said Jennifer Phelan, deputy director of the department.

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David Parker, representing Aspen Street Owners, alluded to concerns from neighbors in the Juan Street affordable-housing condominiums, who fear the project will encroach on their living space.

"This is their sunlight. This is their views. It just doesn't seem like a very good solution to us," Parker said. "There are better places around town to put that affordable housing."

Former Councilman Derek Johnson, a resident at Juan Street, said the proposed project could reduce the quality of life in the area. He cited the loss of his side yard, where his children play, as a concern as well as the loss of parking. Added Dumpsters and an electrical box, he said, are also "things that create an unlivable, or a reduced, sense of livability."

He said that the council should consider "what's fair and right" for the people of Juan Street as well as what's possible for the developers.

Chris Bendon, director of community development, suggested that some of the proposed units could be redesigned to allow an additional 10 to 15 feet of buffer room between the proposed development and the Juan Street affordable-housing complex. He added that such changes can be made "within the context of the existing proposal."

Parker said that it's not that simple.

"It's great to wave a magic wand and say, 'We can make it all better,'" he said, adding that restructuring the plan would create fire-access and drainage issues.

However, Bendon said there is some flexibility within the current plan.

"There's some difficulties, no doubt, and there's design work that has to be done, and I'm not implying that we have a magic wand that can solve all those problems," he said.

Skadron gave his support to the recommended changes from Community Development.

"A critical mass of local working residents sustains community," he said.

The council and developer will revisit the project Sept. 9.

herk@aspentimes.com