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Aspenite: relocate homes to Moore site

Allyn Harvey

A plan is in the works to relocate hundreds of affordable housing units slated for development on the outskirts of Aspen to a publicly owned parcel near Aspen Middle School.

Longtime Aspen resident Chuck Vidal is scheduled to meet with the Pitkin County Commissioners this afternoon to propose relocating 225 units planned for the Burlingame Ranch to the Moore Open Space parcel.

Burlingame is located about three miles from downtown Aspen near the airport, while Moore is located about a mile from the town’s core, just across Maroon Creek Road from the Aspen School District campus.

Vidal said he would also like the county to study two other potential relocation sites – the golf course and the Marolt Open Space – but sources familiar with the situation say the Moore parcel is at the heart of the proposal.

The proposal has been shown to several elected officials in the upper valley, and it appears likely that it will be given serious consideration.

“Obviously, I’m going to have to wait and hear the details of this proposal, like everybody else,” said Aspen Mayor Rachel Richards.

“It’s important to me that the conversation is no longer whether or not to build 225 units of family-style housing, but, instead, where is the best place to locate them.”

Vidal told The Aspen Times his proposal does not involve cutting back on the total number of units approved last fall by voters, but simply relocating them.

To become reality, the proposal will require support from a majority on both the county commission and the Aspen City Council, as well as the nod from voters in two separate elections. But Vidal and others are motivated by their belief that placing large affordable housing projects at Burlingame and Aspen Mass amounts to publicly subsidized sprawl.

Burlingame is located between the Maroon Creek Club and the airport, about three miles from downtown Aspen; Aspen Mass is a few miles further out of town at the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Highway 82. Current plans call for 225 units at Burlingame and between 80 and 100 at Aspen Mass.

Vidal pointed out that both projects will create large, new, residential communities that are distant from the shops, schools and other services people rely on. “They go out and leap-frog existing development and stick all this infrastructure – roads, water and sewer – out in the middle of the countryside,” he said.

Once a large housing project and all its accompanying infrastructure is completed in a remote location, Vidal noted that commercial and residential development have a way of filling in along roads that connect it to the next development.

“These pods of development start to grow and eventually they grow together,” he said. “Then what do you have?”

Vidal said all three sites in his plan are located next to existing development: The Moore Open Space is a sage-covered parcel of 65 acres located between Maroon Creek Road and Highway 82; the golf course abuts the Cemetery Lane neighborhood; and the Marolt Open Space is located across Castle Creek Road from the hospital.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said County Commissioner Mick Ireland. “It’s one of those ideas that comes along now and then that breaks with the status quo. People talk about thinking outside the box, but this really is thinking outside the box.”

Ireland noted that Moore is within walking distance to all three public schools and the Iselin Park recreational facilities. It is also within walking distance to Aspen and would be much easier and cheaper to serve with public transportation.

This afternoon, Vidal will be asking the commissioners to study the proposal and pledge the county attorney’s services in drafting the ballot language necessary to pull it off.

County voters would need to approve the use of the Moore space for affordable housing, and city voters would need to authorize the relocation. Both ballot questions would likely include some kind of arrangement ensuring that the property at Burlingame that is currently planned for affordable housing would be saved as open space. Voters could be asked to decide the issue as soon as May.

“I’m glad this proposal is coming forward now, instead of six months from now when the city may actually be ready to begin work on the project,” Richards said.


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