Burlingame debate: Two visions of future
Burlingame Ranch: Aspen’s first step toward unmitigated sprawl or the resort’s last chance to retain a viable community? Representatives on both sides of the contentious debate over the affordable housing project offered those vastly different viewpoints in a civil exchange Tuesday in the GrassRoots TV studio. The live Squirm Night debate featured City Councilwoman Rachel Richards and County Commissioner Mick Ireland in support of the project and former Commissioner Dwight Shellman and Aspen native Mark Harvey opposing it.City voters will be asked whether they support the annexation of land for the housing project next Tuesday.Harvey urged voters to consider the future.”I don’t think this is the end of mega-projects. It’s the beginning,” he predicted.
Aspen is at a crossroads, Shellman agreed, suggesting the outskirts of town will look like Willits, a development outside Basalt, if it starts down the road of “leap-frog” development.”I think the real downside is it’s going to wind up looking like Aspen Glen,” countered Richards, in reference to the mega-homes dotting the landscape at a golf course development outside Carbondale. That’s what will wind up on the Bar/X Ranch – the subject of the annexation question – if voters turn it down, she said.Richards and Ireland, too, called on voters to consider Aspen’s future. The town has lost one-quarter of its population in the 22-29 age group in the past four years, according to census data, Ireland said.”That is not the model you put in your book for a sustainable tourist town. It [Burlingame] is an opportunity for us to capture a generation of Aspenites that’s disappearing from this community,” he said.There have been 1,060 individual applicants in housing lotteries over the past two years and about 94 winners, Richards said.
“These are our friends, our co-workers … people who help this community to sustain itself,” she said.Richards noted the City Council intends to relook at the prices for the planned Burlingame units with the intent of lowering some of them. The higher-priced homes will play a role for the younger generation, too, Ireland added. The project will allow families to move out of cramped units, freeing them up for other buyers.The plans for Burlingame call for up to 236 units on the outskirts of Aspen, north of the Maroon Creek Club. A large chunk of the housing site would come from the adjacent Bar/X Ranch, owned by the Zoline family. A deal between the city and the Zolines gives the city the housing site, while the Zolines would develop 12 single-family homes on their ranch, along with a cabin and as-yet-undefined cultural facility. An existing ranch compound would remain.The two sides differed greatly on what the Zolines might develop at the Bar/X if the land is not annexed and the family seeks development in unincorporated Pitkin County. Shellman insisted the community could get 80 worker units out of it, paid for by private developers instead of the city.Ireland and Richards suggested the county land-use code would result in 28 worker units along with the 12 single-family homes, assuming the family didn’t pay cash in lieu of providing the housing.
“It’s not a disaster to have our county handle land use – just look at the countryside and decide for yourself,” Shellman said, endorsing what a county review would produce.Shellman also called on voters to endorse new City Council members who would pursue in-town housing. “A different mix of City Council people would do a better job,” he said.He used the televised opportunity to endorse several candidates, one repeatedly; Ireland later responded by naming the others.Harvey conceded their are no easy answers to addressing Aspen’s worker housing needs.”I’m going to take a swipe at a sacred cow,” he said. “Maybe some of these [housing] goals should be re-examined.”Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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