Burlingame design wins approval
Final design plans for the first phase of Burlingame Ranch won approval Monday with a 4-1 vote of the Aspen City Council, though what prospective buyers of the worker housing units will pay for their homes remains unresolved.The controversial housing project moved one step closer to development with last night’s decision, but voters will weigh in next week on the key issue – whether a piece of land crucial to the housing will be annexed into the city. Construction hinges on the annexation.After Monday’s lengthy presentation on the project, which includes 97 residences in the first phase, a handful of citizens complained that too many of the units will be sold at prices that make them unaffordable to many local workers.”I’m frustrated with the category mix, which is skewed to the high end, which effectively excludes most of the people who work in this building – our police, our fire, our critical-service workers,” said local resident Jerry Bovino. He also expressed disappointment with the council’s failure to set aside some units for “our most needy local Latino workers.””I am concerned that the lower-income people who need housing are not better represented in this mix,” agreed resident Helen Palmer. “Perhaps we should be subsidizing housing for people who truly need it and who aren’t just bettering what they already have.”But Aspenite Philip Ring urged the council to move forward. Housing – and the ability to remain in Aspen – is a big issue for Ring and his 30-something-age friends, he said.Unit prices for city housing projects aren’t typically set until the projects are nearly ready to be sold, but the proposed price range for phase one includes 13 units at the Category 2 level; 30 in Categories 3 and 4; 37 in Categories 5 and 6; 11 in Category 7 and six (all lots) at the most expensive level – Resident Occupied, or RO.The projected mix for phase two is more heavily weighted to Category 5 and up.At Councilwoman Rachel Richards’ urging, the council committed to a review of its housing fund with the goal of upping the subsidy at Burlingame to bring down the price of some of the costlier units.”I would definitely like to see more Category 3s and 2s created in the program,” Richards said, acknowledging the issue has generated pre-election debate. “I think it would be valuable to put a number out there now.””I think we could alter this mix … I don’t want to make that decision tonight,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.”I’m open to the discussion,” Councilman Torre agreed. “I don’t feel that it’s as pressing as maybe you do, Rachel.”Burlingame, to be constructed over three phases, will total 236 units on roughly 31 acres north of the Maroon Creek Club on the outskirts of town. The first phase includes 86 units in multifamily buildings and 11 lots where buyers will build their own single-family homes. The subsequent phases have been conceptually approved by the council, but will come back to the council for final review and approval when the city is ready to build them.The city estimates the entire project will cost $74.3 million and require a $14.7 million subsidy after units and lots are sold.Councilman Tim Semrau praised the project for putting the city within reach of its goal to house local workers.”The project is really the best the city has ever done in terms of livability, environmentally and value,” he said.Councilman Terry Paulson, a staunch opponent of the project, said little during Monday’s hearing before voting against it. He nonetheless questioned the ethics of voting on the design plan before the annexation vote takes place on Tuesday.Stephanie Soldner, also a critic of the project, complimented its design but reiterated her opposition to its locale on an open swath of sagebrush outside of town. Her father, ceramic artist Paul Soldner, owns a home and studio near the housing site.”As a development for a thousand people, it belongs in Jefferson County, not in the middle of a wildlife area,” she said in reference to the sprawling, populous Front Range county.Additional worker housing should be built in small clusters in town, she said.The city will be lucky to build another 10 to 15 units in town over the next decade or more, Semrau countered.The availability of in-town sites is a myth, Klanderud agreed. The city has pursued several, but they don’t work financially, she said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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