Burlingame has voters angry, confused
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Some voters are angry about the city’s $73 million blunder with the Burlingame Ranch affordable housing project. And some are confused.
But overwhelmingly, Aspen voters express a collective sentiment that the city of Aspen must continue to build affordable housing for people who work here.
“Employee housing brings what I think is the backbone of a town’s families,” said Pat Newkam of Aspen.
“Why shouldn’t hardworking people be able to live in Aspen?” asked Aspenite Richard Harris.
Nonetheless, many Aspenites weren’t willing to let the city off the hook for a housing project that saw a final subsidy six times higher than what voters were initially told. In information provided to voters before the project was approved, the city failed to include the cost of land, infrastructure, design and engineering. Inflation and changes made to the project by the City Council also drove up costs.
Newkam suggested the city’s Burlingame blunder was symptomatic of a larger fiscal irresponsibility. In short, he doesn’t think the city spends its money as carefully as it ought to.
“I just think their view at City Hall is kind of whacked,” he said.
Walking through the downtown core, Marion Ferrara remembered that when the first phase went to a vote, many Aspen residents thought it would end up costing more than the city said.
Ferrara lives in Basalt now, but she was an Aspen resident when the Burlingame Ranch project was passed. She voted against it.
Several voters expressed a desire to understand the issue more clearly, and some said they didn’t understand it at all.
“I would love to comment, but I don’t know enough about why these numbers are escalating to give an opinion,” said Aspen resident Robert Barron, watching soccer practice at Rio Grande Park.
Outside Aspen’s post office, Diana Beuttas said that she’d like to spend more time studying the details of the project. She wanted to understand the extra expenses and whether there was anything that could be eliminated to keep costs down.
But she was clear that, in general, she was very much in favor of affordable housing.
And despite his strong words for the city’s management of the project, Newkam noted that it would be a shame if voters in November rejected the second phase of the project. He worried that the combination of the gaffe and a downturn in the economy this summer could kill the bond issue.
“I know a lot of people who were looking forward to moving in there and I don’t think it’s going to happen because of this,” he said.
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This summer in Aspen is likely to include indoor and outdoor concerts, maskless gatherings and no state or county-mandated restrictions on social distancing at restaurants or anywhere else.