Burlingame opposition taking shape | AspenTimes.com

Burlingame opposition taking shape

Charles AgarThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Opponents of the Burlingame bond issue have issued a pre-emptive strike on a ballot question that has yet to be drafted. A handful of Aspenites from local activist Marilyn Marks to area real estate brokers, the county assessor and a prominent economist are putting up an organized front against any proposed bond measure to fund the last phases of the affordable-housing development, which they claim are still unplanned. On Sunday, Marks sent out an e-mail seeking members to join the committee, which so far has enlisted 25. We dont even have a name yet, Marks said, adding that the group is just coming together.She said she hopes the committee can make its voice heard during a planned City Council work session on Burlingame scheduled for Aug. 12.The movement comes as city officials are considering a ballot measure this fall that would ask voters to approve borrowing some $50 million against future real estate transfer tax revenues to pay for the final phases of Burlingame, located across Highway 82 from Buttermilk on the outskirts of Aspen.Hopefully, they will not put it on the ballot, Marks said, adding that long-term debt is a good way to fund affordable housing, but not without a plan and a set budget.The town of Aspen is approaching Burlingame the way the Bush administration approached the invasion of Iraq, said Philip Verleger, an economist and West End resident who is on the committee. Just as Bush officials expected the war in Iraq to be cheap and quick, so too city officials have gone into Burlingame, Verleger said, adding, And I think [former secretary of defense] Donald Rumsfeld was a much better manager than [city manager] Steve Barwick.Like many on the ad hoc committee, Verleger is concerned that the city is borrowing against both its sales tax and the real estate transfer tax coffers.Theyre borrowing against this future revenue that probably is not there, Verleger said, warning that Aspen is not recession-proof. Going to voters for funding without a plan is never a good idea, Verleger added, but even more so in the current climate.Its just gross imprudence on the part of City Council and thats why I signed on, Verleger said, adding that he is surprised someone hasnt already fallen on their sword or quit as a result of the errors over Burlingame.Pitkin County Assessor Tom Isaac, speaking as a concerned citizen, agreed.Im concerned about what happened, Isaac said, referring to the recent discovery of a brochure about Burlingame given to voters in 2005 that was off in total costs by $73 million.Since then, city officials have been scrambling to reconcile the discrepancies associated with the cost of Burlingame.Isaac said he is worried that the community wont be able to shoulder the massive debt of the bond.And while he supports affordable housing, Isaac said the city needs to budget for the project and not just borrow money and figure out where to spend it later.Its a lot of money, Isaac said.Were just beginning; were not even organized yet, Marks said of the group. Were seeing who wants to be part of the effort.Others who signed the e-mail, which is circulating throughout the community, include Bill Dinsmoor, owner of Main Street Bakery & Cafe, former county commissioner Shellie Roy, as well as local real estate brokers such as Charley Podolak and Penney Evans-Carruth.The group is asking the City Council to postpone the proposed bond issue until there is a plan in place.The reason were organizing this committee now is so that we can be consistent and clear with City Council before they put it on the ballot, Marks said.cagar@aspentimes.com

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