Burlingame our best bet | AspenTimes.com

Burlingame our best bet

Dear Editor:How realistic is infill as a Burlingame alternative for family and lower-category housing? The Forest Service land in the West End is valued at $13 million. After years of neighborhood opposition and referendums, perhaps it could hold 45 residences – a land subsidy alone of $288,000 per household. This contrasts with a land and construction subsidy of about $65,000 per household at Burlingame. The Forest Service property must be exchanged for a completed $13 million replacement facility; they can’t accept cash because cash goes into federal coffers and isn’t returned to the district. It takes an act of Congress to approve an exchange, after soliciting and considering competing development offers. Aspen Mass was purchased with hopes of such a deal, but the district changed supervisors and has stated they’re no longer interested. This site is going nowhere.The Zupancis property on Main Street may work for housing, if the fire district decides not to relocate. Fifteen three-bedroom apartments would mean a 26,000-square-foot building with underground parking and a land subsidy of $200,000 per unit. This is worth pursuing, but is potentially only 15 residences, years from now. In comparison, Burlingame Village can break ground now with 43 three-bedrooms, 14 one-bedrooms, 29 two-bedrooms and 11 single-family lots.”Let’s work with the private sector for commercial core infill housing,” declare Burlingame opponents! The city signed a contract to limit free-market development, preserve open space and create affordable housing on the Bar/X Ranch after a public vote with 60 percent in favor in 2000. If Aspen now votes to renege on our contract, how likely is it that other property owners will invest years of planning, meetings, money and negotiations knowing that we could pull the plug at any time, even with a signed contract? Not very. And there are other realities: third-floor apartments in the core aren’t family-style housing; cost-sharing issues between ground floor commercial and affordable units above for upkeep, roofs and boilers, underground parking expense, buying out commercial leases to close buildings for reconstruction and so on. Aspen will get some units this way, but not many any time soon.Wishful “infill thinking” will never match Burlingame in terms of pure cost, resources available and the potential now, and in later phases, to actually build lower-category residences. It is Aspen’s best chance to stem the loss of our permanent community, locals, families, singles, volunteers and middle class. It is a one-time opportunity to house our friends, co-workers and future generations close to their jobs. It’s inside the Urban Growth Boundary, closer to downtown than the AABC, airport or our community college. This ranch will be otherwise developed under its county zoning for up to 58 free-market luxury homes, with little housing mitigation and no requirement for land conservation. Upholding the contracts we have requires 190 acres of the 253-acre joint project to be preserved with conservation easements.Please vote “yes” on May 3 on the Bar/X Ranch annexation. Rachel E. RichardsAspen

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