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Burlingame petitions in play

Janet Urquhart

Circulators of a pair of citizen initiatives challenging Aspen’s planned Burlingame Ranch housing could begin collecting petitions as early as next week.One of the initiatives would force most city housing projects, including Burlingame, to a public vote before they can be built, according to a city official.The city clerk’s office issued petitions for both initiatives late Wednesday. Signing on as the official representatives of the proponents of the initiatives were Joe Edwards, a Carbondale attorney, and Bill Stirling, former Aspen mayor.Edwards and attorney Dwight Shellman, both former Pitkin County commissioners, brought the initiatives forward.A number of people have offered to circulate the petitions, Edwards said. The petitioners have 180 days to collect enough signatures to force the City Council to either adopt the ordinances proposed by the initiatives or put them to a public vote, according to City Clerk Kathryn Koch.Each petition will require the signatures of 736 registered city voters.”We’re reviewing the petitions to make sure they say what we want to say,” Edwards said Thursday, predicting the collection of signatures will get under way next week.One of the proposed ordinances would force the city to withdraw from the pre-annexation agreement it has struck with neighboring ranch owners for the Burlingame housing development and prevent the city from entering into such agreements in the future.The initiative would bar the city from entering into pre-annexation agreements that establish the specifics of a development, bypass a land-use review or waive a landowner’s costs or mitigation, among other provisions. It would also require the city to withdraw from existing pre-annexation agreements that contain such provisions, including the agreement for Burlingame.The second initiative would prohibit the city from spending money on capital improvements for a housing project and granting annexation or land-use approvals for the housing until the costs of the project have been determined and approved by voters.Small projects, not exceeding 10 units nor a total of $50,000 per unit in “direct, on-site public subsidies” would be exempt.If that ordinance was already in place, many city housing projects would be forced onto a ballot, according to Ed Sadler, assistant city manager.Seventh & Main, which has already been constructed, the Parcel D housing that is currently being built and a planned private project on East Hopkins Avenue that will include a public subsidy would all have been affected, he said.”Fifty-thousand isn’t much of a subsidy to keep it affordable,” Sadler said. “The smaller the project, usually it is more expensive. You don’t get to divide all your costs over more units.”Burlingame, which could total up to 330 units built over several phases, is currently the focus of a design competition among development teams. The public subsidy for the project depends on the design, the sale prices and how many of the units the city ultimately builds, Sadler said. It could wind up at $50,000 or less per unit, he said.Work on $2 million worth of infrastructure to serve the project is already under way.


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