Burlingame taking on a new vision | AspenTimes.com
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Burlingame taking on a new vision

ASPEN ” Burlingame Ranch, an affordable-housing project that is only one-third complete, likely will end up looking much different than what originally was voted on in 2005.

In order to bring costs down, city officials are considering constructing up to another 50 units in the neighborhood, which is located across from Buttermilk. Voters approved 236 units for all three phases.

But as additional costs have crept in as a result of changes made to the development by previous city councils and rising construction costs, more units could create more revenue, which could offset the expenses of building them.

Elected leaders are considering whether more density at the site should be decided by voters this fall, when they will likely also be asked to approve up to $75 million in bonds to finish phases two and three.

Additional money to finish the development also wasn’t contemplated when voters approved developing the land in 2005. At the time, there was enough money in the city’s housing fund to complete the project.

But now, the fund nearly is depleted because city government last year purchased $31 million in land for future affordable-housing projects. The bonds would be paid back through future revenue generated by the 1 percent real estate transfer tax (RETT) and the housing portion of the 0.45 percent sales tax, both of which must be renewed by voters.

An Aspen City Council-appointed citizen budget task force has recommended that the bond question be asked this fall even though the bonds don’t have to be issued immediately so the community can decide the best development scenario for Burlingame.

The City Council on Monday accepted the task force’s recommendations on a whole host of issues relating to Burlingame, which has become controversial since it was discovered that a city-produced brochure shortly before the 2005 vote didn’t account for $70.8 million in taxpayer subsidies.

The goal of the task force is that the management and financial controls adopted by the City Council will regain the public’s trust.

The brochure only included the actual construction of the buildings ” not land and infrastructure costs. Council-approved changes included making the development more environmentally sound and geared it toward the appropriate income categories for residents.

In the future, the community should decide on whether capital improvement projects developed by city government ought to include below-ground costs as well as above-ground construction so expenses can be compared evenly, city officials and task force members agreed.

Earlier recommendations by the task force, which already are under way, include a performance audit and a financial audit of Burlingame by outside companies. Its findings, which will determine if there are larger discrepancies in costs and expenses, as well as how the city government performed as a developer, are expected in late July or early August.

City officials hope the auditors’ reports will be ready to be presented at a special town hall meeting on Burlingame, scheduled for July 29.

A committee of construction experts also has been convened, which will make a recommendation later this summer on how to build out Burlingame more economically and efficiently.

Task force member Howie Mallory said he and his colleagues would prefer to see more management controls in place and more oversight for future multiyear capital projects.

The task force recommended that an industry expert review the budget of the second and third phases of Burlingame before a contract to build it is executed.

An expert also should assess future affordable-housing management needs and resources to ensure that city employees are capable and experienced enough to oversee development projects, according to the task force.

Another recommendation is to develop a routine semiannual reporting procedure for informing elected officials and the public on the progress of large capital improvement projects, compared to their initial budgets.

The development and implementation of processes to ensure the accuracy of voter information as it relates to financial projections issued by city government also is a key recommendation.

The City Council will adopt the task force’s recommendations officially at a future City Council meeting.

csack@aspentimes.com


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