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Burlingame to make for some strange bedfellows?

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” While they have been enemies on many fronts, even shouting at each other at one City Council meeting, Aspen City Hall critic Marilyn Marks and Mayor Mick Ireland found something they could agree on Monday ” a need to build more units in Burlingame than so far have been planned.

“As you all know, I’m definitely for greater density out there,” Marks said at a council work session. She offered to work on the city’s behalf to help it achieve its goal of increased density at the project as a way of making it more cost effective.

“Let me know what I can do,” she told the council. “If there’s a hole to be filled, let me know.”

Adding to that surprising development, fellow council critic Mike Maple also expressed support for the city’s plans to boost the density at Burlingame.

“So, if the election were held today, would you vote for the 293[-unit] plan?” the mayor asked Maple.

“You bet,” Maple replied instantly.

The city recently hired a Carbondale land-use consulting firm to come up with a conceptual plan on what the Burlingame neighborhood might look like if nearly 300 homes were built there instead of the 236 approved by voters in 2005.

Burlingame, located about a mile outside of Aspen near the Aspen Business Center, is the city’s largest ever affordable-housing project, and has been the source of controversy since it was conceived.

Earlier this year, Marks, while serving on a city task force, discovered that in 2005 citizens were told in a brochure that the overall tax-payer subsidy of the project would be $14.7 million. The actual subsidy, officials now acknowledge, was closer to $85 million, but certain upfront costs were left out of the calculations used in the brochure. The mistake has hurt public confidence in the housing program, and propelled Marks into a high-profile role in local politics.

The city is asking local voters on Nov. 4 to endorse a proposal, worked out by the city’s construction experts group, to increase the number of homes at Burlingame to 293.

The city concedes that the per-unit costs of the project will not change appreciably, because of added costs in earth-moving and construction of retaining walls. But officials argue that building 57 additional units at Burlingame, with the cost of having to find an additional site somewhere, will translate into a significant savings for the housing program in general.

The city is prohibited by law from trying to influence the vote, but the council decided Monday to direct its staff to start work on an open house some time between now and Nov. 4, as a way to provide voters with any and all information the city has regarding the plan.

“I’d hate to publish a brochure,” joked Ireland at one point. “It’s just bad luck.”

The planning work now under way, under a $202,252 contract with Carbondale-based DHM Design, is moving forward even as the homeowners at Burlingame are debating the city’s plans. City officials admitted Monday that they are not sure if the homeowners, as a group, are fully aware of the city’s plans.

State law requires that 67 percent of the project’s homeowners must approve the change in density, and City Manager Steve Barwick said the homeowners are expected to hold their vote before the Nov. 4 election.

Officials explained that the planning work for increasing Burlingame’s density involves the use of factory-built modular structures, the elimination of single-family homes and the inclusion of three-story buildings, among other changes.

The work being done by DHM Designs can also be used to cut the project’s costs even if the total number of units stays at 236, officials said. Only 84 of the homes there have been built, and the city believes it can alter the construction plans to reflect the same kind of cost-cutting modifications for the remaining 152 units.

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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