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Burlingame Village, tunnel vision and lost car keys

The Aspen Times Editorial

Burlingame Village, tunnel vision and lost car keys

#@ATD editorial: It is becoming increasingly apparent that plans to put affordable housing on the Burlingame Ranch property may not be in the best interests of the city or the community at large.

Just this week, the City Council put the brakes on plans for a seasonal housing complex adjacent to Highway 82 and the Maroon Creek Club apartments, telling the project’s supporters they need to rethink some of their design priorities.

As for the much-ballyhooed “partnership” between the city, the Aspen Valley Land Trust and the Zoline family to develop Burlingame Village on the northern flank of Deer Hill, that seems to be in a strange kind of limbo these days. The word is that the Zolines, unhappy with the way the development plans were progressing, have decided to pull back and rethink their options.

In addition, the land trust has been skittish in its participation in this partnership, flatly rejecting one plan to put an access road around the back side of Deer Hill to link the Village directly to the Aspen Airport Business Center. Some of those familiar with the land trust’s views have said the organization is not really enthusiastic about putting affordable housing in that locale, back road or no back road.

But, the argument goes, as the city has purchased this land, it will be easier to build it there than any other potential site. Any further discussion or debate will simply delay this valid, vital project.

This headlong rush to put homes on Burlingame calls to mind the story about a man who’s searching around a street corner under a street lamp, muttering about his lost car keys. Another man comes up and offers to help. “Where’d you lose the keys, exactly?” he asks.

“Oh, up there a ways,” replies the searcher, pointing up the block.

“Then why look for them here?” asks the helpful stranger.

“The light’s better here,” comes the reply.

That sounds like us.

The city has come into possession of a very nice parcel of land and declares that it just happens to be the perfect place for an affordable housing project.

There continue to be those observers who feel there are better sites for large-scale affordable housing than a scenic little hillock a couple of miles outside of town.

The city, sad to say, may be so fiercely focused on the piece of land it owns that it is failing to see the “big picture.” Tunnel vision rarely leads to good planning.

As has been noted before in this space, major housing projects should be built as close to the city as possible. Any project two miles out of town will inevitably generate more automobile traffic. There’s no way around it.

One in-close site is the municipal golf course, which would be the ideal extension of the city’s street grid, even allowing for buffer zones between the new housing and its neighbors on Cemetery Lane, and a green belt between the new housing and Highway 82.

Recently, there have been reports that the Maroon Creek Club golf course is putting an unacceptable drain on the finances of the homeowners’ association there, and that the golf course might be for sale.

If that is the case, the city might buy the Maroon Creek Club golf course, turn it into a public, municipal course, and vacate the existing course so that it could be used for housing. We’d still have a municipal golf course, and a better designed one at that. And we could build hundreds of homes and make some serious progress toward solving our affordable housing crisis without encouraging more traffic on Highway 82.

It may not be possible, if course, and it would certainly be highly controversial. But if it is possible, it is something the city should at least look into, and do so immediately. It would certainly make much better planning sense than what is currently being contemplated.


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