City annexes Highlands Village
Despite reservations among some City Council members, Aspen has given final approval to annexation of the Aspen Highlands base village area.
“The carrot is impressive,” intoned Councilman Tom McCabe at Monday night’s council meeting, referring to the anticipated collection of millions of dollars in revenues for the city’s coffers as a result of the annexation.
The council, by a vote of 4-1, gave their final nod last night to an ordinance annexing the 83-acre parcel at the base of the Aspen Highlands ski area, which was approved for development by Pitkin County in 1998. Council member Tom McCabe dissented.
The village includes 31 free-market lots, 32 townhouses, 73 time-share condos, 38 affordable housing dorm units, and 84 affordable housing condos and townhouses, as well as more than 54,000 square feet of commercial space. The tax revenues from the homes and commercial businesses convinced the council that, regardless of the costs, the annexation is a plus for the city.
A large part of Monday’s discussion was taken up by a presentation by Finance Director Tabatha Miller, who laid out both the expected revenues from the project, and the anticipated costs it will bring.
On the revenue side, she said the city can expect to reap anywhere from $9 million to $14 million as a result of annexing the 83-acre parcel. And those numbers, she said, are on the conservative side.
The largest haul will be in the form of real estate transfer taxes, which go to support the Wheeler Opera House and the city’s housing and day-care funds.
For the Wheeler, she said, the city can expect some $306,000 in revenues annually at “buildout” of the project, and as much as $3 million at the end of 10 years.
Miller said the city’s housing and day-care fund can expect to collect as much as $2.8 million by the year 2004, when the transfer tax is due to expire. If the tax is reauthorized by the voters for another 10 years, Miller predicted, the total take will rise by another $4 million.
On the cost side of the equation, the city will be spending an estimated $500,000 per year to provide such services as police protection, street maintenance and general administrative services for the roughly 350 new, full-time city residents and approximately 13,000 tourists at the village annually.
In addition, the city expects to be asked in the near future to annex Maroon Creek Road and the property that contains the Aspen School District campus, which are still in Pitkin County but will now be surrounded by the city.
Among the concerns is the condition of Maroon Creek Road, which was not built to city specifications and may require some expensive work on sections that may be unstable. City officials said they will be talking with Pitkin County about improving the road prior to annexation.
As for the schools, the council agreed that even though the property will produce no revenues for the city, it should be part of the city proper.
“I think there’s a little bit of community obligation,” said Mayor Rachel Richards of the idea, arguing that schools are an integral part of the city’s social fabric.
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City of Aspen officials are trying to figure out what the downtown core looks like this winter as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state and in some parts of the country.