City Council stands firm on housing rule
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Developers shouldn’t have the option of paying cash instead of replacing some housing when they tear down multifamily buildings that local workers call home, the Aspen City Council agreed Monday.
Four Peaks Developments, which is pursuing construction of luxury homes at the base of Aspen Mountain on a parcel known as the Top of Mill site, proposed a change in the land-use code to allow the cash payment in lieu of housing.
Currently, the code requires the replacement of half of the bedrooms that are lost as worker housing when a multifamily building is demolished. The new housing is to be built on the same site, unless the council agrees to its construction elsewhere. Cash in lieu of the housing is not an option.
The council voted 4-0 to keep it that way.
The Top of Mill site, where South Mill Street meets the mountain, will include five free-market single-family homes, one duplex and two triplexes. One lot will contain a building with four deed-restricted units for workers, for a total of 13 bedrooms.
Had the council agreed to amend its code, Four Peaks was prepared to return with a request to pay $2.3 million, using a city formula, rather than build the housing, said Sunny Vann, planning consultant. If the city accepted the cash, a free-market duplex would go on the lot instead, he said.
A number of small deed-restricted units don’t work on the site, and local housing officials indicated the planned mix of three three-bedroom units and one four-bedroom unit aren’t the kind of worker housing that is most desperately needed, Vann said.
“Our sense was, the Housing Authority was preferring the cash,” said Scott Writer, Four Peaks spokesman. “We prefer to do the cash in lieu, but at the same time, we’re willing to go the other way.”
City staffers and the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of the proposed code amendment.
The cash instead of housing would mean fewer worker units in town, where they have traditionally been located, and their likely replacement with housing on the fringes, said city planner Scott Woodford.
In addition, noted Councilman Tony Hershey, the city is left with the responsibility to find land, buy it and build the housing.
“I don’t think we automatically get that housing just because we get cash in lieu … nor do we get it where we want it,” he said.
Mayor Helen Klanderud, too, said she’d rather have the on-site housing when old apartment buildings that have served as worker housing are razed.
“In my mind, that’s exactly what we want in this community,” she said. “Cash is always tempting, but those are today’s dollars. How much housing we get from that in the future is always uncertain.”
“I personally think the cash in lieu would get us more housing somewhere else ? Burlingame comes to mind ? but one in the hand is worth two in the bush,” Councilman Tom McCabe added.
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