City moves Burlingame Ranch forward
Aspen City Council approved three ordinances Monday night that are pivotal to the development of the contentious Burlingame Ranch employee housing project outside town.”The seven-year itch is over,” Mayor Helen Klanderud said after the four-hour hearing, referring to the lengthy and bitter approval process the project has navigated.But as Aspenites know, rarely are things completely done when it comes to controversy. Project opponents have said they will seek to overturn the annexation ordinances approved yesterday through a referendum, and they will have Councilman Terry Paulson supporting them.His was the lone dissenting voice in all three 4-1 votes last night. He said after the hearing that he would be helping to circulate petitions to bring Burlingame back to an election. Aspen voters in 2000 approved a preannexation agreement between the city and the Zoline family, owners of the Bar/X Ranch, which contains land associated with the housing project.Approved last night were two annexations for the Bar/X Ranch and the Amcord/Aspen Valley Land Trust property, which also contains land involved in Burlingame. Additionally, the proposed development plan for the Bar/X Ranch, with its 12 mansions, a cabin and a cultural center, was approved.
Of the two dozen or so people attending the meeting at City Hall, most spoke in favor of Burlingame Ranch, which calls for a 236-unit project to be constructed in three phases. As part of the agreement, the Zoline family, with the purchase of transferable development rights, would be allowed to build 12 homes of up to 18,000 square feet that could be 30 feet high.After it is completely built out, Burlingame would house 1,100 residents who qualify for worker housing, including 300 in phase one. The project site is across Highway 82 from Buttermilk, north of the Maroon Creek Club. The city hopes to break ground this spring.”I think this is really a quality project,” 25-year Aspenite Dennis Murray said during the public comment session. “I believe when I voted for it in 2000 it was a good idea. I see cows still wandering around and 236 houses that are badly needed. We’re going to cut the commute of the people living there by miles and miles.”Leading up to the votes, city staffers presented a financial analysis of the project. City Manager Steve Barwick said that, with the exception of the city’s transportation fund, the city should not lose money on the project. Aspen’s transportation department has recommended the city transfer $2 million from its housing fund to subsidize Burlingame’s transit services through 2009. Annual transportation expenses for Burlingame would run $528,196.Opponents counter that this is the type of project that causes sprawl. But Junée Kirk, who told the council that she was one of the collectors of signatures for the potential referendum, alleged that another reason for opposition is abuses within the city’s affordable housing department. She said in gathering signatures she noticed several instances in which the people living in an employee housing unit weren’t the same people listed as owning the unit.
“Widespread abuse is rampant,” she said. “The other problem that nobody mentioned is sprawl, massive sprawl.”Pam Zoline, who represents the Bar/X Ranch along with husband John Lifton, said seven years of analysis show that the site of Burlingame Ranch “is the best spot.””This notion that we represent sprawl doesn’t really hold water,” she said. “If we didn’t have Burlingame, this would be castle-home paradise. And we know what that’s like.”Before the votes, Paulson asked the council if it would be willing to put the issue to an election.”Haven’t we already done that?” retorted Councilman Tim Semrau.
Besides Paulson, Councilman Torre was the only other council member willing to go back to the ballot.”I would put all this to an election,” Torre said. “The public supports this. I’m not afraid of an election.”City clerk Kathryn Koch will meet with Bert Myrin, a Burlingame opponent, today at 1 p.m. to discuss the referendum petition. Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Because of the blockage, a detonation that might have occurred nearly a quarter-mile underground instead happened just 10 yards below the surface, shooting flames and debris onto the hillside.