City rejects Savanah project |

City rejects Savanah project

Janet Urquhart

A housing project proposed near the base of Aspen Mountain could come back to the city with less affordable housing after the City Council rejected the plan on a 3-2 vote Monday.

The council voted down conceptual plans for the combination free-market and affordable housing project with Mayor Rachel Richards leading the charge. The proposal was then continued until April 9 with hopes that the applicant, Savanah Limited Partnership, would come up with something that better addresses the concerns of neighboring condo owners who don’t like what the project does to their views of Aspen Mountain.

Instead, Savanah may seek separate approvals for individual components of the project that are currently part of a planned unit development, said representative John Sarpa. That would mean a reduction in some of the affordable housing, he said.

But Richards said she is tired of seeing affordable housing used as a “sacred cow” to win development approvals.

She charged Savanah with “cookie-cutter” design of buildings that will go up on a vacant lot next to the existing Lift One and Timberidge condominiums. And she suggested more could be done to appease the neighbors’ concerns.

“This project could be far more neighborly,” she said. “I can’t do it. It’s like voting for development for development’s sake. I think there needs to be some more cumulative benefit to the community.”

Last month, the council voiced hope that the site, within walking distance of Lift 1A, could be developed with additional lodging for the resort. That suggestion received little discussion last night.

The property – actually three separate parcels in the area of Aspen and Juan streets – isn’t large enough to make a lodging project economically viable, Sarpa said.

Savanah has instead proposed a total of 17 affordable housing units with 43 bedrooms, plus 14 free-market units (38 bedrooms) on the parcels. The existing Mine Dump Apartments, a duplex and a single-family home would be demolished.

A handful of Lift One and Timberidge condo owners complained about the impact on their views from the buildings closest to them, but Sarpa noted Savanah wasn’t proposing anything over the height limits allowed by the city code.

“How much do you require an applicant to build below what’s permitted just to preserve someone’s view?” added Sunny Vann, Savanah’s planning consultant.

“You live in a city, and something is going to be developed there. Unfortunately, it will have an impact on your views, and I’m sorry for that,” said Councilman Tony Hershey, who voted to approve the plans along with Councilman Jim Markalunas.

“I can understand the concerns, but when you buy a unit, you don’t buy your views,” agreed Councilman Tom McCabe, though he then voted against the plan.

If Savanah doesn’t get conceptual approval, it may proceed with the exact proposal that upsets the neighbors and take its chances with growth-management competition in the fall, Sarpa said. That parcel would contain five free-market units and nine affordable units.

Savanah would also seek six free-market units and five affordable units on the parcel containing the Mine Dump Apartments, he said. But instead of three free-market units and three affordable units (with nine bedrooms) on a parcel that currently contains a parking lot, the developers will probably pull a building permit for a single-family home or a duplex there, Sarpa said.

That use is already permitted. The only affordable housing that would be required is a single caretaker unit, he noted.

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