City rethinks stand on school district housing |

City rethinks stand on school district housing

Sarah S. Chung

The Aspen City Council, backing off on an earlier stance, moved Monday toward allowing the Aspen School District more control over its employee housing in the Moore subdivision.

Six of the 31 affordable housing units under construction near the Aspen schools campus as part of the Moore development are assigned to the district.

Last month, the City Council rejected a request from the school board to keep some measure of control over who’s living in the units. School officials wanted the ability to force out any buyer of one of the district units who puts in less than 10 years of employment with the district.

But after all five Pitkin County commissioners appealed to the city to reconsider, Mayor Rachel Richards agreed to have the council revisit the issue. Commissioners, who had reviewed the Moore project before it was annexed to the city, had agreed to let the school district control its units.

In their deliberations yesterday, council members were split on the touchy issue of tying an employee’s housing to his or her employment. Council members Tom McCabe and Terry Paulson disliked the idea of giving employers so much authority over an employee’s life.

“If someone stays in a job and is miserable, just to stay in their housing, that’s a bad situation,” Paulson said.

But Councilman Jim Markalunas, who cast the only dissenting vote in December, stuck to his position that teachers are a “backbone to the community” and the district should not lose its ability to house them.

Councilman Tony Hershey, however, was swayed from his earlier opposition to the school board’s request. School district officials argue that housing is the district’s “Number one problem” in recruiting and retaining qualified employees.

In the end, Paulson sided with Markalunas and Hershey and the council voted 3-1 on first reading to allow the district to link the 10-year employment tenure to the housing units. McCabe dissented.

The council must approve the resolution on second reading before it is final.

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