City split on minimum buildout at Burlingame
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Aspen will accept fewer than 330 units at Burlingame Ranch, but the City Council couldn’t decide on a minimum threshold for the project on Monday.
With Councilman Terry Paulson absent, the council was split between accepting a minimum of either 225 or 275 homes at the roughly 28-acre site west of Aspen. The maximum buildout remains 330 units.
The council debated and defined a host of parameters for Burlingame yesterday in preparation for seeking proposals from developers who will be vying to design and build the affordable housing project. Developers are expected to design a master plan for the entire project and build the initial phase ” an anticipated 110 lots and homes, though that total may change.
The minimum number of units council members are willing to accept in the overall project remained undecided, though they agreed developers should have the flexibility to design a project with fewer than the 330-unit maximum.
“We don’t want somebody to waste a whole lot of time making a gorgeous project that’s 100 units,” Councilman Tim Semrau said.
“That’s not going to cut it,” Mayor Helen Klanderud agreed.
“I’m not opposed to considering a project of 220 that’s absolutely outstanding,” Semrau said.
Councilwoman Rachel Richards called for a “decent minimum,” suggesting 275 units, and Semrau ultimately concurred with her suggestion.
Klanderud and Councilman Torre preferred the lower minimum of 225 units.
The council also agreed to cut back on its original plan to sell all 35 RO, or resident occupied, lots in the project with the first phase. Instead, members concurred with a citizen task force’s recommendation on the mix of units at Burlingame, if it proves financially doable. The task force has suggested a first phase consisting of 11 RO lots, five Category 6 lots and six Category 5 lots, along with 88 constructed units ” 22 in each of Categories 2-5.
The categories establish varying income and asset caps for workers who qualify to buy the units. RO is the most expensive category, and Richards called for a cap on the resale price of RO homes built at Burlingame.
“After seeing million-dollar ROs come out of the North 40 almost immediately, I think we have to have fixed prices on those,” she said. No one disagreed.
At North 40, owners were allowed to spend as much as they wanted to construct homes on their lots and are allowed to recoup those costs when they sell. The homes must be sold to qualified working residents, but several are worth more than $1 million, and one sold there last year for $1.08 million.
Richards also suggested the RO homes at Burlingame go to individuals such as school district administrators and hospital surgeons, though she conceded she doesn’t know how to make that happen.
“Where’s the equity in that for the general public?” Klanderud said.
The council did agree it would like to build phase one without seeking subsidies from local employers who would then be able to sell homes or lots to their employees.
“What is our justification to take any lots out of the public domain?” Semrau said. “I have a hard time justifying it.”
If lots don’t quickly sell through a lottery system to the general public, then they may be offered to employers who are willing to pay to help subsidize the project, the council agreed.
The first phase of Burlingame will cost roughly $42.5 million, including the $8.5 million worth of infrastructure that must be extended to the site. The net subsidy for phase one, after units and lots are sold, is estimated at roughly $21.1 million.
City staffers are still crunching numbers to figure out how the city can subsidize the project without borrowing money ” a move that would likely require a public vote.
Finally, three council members concurred that the city’s asset management staff shouldn’t be assembling a development team and entering the planned competition to design and build Burlingame.
Only Richards favored the idea. “This is as skilled a group to put together a team as you could have,” she said.
But other council members wondered who would be advising them if the asset management staff was competing as a developer.
“Who’s going to be our owner’s representative?” Semrau said.
He also questioned the city staff’s ability to offer a fixed price to build Burlingame. The city would have to eat any cost overruns, he said.
“I just don’t see that role for asset management,” Klanderud said.
The staff should be a resource that offers its expertise to the design teams to make the project better, council members agreed.
[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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