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City studies parking garage

John Colson

Now that the Aspen City Council has nixed the idea of a parking garage at the city golf course, staffers at City Hall are looking for another site for a parking structure.

City Manager Steve Barwick said this week that a study, under the direction of Assistant City Manager Randy Ready, should yield results by next fall.

Other city departments, including the housing office and the planning department, as well as a consultant, will be working on the study.

The idea, according to discussions held over the past couple of months, is to build a garage or some parking facility where local residents would put their cars for the periods of time when they don’t need them.

It is an issue that has been kicked around for years, as government officials wrestle with the tradeoffs between building sufficient parking spaces at affordable housing projects, or building more actual housing units at the sites.

When planning began for the massive project at the Aspen Golf Course, which includes recreational facilities as well as an expansion of the affordable housing complex there, officials considered building a garage on the site of the golf course’s existing parking lot.

But a number of considerations, including the cost of a garage and the added complexity it would mean for the overall project, killed the idea, at least for now. And that is when Barwick got his marching orders for the study.

“It’s something we should have had a long time ago,” Barwick said, referring to a remote parking plan in general.

The city already has a remote parking lot next to the Pitkin County Airport, known as the “intercept lot.” It was built as a parking facility for workers commuting to Aspen from downvalley communities.

But that lot, which cost the city $900,000 to build but has never been very heavily used, will not work for a garage because the site is in line with the airport runway, Barwick said. The Federal Aviation Administration has strict rules concerning land use near airports.

In general, Barwick said, the size and complexity of the theoretical parking structure is a complete unknown.

“It may not need to be more than one story,” he mused, adding that such a facility ideally should be covered to keep snow from piling up on cars stored there, and would need some kind of security system to prevent burglaries or vandalism.

Some officials have suggested building a parking level underneath a set of planned new tennis courts at the golf course, but that idea has been shelved as well, at least temporarily. Barwick said work on the new tennis courts is not scheduled in the early phases of the larger golf course project, and that the idea of parking beneath the courts may resurface.

Once the study is complete, Barwick said, it will be presented to the local planning and zoning commissions, as well as the Aspen City Council and the Pitkin County commissioners.


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