Club sues over housing again
A new lawsuit filed this week by the Maroon Creek Club charges the city with violating 11 different local and state codes with its approval of the Burlingame seasonal housing project.
The same grievances were aired last month before the Aspen City Council, to no avail, in a failed attempt to block approval of the joint city/Music Associates of Aspen project. But the private golf club hopes a Pitkin County District Court judge will see things their way and stop construction of the 200-bed seasonal housing project.
As approved, the Burlingame seasonal project would be managed by the MAA in the summer and the city in the winter. Both the City Council and the MAA are named as defendants in the lawsuit, filed late Wednesday.
“Colorado law allows an injured party to appeal a decision made by a jurisdictional body and that’s what we’re doing. We’re appealing what we think is a wrong decision,” said Matt Ferguson, an attorney for the golf club.
Mayor Rachel Richards said yesterday she’s “not surprised” by the latest round of litigation since the club had “threatened to do anything it could to prevent the project.” But MAA President Robert Harth takes real exception to the new lawsuit, which comes on the heels of earlier litigation over access to the project. The first suit is still pending.
“Now it appears their true colors are showing,” Harth said. “It isn’t about access at all, it’s about the fact that they don’t want an affordable housing project next to their precious golf course.”
Most of the Maroon Creek Club’s grievances stem from the perceived impropriety of the city acting as the property owner, developer/applicant, MAA partner and approving body for the Burlingame seasonal housing project.
The new lawsuit charges that the city broke its own rules regarding planning procedure, parking codes, open-space regulations and traffic standards in order to approve the Burlingame application.
The City Council first heard the Maroon Creek Club’s complaints in June, while reviewing the seasonal housing project.
After taking a day to consider the allegations, the city attorney and planning staffers denied any improper conflict of interest.
In short, they maintained that the nature of the application, as a Planned Unit Development, inherently allowed the council to set terms specific to the project. A PUD allows more variance from city codes than standard zoning, they noted.
Council members, satisfied with their staff’s rebuttal to the allegations, approved the project 4-1.
Harth doesn’t fear the courts will rule against the housing project. But even the slightest delay could cause “irreparable damage” to the MAA’s program next summer if the project doesn’t stay on schedule.
The MAA will lose its student housing at the Grand Aspen Hotel next year and has pinned its hopes on housing students at Burlingame instead.
“One hundred eighty students is 20 percent of our enrollment. There would be serious artistic and financial repercussions that could take years to recover from,” Harth said. “I can’t tell you how much damage would be done and I wonder if their members, particularly members who enjoy and take part in the festival, really know what’s happening.”
The Burlingame project is slated for city land next to the Maroon Creek Club along Highway 82. A separate housing project, for long-term residents, is also in the planning stages for the Burlingame Ranch property.
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The Aspen School District’s budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year is shaping up stronger than the pandemic-bogged finances from last year, according to district Chief Financial Officer Linda Warhoe.“We’re getting our head above water and we’re coming up on shore,” Warhoe said in an interview last week.