Council ponders Burlingame dirt, basements |

Council ponders Burlingame dirt, basements

Chad Abraham

Here’s the dirt on Burlingame: There’s too much of it.Faulty survey work that the city of Aspen, and later the project’s developer, relied upon has left both parties pondering what do with the unsuitable soil.The best solution may be to turn the dirt into divots. Steve Aitken, Aspen Golf Club director, told City Council last night that the soil would fit in perfectly with the course’s future.His comments came during a nearly four-hour meeting to discuss $4.3 million in added costs that have sprung up during early site work on the affordable housing development.The meeting showed that Burlingame remains a controversial project. Along with moving the 40,700 cubic yards of dirt, which would cost about $500,000, constructing basements under two buildings also drew the council’s attention.At nearly $1.3 million, the basement plan is the most expensive of the added costs. A contingency plan, such as basements or installing sewage pumps, is needed because of survey discrepancies that work crews found at the site of the planned buildings.”We were told to make some assumptions [about the land], and we did,” said Clark Atkinson, senior project manager for Shaw Construction.But the building site contains too much top soil, or unsuitable dirt for structures, and basements are needed to provide the right type of soil to support the buildings. Subterranean space would also provide homeowners withmore storage.Aspen’s city attorney, John Worcester, countered that city contracts usually forbid developers from relying on numbers provided by city staff. He said such information must be verified by the builder.Atkinson said that during the design competition his company won, there simply wasn’t time for such land studies.After the Shaw/Poss/DHM design team was selected for the project, “we immediately started investigating the features and launched an aerial survey of the site,” he said.The survey found that a discrepancy in the building site’s elevation meant that a sewage system could not function. That is, unless basements are built or a pump station is installed.Assistant city manager Ed Sadler said a pump station would involve long-term maintenance issues. He added that the basement option is the only one to give the city some benefit. The basements mean the city could potentially sell the units in the two buildings for more, and could recoup more to pay for the project.Councilman Jack Johnson said he would “need a lot more backup information” before he could make a decision.”It seems like every morning I get up, it costs another $10 million,” fellow Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss said. (Toward the night’s end, he said he was much more comfortable with the added expenses.)Councilwoman Rachel Richards said that “moving this off for two weeks will affect the project” because of the summer building schedule.Despite that, Tim Semrau, a builder and former councilman, urged the council to take its time.”This doesn’t have to be decided tomorrow,” he said. “There are millions of dollars at stake here.”While decisions on the added costs were tabled until today, there is one aspect of Burlingame that appeared to have consensus among the four council members (Mayor Helen Klanderud was attending a global-warming conference in Utah).The council indicated that it would support shifting a building that was scheduled for phase two of the project to the initial phase. This would save Burlingame’s first-phase residents from having to deal with living next to the building as it is being built.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is

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