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County OKs Stillwater project

Allyn Harvey

Pitkin County gave final approval yesterday to a 17-unit affordable housing development in the Stillwater neighborhood east of Aspen.

In a series of three votes, two of which were split, the county commissioners made it possible for the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority to build 13 three-bedroom and four one-bedroom townhomes on county-owned property at Stillwater.

The housing authority expects to put the project out for bid later this month, and if all goes as planned construction could start well before summer.

The commissioners were presented with two design alternatives at yesterday’s meeting, and that choice proved somewhat contentious with a 3-2 split vote.

The first alternative centered around the concept of “new urbanism.” The idea behind it, said housing authority planner Lee Novak, is to create successively more private areas as you get farther from the street.

In the first choice, on-street parking next to the curb separates cars on the road from people on the sidewalk, and a row of trees separates the sidewalk from the yards. Every unit would have a front porch, creating one last neighborhood-oriented space before the front door.

The first alternative also provides for unusually large one-bedroom units, at about 960 square feet apiece.

The second alternative eliminated new urbanism in favor of off-street parking and more storage.

All of the three-bedroom units would have garages. The one-bedroom units would be pared down considerably, to about 550 square feet apiece, to make room for them, and much of the yard would be used for a driveway.

Commissioners Shellie Roy and Patti Clapper made it clear that they thought garages and storage space were more important than lawns and living space.

“I know how important storage is,” said Clapper, who lives with her children and husband in the Smuggler Trailer Court. She also liked the fact that the buildings in the second alternative weren’t as large as in the first.

Roy pointed out that surrounding neighborhoods like Mountain Valley also require off-street parking. And she didn’t think it was fair that the families in the three-bedroom spaces would lose valuable storage space so the singles and couples in the one-bedroom units could have what she thought was an “excessive” amount of living space.

But the other three commissioners thought lawns and living space were more important.

Commissioner Dorothea Farris objected to the second alternative because it meant more pavement than the first alternative. “What we’re doing here is paving more surface, which requires more snowblowers and leaf blowers,” she said.

Commissioner Mick Ireland said he’s lived in enough tight spaces to know the value of a little extra room in the house, so he supported the first alternative as well.

The swing vote came down to Commissioner Jack Hatfield, who also selected the first alternative. “I’m going to pick the original concept because I believe living space is way more important than garage space or storage space,” he said.

Following the 3-2 vote, the commissioners voted 4-1, with Roy opposed, in favor of the resolution that allows the housing authority to proceed with the project, and 5-0 in favor of the ordinance to rezone the property for affordable housing.


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