County ready to map out affordable housing | AspenTimes.com
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County ready to map out affordable housing

Sarah S. Chung

Pitkin County officials may be finally ready to look at the big picture.It is time, officials agreed Tuesday, to map out affordable housing in Pitkin County – where it should be placed and in what densities.”Until we make a map we’ll never know where the optimum densities are. We’ve said it’s a great idea a year ago and nobody’s done it,” said Charlie Tarver, a county Planning and Zoning Commission member. “Over and over we look at the neighborhood view, the parcel view, the three-block view, but we don’t look at a countywide view.”At a joint meeting yesterday between county commissioners and the P&Z, officials agreed that a narrow focus on each individual affordable housing project’s impacts is a short-sighted approach.Taking into account the priorities outlined in an interim housing plan that has been adopted by the county and city P&Zs, a countywide map or model could present the hard choices while they can still be made.More housing, several P&Z members pointed out, has to go somewhere. People may protest more units at Snyder or Burlingame – two projects now in the works – but do so without addressing the question of where else to put it.”We consistently don’t ask where does the other housing go?” Tarver said. “Sometimes you have to pick sprawl or density. Everybody’s always afraid to pick one, but sometimes that’s the reality.”Though county staff was directed to draw up the housing map, some officials suggested its existence could pose problems. Identifying a parcel of land as being ideal for affordable housing, for example, could jack up its price tag.And though she endorsed the concept of a map, Commissioner Leslie Lamont voiced concern that mapping out housing plans would jeopardize the primary funding source for housing projects – the real estate transfer tax, which is up for renewal by Aspen voters next November.Identifying housing sites could scare off support for the tax from those who don’t like the plan, she said.”If we cram in density without a lot of say, you can bet that every time the [tax] has to be approved, it will get harder and harder,” Lamont said. “It’s a fine dance to craft something everyone can live with.”


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